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Interview: Cassadee Pope

Hey Monday vocalist Cassadee Pope announced last month the band was taking a break from music and that she had started pursuing a solo career.

Currently gearing up for her upcoming acoustic tour, Cassadee took the time to speak to Alter The Press about the hiatus, no longer being on a major label, her new solo material and what to expect in the future.

Alter The Press: In December, you announced that Hey Monday was going on a hiatus. What prompted this decision?
Cassadee Pope: We've always been one of those bands that had stuff planned early, and we'd been on tour for nearly two years since being together. Around the middle of last year, it really started slowing down, and we didn't have anything planned after our South America tour in August. A lot of things pointed towards us to the direction of needing to take a break and doing our own thing.

We had a song that was covered on the show ‘Glee,’ and we were expecting that to be a pretty big platform but it didn't really do anything for us. My big thing was that I didn't want to be in one of those bands, who kept trying for so long for something, and keep failing at it. I wanted to end on a really good note. Our South America tour went great, we had a really amazing time, the Christmas EP we did, did really well, and we released that ourselves, that was the first time we released anything not on a label.

I felt like things ended on a great note. We're all still so young. If I even had a little bit of a feeling that I wanted to do my own thing, I would have done it, but the feeling was very strong. I know I'm very young and have a lot of time left trying for a career in music. I don't want to look back and regret thinking, 'What if?' I want to go for it now.

ATP: You also announced last month that you were no longer with Columbia/Decaydance Records. Was the band dropped, or was this a mutual decision?
Cassadee: It was a mutual thing. After a while, I can't really say what happened because I've lost touch of time, but it was because all labels are going through a tough time, and it's really hard to break bands these days. The label was losing hope, and we were getting overshadowed by the pop acts. They handle Nickelodeon and all their music etc and of course, those are big money makers and we are not a money maker. There are no bitter feelings to Columbia or Decaydance, I stay in contact with Pete [Wentz, founder of Decaydance] all the time and everything is cool. It was a mutual thing. I've said from the beginning, major labels can be an amazing thing, or a terrible thing. When we got signed in 2008, I feel like we got in at such a great time. It was right when things were turning around; people were getting 360 deals and everything. We needed a major label, and an extra push. They helped us and developed us because we were so young; we knew what we wanted to do and they helped us go about it. They did really well with us, then we started becoming adults and knowing what we wanted, they kept seeing us a younger band that they could influence, and it just wasn't working out anymore.

That's all there is to it. There are no crazy legal disputes or anything. It was very simple, clean slate, no arguments and I respect them for that.

ATP: When we last spoke in November 2010, you said Hey Monday had about 25-30 songs written for the next album. Will any of these songs ever see the light of day and was anything recorded?
Cassadee: The thing about those songs is, I would say a chunk of those were written between me and the guys, but most of them were by me co-writing with people, just trying to keep myself busy and keep the ball rolling because I love to write and can't stop. Some of them won't ever be released, and some weren't even finished, but some I am using for myself because it was me and a co-writer. I wasn't thinking at the time, "this is for Hey Monday or this is for my solo project", it was me writing as it was my song.

ATP: Would you say, at this point, only time will tell when Hey Monday gets back together, writing new music and playing shows?
Cassadee: Yeah, only time will tell for sure. We just made this decision not too long ago, and none of us are really getting into our projects. I know I've said I'm going solo and have a tour coming up, but I haven't released new music or even tested the water. I don't think it's going to be any time soon before we decide to do anything more with Hey Monday, we haven't really experienced much else but I think we want to do that first.

ATP: With your new solo-project, was this something you wanted to do for a while?
Cassadee: Not at all. To be honest, I've had people in the past hint that I should go solo and have my own thing, but I've always just laughed at it. It really was me just waking up one day having a yearning for it. It wasn't something I was thinking about doing for a while; it was just something I was thinking about when Hey Monday was slowing down. I just kept running into all these road blocks and these feelings in my mind, and asked what could I do, in my mind, that could get me further in my career, and that was my answer. I couldn't get my mind off it and there was no turning back. Once I have my mind set on an idea, it's really hard to get off that track.

ATP: How is the project coming along so far?
Cassadee: It's awesome. I've been writing for a while now. I have a pretty set direction that I want to head in, but I haven't gotten in any producers yet, to put that to work. Basically, like an edgy Jordan Sparks kind of thing; all real instrumentation, production similar to Bruno Mars, but definitely more mainstream than Hey Monday. I want the lyrics to be more edgy and darker than anything on the radio. Just doing what I love, the real instruments and guitars but with a real pop twist to it.

I do want to be mainstream and on the radio, and I want to go on tour with these big pop acts. I'm not a punk veteran or anything, or ever claimed that, but I have been on a lot of van tours and it's been amazing. We did a few straight years of touring in a van, it was really great, but I'm ready to break out in a different world.

ATP: Hey Monday was always categorized in the pop-rock/pop-punk genre. Is this something you are trying to break away from then?
Cassadee: I'm not completely against staying in that world a little, but that world, I feel, gets to a certain point and the next step is the mainstream. That is the reality of it and I don't care what anyone says, it just is. I still have a great relationship with AP, Warped Tour, the people we've always worked with, Alter The Press, Buzznet and all the people that have gotten Hey Monday to where we were. I don't want to burn any bridges or turn down any opportunities at all. I would just like to expand and go to the more mainstream side of things. I'm not saying I want to drop everything that I grew up being involved with. I just want to expand.

ATP: How many songs do you have written so far?
Cassadee: I think I've written, by myself and with co-writers, like 30 songs that I feel have potential. About 5 of them are really demoed out with a full band and everything, but those aren't at a production level where I want them to be at yet. I'm still at the early stages of what I want to do.

ATP: Do you have any plans for a solid release?
Cassadee: No. I want like a debut release. I don't want to put out an EP and a bunch of singles here and there. I want it to really be like a breakout album, but I don't have a solid date or anything yet. I don't have a label or a publishing company. I'm starting from scratch from that side of things, but I do think it needs to happen in the middle of 2012. If nothing happens with the label side of things, I don't think I can wait that much longer. I'd go crazy and just release something on my own in the last case scenario.

ATP: After being on, and having the support of a major label, does it feel strange doing everything from a DIY approach?
Cassadee: Yeah; with Hey Monday we were so fortunate to be picked up by a major right away, and they did everything. We replied to fans on all of our websites, but everything was done by the label and they had a whole department for that. I don't have any of that right now; it's just me and a new manager working together from the ground up. It's really fun. It reminds me of being in my old band Blake. We had managers but they didn't really know what they were doing either. I've been connecting a lot more with the fans than ever. It's scary, and gets overwhelming at times, but I think it's going to be worth it.

ATP: Last year it was reported that your old management was suing you for $50 million. Was there any truth in this?
Cassadee: No there's not. I'm not being sued for $50 million. There are a lot of legal ins and outs of that, and I don't think I should get into it completely, but no, I'm not being sued for $50 million!

ATP: At the end of the month you kick off your first solo acoustic tour. Will it be just you performing solo or will you have anyone else accompanying you on stage?
Cassadee: I'll have a few musicians joining me, just a few people my manager knew. I'm going to have a bassist, guitarist and a percussionist. Some of them won't be able to make a few dates, but for the most part it'll be me, a guitarist and a percussionist. It's going to be good. There will be a few times where I'll just jump off the guitar and rock out because that's what I love to do.

ATP: What can fans expect when coming to the shows?
Cassadee: It's going to be really intimate. I usually wear in-ears but I'm going to be using monitors so I'll be able to hear every little thing everyone has to say. I have a feeling it's going to be a lot of talking back and forth. I just want to tell everyone the stories behind every song and who they were written with.

I'm going to be taking requests. The band I'm taking with me, I'm getting them to learn a solid 10-11 songs but I know fans in all different cities will ask for different songs and if that happens, I'll just play them by myself. After all, it's such a fly-by, seat of your pants kind of thing. It's not a whole production kind of thing. It's just me up there playing some Hey Monday songs, some of my own stuff, and maybe some covers. It's going to be a really fun time, like a ‘Storytellers’ kind of thing.

ATP: Have you already started putting a set list together?
Cassadee: I have. It's 10 songs, and split right down the middle; half Hey Monday, and half my own stuff.

ATP: When can we expect anything new to be released/surface online?
Cassadee: I'm planning on putting up like an acoustic jam session, like a verse/chorus of a new song that I've been writing, to see what everyone thinks. I'll probably do things like that every now and then. I don't want to release any unfinished demos or anything. I want the first thing people hear, to be something finished and a really good representation of what I'm actually going to do.

ATP: After the tour, what is planned for 2012?
Cassadee: The plan is to get more people on board for the project, get into the studio to record an album, record some music videos. I really want people to get to know me, more personally, than ever. I want to do more touring, and basically that's it. I would love to open for someone like Bruno Mars, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry and Pink. I feel like the closest thing we did to that was when Hey Monday played an arena tour with Fall Out Boy. That was still like a band tour, and I'm ready to do something really different and open for a pop act like that.

Jon Ableson