Reality Rocks

Cassadee Pope Frames Her Past in Frank New Interview

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

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photo: Stephanie Cabral

Cassadee Pope, winner of "The Voice" Season 3, releases her new album, Frame by Frame, this week. The country-pop record may be a departure for the singer, who cut her teeth in the Decaydence Records emo band Hey Monday and played the Warped Tour, but when Cassadee visited Yahoo's Ram Country studio to perform tracks from the album, it seemed like a natural progression.

Afterwards, Cassadee sat down with Yahoo to talk about her past — not just as a country-loving kid and punk-rock-loving teen, but as a child of divorce who used music to help repair her fractured relationship with her father. Check out what she had to say in the insightful Q&A below.

YAHOO MUSIC: A lot of people think you're a newcomer to country. Can you tell me a bit about your country roots?

CASSADEE: I actually started singing country music at 4 years old, right when I started learning how to sing. I would cover a lot of Martina McBride, LeAnn Rimes, Trisha Yearwood, that kind of stuff, and it just feels very authentic to me. It's always been there through the years. Even when I was in my band, I still listened to country. It's always been something that I loved. Now I get to infuse pop and rock in country, and that's such a treat for me because I love all three.

Why, when you first started in music, did you go the rock route instead of country?

I went the more pop-rock route when I was around my teenage years, actually around 13 years old. I think Avril Lavigne really jump-started that. I heard "Complicated" and I fell in love, and I've loved her ever since. But hearing that song really opened my mind to all of the rockier things. Growing up, my parents loved Bon Jovi and Boston and Rush and all that, but it wasn't really connecting with me. I was still in my boy-band phase — Backstreet Boys for life! But I listened to Avril, and it turned me on to bands, and soon after that I started going to shows locally in West Palm Beach. At that time, the scene in West Palm Beach was so awesome. That really made me fall in love with rock music, just the overall scene, and how everybody's working towards the same thing. There's a camaraderie there and there's a partnership. That's how I went in that direction.

A lot people assume it was your "Voice" coach, Blake Shelton, who pushed you into country. Does that bother you?

It doesn't bother me that people think that Blake Shelton made me go country, because I can understand it. My immediate past is pop-rock, and people don't know a ton about me as a kid, yet. They will soon. I can't really get upset about it, because people are going to say and think what they want to think. But I can say that he was not the reason. I was on the show and I didn't even think of going country, I just really wanted to do "Over You"; that was just a song that I thought was beautiful and I just wanted to cover it and put my heart out there, because I can relate to it so much. And I think it was just the reaction from the fans that made me realize, "Maybe I should go back to country." And I just kept doing it on the show, and it was just undeniable; it was just this force and I couldn't deny it. So after the show ended I texted him and asked him, "Do you think that I would be embraced and do you think people will accept me [in country]?" And he was like, "They already have." So that was what I needed to hear to really go for it. If I got Blake's approval, it was just a matter of time till I got other people to hop on board.

Has Blake heard Frame by Frame yet?

Blake has heard a few songs on the album. I haven't sent anything to anybody because I'm so nervous about risking that. I've sent him "Good Times" and "11," actually I sent him that a few months ago, and he was really supportive. He loved it. He loved "11" because he and I had talked a lot about my relationship with my dad on the show. And the show is really the main reason why my dad and I reconnected. So that song was really special for Blake to hear.

I know you co-wrote five of your album's tracks. I assume "11" was one of your co-writes?

Yes, I co-wrote "11" with Nathan Chapman, and it's probably the most personal song I've ever written. I had to dig deep for that one. I've always felt these things and I just never really knew how to get them out there. And I just think my experiences in the past year have really given me the confidence, because what else am I going to do, keep bottling it up inside? I can't do that, especially with my life now so hectic and crazy. It's nice now to put music out there that I can connect with so deeply and that the fans are actually reacting to so well, saying that they're going through the same things. And that's what it's all about for me: putting out music that people can relate to.

Has your father heard "11"?

My dad has heard "11," and he's so supportive. I had to explain to him, "I don't feel like you actually drove away and took your love with you." I don't feel that way anymore, but at the time, I was a kid. Of course I felt these things. And they were irrational. But my dad's dad walked out on him when he was a kid and he hasn't spoken to him since. So if anyone can relate, it's him. So it's nice to be able to explain that to him and have him understand that, and just hear the song for what it is, which is a truly real, authentic, beautiful song. And he's proud. So that's good.

I imagine it must have been hard to hear that some of what his own dad put him through, he put you through, too.

My dad definitely has come a long way as far as guilt and feeling responsible for things. I have continued through the years to let him know I will never hold anything against him. He's my dad, and people make mistakes. And same with my mom. The divorce was not easy, and both of them had done things they were at fault for. And I was a kid, so I didn't really know what was going on. But my dad stayed in my life; he wasn't exactly missing, like people thought he was. I knew where my dad was and I knew what he was doing, where he was living and everything. He never just left us and cut off all communication. That would have been horrible. But I think he definitely feels sorry for not being there fully for that year where I hadn't heard from him. And I'm sorry for not reaching out as much as I should have. So we kind of moved past it and we're basically going back to the way it was when I was a kid and starting all fresh.

Your old band Hey Monday were an "emo" band of sorts, so did writing songs for them prepare you for writing emotional songs like "11"?

I think I had a lot of practice and over the years of writing songs that were true to the heart and explaining my feelings. I'm not the best at expressing my feelings other than in songs or on paper. It's just been such a blessing for me my whole life to get my feelings out there in a positive way. In Hey Monday I did that with every song. I just took real-life experiences and wrote about it. So I think I had some good practice leading up to this particular song.

Are your old fans from back then accepting of your new direction?

Some fans from my Hey Monday days are a little confused by the switch. But I think they won't be once they hear the rest of the album, because I didn't make a 180 switch from one thing to the other. I'm still me, and I'm still there in the music. So I think they'll be pleasantly surprised. But most of the fans have been absolutely amazing. They come to [see me open for] the Rascal Flatts shows. I'll see them in the pit. I'll make sure I know them well enough to see them on Twitter, I'll get them meet-and-greets, I'll get them tickets and everything, so I really try and stay connected with them as much as possible. It's getting harder because there's more and more fans in general. But I'll never lose sight of them, and how important they are for me and the longevity of my career, because they've been around since I was 18. So they mean a lot to me.

Do you think you've converted any of your old fans to country music?

It's amazing! I've had a lot of Hey Monday fans tell me that they never listened to country music until I went country, and now they're addicted and they can't stop listening to Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood! They've opened their minds to another genre, and that means a lot to me as a musician, because I feel like people like to stay in their little box and say, "I don't like that, I don't like that, I'm not going to like that," and they're so closed-minded. So to be able to see me take these fans and open their minds to something else is really special.

Okay, last question, and it's a bit of a loaded one: Since iTunes sales play such a big factor on "The Voice," and you pretty much dominated iTunes in your season, did you have a good idea that you were going to win?

I didn't really let myself get too comfortable on the show. I took comfort in knowing that iTunes was doing well and I was getting a good amount of sales on iTunes, because it would go to number one and that meant a lot. But I knew there were three other methods to vote, so I wasn't going to just bank on iTunes. I felt really good about myself, and if I hadn't won, I would've been disappointed, but I would've felt really accomplished. There were three number-ones on the show, and that's hard to do. I can't even believe that happened! I already had some great people showing interest in me before the show ended, so I think something would have happened anyways and I would've been able to go forward and do stuff. But I did feel good about it. Seeing iTunes really lifted my spirits…and I knocked PSY off the top spot!

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