Catching Up With Citizen Cope

Music Features Citizen Cope
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Clarence Greenwood, aka Citizen Cope, has had a busy career so far. After putting out five full-length albums, with the most recent One Lovely Day, touring every year and starting his own label, Rainwater Recordings, he loves it just as much as he did from the start. For Greenwood, being a musician and writing music is a spiritual experience.

We caught up with him to discuss the new record, why he made the decision to start his label and why a police dog named Tilo once made an appearance in his hotel room on tour.

Paste: How was the experience making One Lovely Day for you? Was it pretty similar to the previous records?
Greenwood: I don’t think it was very different than making previous albums. I did a lot more live takes with the guys in the studio, but I just think it’s always an evolution. You learn something new every record. I think my voice sounded better. It’s just a great opportunity to express yourself.

Paste: Do you feel like this album better representation of you as a musician than the others?
Greenwood: I think all of the records have been representative of me. I think there have been records that I’ve made that had great songs that I haven’t been able to improve upon. Every record has it’s own special kind of thing. I guess my craft as a singer is getting a little bit better, and also as a record maker hopefully. There are things I love about each one of my records.

Paste: Can you explain what brought you to the decision to start your own label after working with some of the biggest ones out there?
Greenwood: I just figured I signed with these companies, and they didn’t really exist as the companies I signed with. DreamWorks, everyone got fired there, and then I signed with Arista, and everyone kind of got fired there. The two records I did with RCA, I really didn’t use the A&R staff, I didn’t use the radio staff, so I really didn’t need the services. I wanted to maintain and own my content. I could have easily taken a big advance and done another record with them, but I just didn’t like the aspect of companies having my content, and they’re still making money off of them.

Paste: Your music is often described as a really blended genre of some hip-hop, rock, folk, and you started off as a DJ, how did your style grow and evolve into what it is now?
Greenwood: I think I just loved all of those different types of music, and they were included in what I did, but essentially, I’m a songwriter. The production that I use to put those songs across, like the heavy drums kind of came from hip-hop. I think people just need labels to describe it, but I always say you have to hear it. I don’t really think it’s a blend. It’s just my songs, and hopefully the music sounds cool. That’s what you go after. I don’t think you say, “Hey, I’m gonna make a hip-hop/reggae record.” I was heavily influenced by John Lennon and Bob Marley — the people who really had something to say from their heart. That’s hopefully what the music’s about and it affects people on a spiritual level. People have come up to me and said that the music has really helped them, and I truly feel the same way.

Paste: Would you describe yourself as a very spiritual person?
Greenwood: Absolutely. That’s where all the inspiration lies. Music is something that we all have. It’s a mystical, unexplainable kind of thing.

Paste: You’ve done a lot of collaborations and some other artists have covered your work. Was it pretty humbling when people started wanting to cover your music?
Greenwood: I never expected certain people to want to cover stuff. I always like that. I think it’s a good thing. I don’t know if I was expecting it, but I will always be glad that they did it.

Paste: Your music has also been featured in a ton of movies and TV shows. Is it weird hearing your own voice when you see a movie or show?
Greenwood: Sometimes it’s awkward, and sometimes if the placement is really good, it’s really cool. There was a documentary film called Trouble on the Water about New Orleans, they used “Hurricane Waters,” I think the placement was really good. In Lincoln Lawyer they used “107 Degrees,” and I thought the placement was really good. A lot of times you don’t see it, but you hear about it. I think that music just lends itself to visuals.

Paste: So you’re heading out on tour soon, and you’ve been known to be on the road quite a bit, more than a lot of musicians. Do just really enjoy it?
Greenwood: I think it just became my life. I never expected myself to be a performer the way I am. I just wanted to write songs and be a producer. I found out playing live was part of what you had to do the other stuff, so I think now I’ve become a little more comfortable with it. I’ve let myself try to make it a spiritual experience. That aspect of it, when you’re giving that much every night, it’s kind of like something that you miss when you’re not doing it. It’s become kind of a purpose. But I didn’t expect to be on the road for the past ten years.

Paste: I’m sure it’s hard to get used to be around that many people all of the time. Are you usually pretty introverted?
Greenwood: Well I like the camaraderie and getting up and going someplace and having something to do, because there were times in my life when I was just writing. I was trying to get going, and I didn’t have much to do. Not having a show in Dallas next week, that stuff can kind of bring you down sometimes. Having the opportunity to play shows, I never took that for granted. I remember when there wasn’t that opportunity, so I just come from the mindset like, “Yeah, let’s go.”

Paste: Can you remember any specific, crazy tour experiences?
Greenwood: Oh, so many crazy experiences. One time the police busted in my room, thought I was smuggling drugs. They brought in a dog that they called Tilo, and they didn’t find anything, but they still kicked me out of the hotel. That was pretty crazy.