Will the Real Citizen Cope Please Stand Up?
Photo by Alex Elena
A stack of old concert posters is piled on the kitchen table and Clarence Greenwood is bent over them, pen in hand, scribbling his autograph—or rather, he’s signing his stage name, Citizen Cope. He stops and looks at his merch man Keir with concern. “I just signed 2012 on a 2011.” He thinks for a moment, and then shrugs it off.
Six days after a four-week tour, Cope is still winding down. His gear is still in his car, his suitcase still sits unpacked on the TV-room floor and he moves like molasses, as if he could easily sleep for 24 hours straight if given the chance.
Then again, maybe that’s the natural gait of this laid-back singer/songwriter. It seems to match the slow, semi-Southern drawl and quiet, slightly slurred quality of his speaking and singing voice.
Keir grabs the newly signed posters and takes off. Cope finds a large white container in the fridge, scoops an unnaturally green powder into a glass and mixes a power drink. The spoon quickly and loudly clinking, he says with a coy half smile, “My fish food.” His blue eyes twinkle. When he’s done stirring, he hunkers down for a chat.
“I’m at a real transformation point right now. The intensity of the way the music has touched people is pretty profound,” he says. “Doing shows, you try to do it like it’s the last time you’ll do it. These people love you. They spent all this time to go there. And I love them; I don’t want to let them down,” he says genuinely. Then he adds, compelled to explain why the pressure is worth the effort, “When you carry that kind of intensity, you’re bound to get something back from it.”
This month on the road comes on the heels of releasing his fifth album, One Lovely Day. It’s been ten years since his eponymous debut album and the contrasts between these two efforts are as subtle and stark as their similarities.
Stylistically, they share the same breezy, calm tone—soulful, rhythmic, pop-like. His latest, though, feels more cohesive—even to him. His consistent mellow singing drawl now has a crisper delivery. The lyrics remain personal, but the stories aren’t told through characters anymore. Instead, Cope puts himself entirely in the first-person spotlight. One cut on the new album, “A Wonder,” directly (and, by his own admission, subconsciously) references “Contact,” a song from Citizen Cope that he rarely even plays live anymore. But the biggest difference between these records is that Cope’s in total control—writing, producing and now releasing his albums on his own label.
“I remember, early on, saying a prayer that I could just do something authentic and not necessarily be about personal achievement,” he recalls. “If it could be authentic, then I felt like it would reach people. That’s the best thing that you can have.”
Staying true to himself while finding opportunities to attract and connect with fans has been an epic challenge. His journey has been frustratingly complex, but it started simply.
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