Comparing singer/songwriter Ron Pope to the musical genius of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix (the latter two who inspired and influenced the artist) may seem a bit embellished, but it is not so farfetched to describe his potential as heading in that direction.

The 30-year-old wunderkind seamlessly blends sounds from big band, to electronic mixes, to soulful choirs that give his songs an edge and allow him to elude any genre labels. A powerful combination of insightful lyrics about love and loss and insane guitar skills, not to mention melodic and captivating songs, show that Pope has hit his stride in the music industry and is a force to be reckoned with. By abandoning a career in baseball after an injury, Pope kicked the Georgia dust off his boots and made way for New York to pursue his passion, tapping into his creative and exploratory musical talents. Crystal clear vocals and the mating of folk, pop and rock rhythms contribute to the performer’s unique stamp on the music world and successful appeal. It seems that when it comes to this artist, you never get the same thing twice.

And when the animated, curly-haired prodigy isn’t on stage or producing his own music, he’s jamming with his best friends in his band The District, which makes him even more down-to-earth and his allure infectious. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself humming his songs out loud, because that’s the beauty about this music — it moves its listeners and compels them to share it with the rest of the world.

Pope’s hit single “A Drop in the Ocean” from 2006 catapulted the independent artist into an online sensation via YouTube and iTunes thanks to enthusiastic fans, and was featured on television shows such as Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance and the CW’s The Vampire Diaries and 90210. Now, the fresh young artist has kick-started his tour for his newest, innovative album Calling off the Dogs (released worldwide on January 6), and opened up to GALO about the stresses and excitements of being on the road, how this album compelled him to push boundaries even further, and the inspiration behind its unique title.

Video Courtesy of: Ron Pope.

GALO: You got involved in music at an early age, learned the guitar and started several bands in high school. You listened to The Band, Stevie Wonder and Bob Dylan. Are these the artists that first inspired you to pursue music? And who’s on your playlist now?

Ron Pope: As a little kid, I thought that I would start some kind of vocal group. My favorite singer was David Ruffin from The Temptations. I always imagined myself at the front of a group like that as a little kid — singing, spinning around in front of the microphone and stuff like that [laughs]. As I got older going into high school, I got into classic rock and hip-hop at the same time. Both of those things made me very interested in storytelling, [as well as] country music. It got me interested in narratives because, like in a Bob Dylan song, you found those interesting, very vivid narratives. [For example], “she was married when we first met, soon to be divorced,” [from his song “Tangled up in Blue”]. Captivating stories — I always really loved that stuff.

I loved The Band. At 16-years-old or so I wanted to be in a group like that where you take turns singing lead and playing different instruments, and swap around in that way. That kind of evolved as I got older. I had a project that was like that, and I still do it for fun with my friends. It’s called The District. I did that for a time and my solo project became my main focus kind of by accident. I wrote songs on my own and they got really popular, and I sort of kept going with it. So, I loved The Band, Bob Dylan; I loved Led Zeppelin a lot, and Jimi Hendrix, too. And so, currently on my playlist, I’m listening to Haim (one of my friends is their drummer, so I keened in on them really early). I love Arcade Fire; I think they’re really wonderful. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Frances Cone recently. She’s an artist that my manager also manages. I really love her. I listen to a lot of hip-hop like Rick Ross and Drake. I listen to all kinds of stuff. Also Sky Ferreira; I think her record is really awesome. I’m into all sorts of things. I’ve always been open to all sorts of music.

GALO: You attended Rutgers University to pursue baseball, but after a career-ending injury, that’s when you went to New York University to pursue your other passion, and started the band The District with your friends. Most people would be devastated by something like that, but as the saying goes, “you saw a door close and a window open.” Please explain how you maintained such a positive outlook and how your time in the band shaped you as an artist.

RP: I really loved baseball and poured a lot of my life into it. But it’s one of those things where at the time when I was no longer able to play baseball, I was really devastated. I thought, ‘What am I going to do? This is the point of my life, where this is why I get up every day and this is the central focus of my existence, so what am I going to do now?’ I think it was really good for me to realize that I could pour the same things that made me do well in baseball into music.

Most musicians don’t do the kinds of things you have to do to excel at sports with their careers, so I think that’s one of the things that made my career work. I knew that I had to work hard and that it required discipline to do well. I think to a lot of musicians the idea of working on their career to promote themselves seems like work and that as a musician you don’t have to work. A lot of my friends thought that, anyway. It’s really challenging to exist at the intersection of art and commerce. I think that’s a psychologically traumatic thing for people because they [see themselves as] an artist and not a businessperson. You have to work hard all the time. Anything you want, you have to try at it. Like, if you’re a great fielder but you can’t hit — as a ball player you kind of have to do everything. I really applied that to my music career. I really wanted to be able to succeed and be able to do it my way, so I definitely took a lot from baseball and it was really helpful for me. At first, my attitude was not so positive. It was very depressing because at that point I was 19-years-old, and I had started playing baseball when I was five-years-old, and had poured my whole life into it at that point. Once I went to NYU and met a bunch of like-minded people, they really seemed to love my songwriting and told me that I was good and that they respected my work. I felt like maybe I’m good? Maybe I should do this? That really was inspiring and helped me to keep going after it.

GALO: You and The District became pretty popular in the NYC area and made a name for yourselves. You sort of touched on already how starting your solo career was an accident. Was there a point where you realized after your music got popular that it was now time to go solo?

RP: I never really “went solo.” I still perform with The District and make records with them. We have a new one that will come out at some point next year that we finished and we put out another one a few years ago, so I do play with them. It’s just the percentage of my focus that was pointed at it [changed]. It used to be that 99 percent of my focus was The District and 1 percent was me writing these other kinds of songs for myself. And really, for me, when I realized that it was tipping the other way, it was toward the beginning of 2008, when I started to get really popular online as a solo artist. I was like, ‘I guess I better spend more time on this.’ Then it went from [the ratio of] 99 to 1 percent, to 60 to 40 percent, to 50 to 50 percent, to eventually now, where my solo project is my job and The District is something I get to do with my friends, which I love, and it’s a hobby and something I do on the side. It happened over time as necessity dictated and as there was more to do, so I just kept doing it and doing it. [The District] is five of my best friends – so, obviously, if you have your druthers, you get to go out and play with your buddies. But my solo career is my job. I love it; it’s incredible.

(Interview continued on next page)