Citizen Cope discusses his new album One Lovely Day and More
With the release of a new album in July (One Lovely Day), and a North American tour underway, the artist Citizen Cope, the man Clarence Greenwood talks the inspiration and intent of his music. From his first self-titled album (Citizen Cope), Greenwood mixed genres to explore the day to day human condition of contact and interaction, and how a person can find salvation. His words are searching for optimism and determined to find it even while surrounded by the grittiness of racial profiling (“Contact” from Citizen Cope). They detail the power of love and a muse to help the most shiftless find inspiration to hold onto it (“If There’s Love” from Citizen Cope). And those are just the first two songs on his debut album. They’re positively desperate, and desperately positive, without feeling the cliched bleeding heart.
How did you end up in Brooklyn, New York?
I think that what I experienced [in] West Texas and DC made me want to move to NY for life’s possibilities. Once I got to NY, my life changed and I wanted to see the whole world.
Do you find that certain cities linger in your music? On “Salvation” off of Citizen Cope, you place Judas in DC, whom you meet on the streets looking for salvation but ultimately finding it hard to find.
Yes absolutely, the way the sun shines, the change of seasons, the human condition, the tempo, the way people say things, simple truths that people express and how they do so all are part of a collection of influences that can provide a profound effect on the songs.
What’s the instrument of choice for songwriting on the road?
The road can be difficult to write. I write mostly with guitar.
On “Salvation” Cope escalates the tempo as the Judas character becomes more frenzied and desperate to turn his life around. The song concludes with the repeated line: “Put the gun down,” in Greenwood’s sad, convincing drawl. Then on The Clarence Greenwood Recordings, album number two, the songs are more pessimistic. They’re still raw, but a hint of realism has tarnished the lyrics. From “Sideways,” “‘Cause diamonds they fade/And flowers they bloom… these feelings won’t go away/they’ve been knocking me sideways.” It’s a state of life that everyone experiences, when things don’t seem to be moving forward, the heart gets exhausted and the feet get restless.
What makes your music so accessible?
Its funny, someone recently said my music appeals to CEOs and Gangsters. Maybe we all are one in the same.
Your self titled album, Citizen Cope, introduced your sound to a wider audience and got a lot of attention for its uniqueness. What were these songs yearning for? Was it the inclusiveness of being in love (“If There’s Love”), the general enormity of human interaction (“Let the Drummer Kick,” “Contact”), or something else?
At that time I just wanted to be the best songwriter possible and I knew that I had to come from the heart. I wanted to make an underground Pop record if that makes sense. Underground themes with real content from the heart with hooks. The record bombed when it came out. Sold only 18k records before they took it off the shelf. CDs were selling on the internet for 70 dollars because they were not available. Its sold 10 times that since the label folded. Universal keeps all the money. I think a lot of those songs completely flew over peoples heads. My records have[n't] been mainstream hits but people have discovered them slowly over 10 years.
You’re now self producing your albums. What’s a song that you worry people won’t pay enough attention to but one that you’d want them to listen carefully?
“DFW” because its personal. It connects.
Make sure to pick up One Lovely Day.