Citizen Cope on SOPA/PIPA, Songwriting, and His Upcoming Album One Lovely Day
|Big Hassle Media, Michael Sterling Eaton|
Up On The Sun: Why are you doing this stretch of shows solo/acoustically instead of with your band? What do you find special about the intimacy that's created when you do it this way?
Clarence Greenwood: I had some time off kind of recently and I was on the west coast, so I went and did a little northern Californian thing. I haven't been to Arizona in a while, so I decided it would be a good time to go there right now because I'm going to be touring with the band in the summertime, and I probably wouldn't be able to get back there until this time next year anyway. It's a good time. I haven't been there in a while, [and] I've been enjoying solo acoustic shows a lot this year.
In one of your newsletters a few months ago, you encouraged your fans to see an Alice Smith and Gary Clark, Jr. concert. What is it that you love so much about those artists?
Well I kind of just think they have a real quality. There's just something different about them that is like...it's something that hasn't been seen and will be seen, but it's just something I wanted to turn people onto. Sometimes you don't get to see something in the underground that I get a chance to see because I play so many shows across the country. Every once in a while I'll see something that's really great.
A lot of your songs are written in a story-telling format. Are these songs a form of self-expression? Are they personal stories about your own life, are they about people in your life, or are they about imaginary characters?
I think when you write, you write from personal experience: a situation you've been in, people you've met... Everything kind of comes together in this magical way. Sometimes it kind of explains [how] all these people live in a different way. Songwriting is a really, really mysterious thing, but somehow it usually makes perfect sense. You just kind of follow that muse. It's not anything intentional. Everybody in life has similar experiences. If you're a writer and you're able to put those down in words and they see that within themselves, ideally that's what happens when you write a good song.
Today a lot of the Internet is being blacked out in protest of the controversial SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) bills. They're meant to stop piracy of music and film and shut down websites with unauthorized media. From a musician's perspective, what are the ups and downs of those bills passing? On one hand you're music is being protected, but on the other hand a lot less people would hear your music.
What's unfortunate about it is that I don't think that artists or musicians, or even actors or writers of these shows or anything of that nature, have really been included in the dialogue. I think it's really been between the IT companies and the major media companies. I think there are a lot more people that are involved in that dialogue, so it's hard to even take any kind of stance on it because as an artist, I don't think we've been included in the dialogue [in terms of] what it is and what can happen.
One thing I will say is that a lot of these IT companies have become very rich on basically free labor from content. A lot of people go on to YouTube and listen to music and watch videos, and people haven't paid money to do these things. And so you have these companies that are really not compensating for what they're getting, and on the other side you have the fact that this stuff is available like that. It's really a double-edged sword. It's out there. It's available. It's not something that's going to go backwards in time.
Right, so as an artist, just in regards to you, how do you think abandoning those things would help or hurt you as a musician in terms of getting your name out there?
No matter what the outcome is, I don't think the major media companies are thinking about a songwriter or a drummer or a singer on a song, or a writer of a television show. I don't think an IT company is either. The IT companies haven't compensated, nor have the media companies. We should be involved in this, but we're not. I don't think whatever the outcome of this is is going to benefit the artist. Nobody's said anything about it. It's people fighting over our content, and we're not involved in it. It's really a grey issue. It's not a black and white issue, and I think people are really making it that. Like, "If you don't like this, you're trying to shut down the Internet" and, "if you don't like this then you're trying to ruin Hollywood and mass publications and all this kind of stuff."
They really try to add us in it like they're protecting us, all these major companies, the RIAA and all these other things. But that's not what working. Record companies don't act on our behalf. This is a whole new field. And so people say, "You're taking money from the artist." But they don't ever say that the truth of the matter is that these people don't represent us. I've really been thinking a lot about it today because I can't really take a side on it because we haven't really been included in it. What do you think about it?
I agree, it's not black and white. Being in the media myself, I think that some people want it shut down for the wrong reasons. I think it would hurt a lot of people. It would take a lot of creative jobs away. A lot of people that just want to get things out there on behalf of an artist they like, [so] it hurts those artists. It hurts their fans in terms of expressing themselves about music that they're enthusiastic about, and it's unfortunate. At the same time, I want you guys to get paid because you deserve it and you've worked hard.
That's what I'm saying. They haven't addressed these things: how do you honestly compensate somebody? They have an idea of how to do it, but in actuality it's really not... All of this digital stuff is brand new. I've always given away a lot of CDs, [especially] early on in my career, and I still give away music. I'm into that, but it's also my choice to do that. At the same time, when a company just starts subscription services where people get free music on their phones, it's deeper than just people sharing music with their friends and the underground importance of spreading something [by] word of mouth. They try to trivialize it, but it's really over money. It's an interesting time.
Have you been in the studio lately? Do you have any new material in the works? What's next for Citizen Cope?
I got another record that I'll probably release in early summertime. It's called One Lovely Day. I'm excited about it. I'm most likely keeping it on my label. And I might have a song in a movie that's coming out in May I think. I'm putting an Alice Smith CD on my label. She's got an EP coming out that we're mixing right now. We're excited about having that because she's somebody on the rise.
Any hope for seeing you at any upcoming festivals?
You know what? I think I might. I don't know. We're definitely trying to get Bonnaroo this year. We're also trying to get Austin City Limits. We've played both Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits, so we're going to try to...whatever good ones come up would be nice. But I think I'm going to have a big headlining tour this summer [to support] the record, and that will probably go till the fall and into the winter. It takes a while to cover America!