Cassadee Pope says she found it “silly” that some fans of The Voice felt that the pre-existing fan base she brought from her old band Hey Monday should have kept her from competing on Season 3 of NBC’s hit singing competition.
“I obviously appreciate all the fans I gained from my band, but there weren’t enough of them to make me a very successful artist,” she says. “To me, being successful is selling a lot of records and selling out big venues on tour, and it’s not up to anyone else to decide what success is for me.”
Plus, she adds, she’s worked hard for years and paid her dues, just like any struggling musician. “When Hey Monday first started, there was this very cool hype around us and a label behind us that was excited. But then the momentum started going away,” the eventual Season 3 winner explains. “That was hard, because I actually liked our music more the longer we were together.”
When she moved to L.A. a little over a year ago to launch a solo career, Cassadee says she had to “swallow my pride knowing that I was going to be a little fish in a very big sea.” When she failed to generate any interest from labels or management, she decided The Voice was an opportunity she couldn’t turn down — and it turned out to change the course of her life and career.
TVLine caught up with Cassadee to discuss her most memorable Voice performances, her early-season vocal woes, and her plans for keeping her iTunes momentum alive.
TVLINE | I loved the choice of Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” for your Blind Audition because it’s not one of those ballads that’s been done a million times on reality singing shows. In fact, I felt like you were pretty savvy throughout the season in terms of song selection. Was “Torn” a strategic pick or just a case of you covering something you like?
I was a little strategic, but in a way where I just wanted to establish myself, get people to know what style I was into, before I started experimenting. “Torn” was something that I had covered before, with just piano and strings. I really love that song. I love when people cover songs that are familiar, but have been kind of forgotten about. So when you play it, it takes people back to a certain place. That’s what I wanted for “Torn.” Then with “Payphone,” I love that song, and Adam [Levine]’s range is similar to mine. I really loved the idea of doing a guy’s song and turning it into my own kind of thing.
TVLINE | When you got to the Live Playoffs, your first song was Avril Lavigne’s “My Happy Ending.” Was there any concern on your part of tackling an artist who’s got a very similar vibe and sound to what you want to do in your post-Voice career?
Unfortunately, I couldn’t go out there and sing my original stuff — which would have been the easiest way to show people what I’m about and the kind of music I do. So I just tried to think of the one artist and the one song that I thought truly resembles what I want to do, and that’s the one I thought about.
TVLINE | Your first few weeks on the live shows, I felt there were times when you struggled with your lower register, where you hit some weird notes here and there. That started to change in Top 10 Week, when you covered “Over You.” I wonder if you felt the same way, and if you feel you improved as a vocalist over the course of the show.
Yeah. I felt all of those things. I mean I still struggle with my low notes. It’s just always been something for me: I’m not a low singer. I have a really high voice. The songs that I want to sing, like “Behind These Hazel Eyes,” she’s going from one octave to the next. I always want to pick songs that are really crazy rangy and sometimes those low notes aren’t there. But I started taking it way more seriously after a certain point, and I started doing vocal warm-ups every day, even when I wasn’t singing, sometimes twice a day. I mean, I’ve always taken care of my voice, but I never really thought to do exercises on days that I wasn’t singing. When I started doing that, I felt a difference for sure.
TVLINE | Let’s talk about “Over You,” which seemed like a major turning point on the show. When did you first realize something magical might be happening with that cover?
I had the idea to do the song, and Blake was all about it, but I wasn’t sure how it would translate and if it would make any sense. So when we were at band practice and it started coming together, that’s when the magic first happened. It was everything I had hoped for, and everyone was freaking out. Blake was thrilled. That was definitely the moment where I had somewhat of a glimpse into the future of me winning; I thought “If I can get to number one on iTunes, and I just keep doing songs that I can put my heart and soul into, maybe I can make this happen every week. Maybe I can do this.” So, yeah, “Over You” was definitely when the tides turned.
TVLINE | My favorite performance of yours this season was “Stupid Boy.” Again, like “Over You,” it’s a song by a country artist — and yet neither of those performances felt necessarily Country with a Capital C. What was your approach to those songs, in particular with “Stupid Boy.”
I don’t want to go full-on country for my solo career, and so I didn’t want to do “Over You” or “Stupid Boy” the way they were [recorded]. For “Stupid Boy,” I really wanted everyone to hear the lyrics, and I just loved it so much when I stripped it down. Some people don’t realize that Keith Urban is singing about himself being a stupid boy and being regretful. And after “Over You,” I hadn’t had another moment that was really intimate, so I wanted that again, too.
TVLINE | I’ve got to pause and ask a totally shallow question: Where did you get the silver dress you wore for your reprise of “Over You” in the performance finale? That was definitely the wardrobe moment of the season.
It’s actually from the Warner Bros. lot. I’m not sure exactly what it was used for, but that’s where [The Voice] wardrobe [department] got it. They have access to that, which is great. They just had to make some alternations and put lining on the inside of it because the mirrors were really sharp and they kept cutting me. I loved the fact that I was wearing a dress that looked like shattered glass, because it is such a tragic song. It’s about Blake’s brother dying in a car accident when he was younger. It just all kind of tied in together and was a really special moment.
TVLINE | Talk to me about your choice of “Cry” as your final number on the performance finale. That’s a really high degree of difficulty in terms of the vocal range. Did you have any fears going into that one?
I did. I used to cover that song a lot when I was a kid, when obviously my voice was a lot higher. I even raised the key when I was younger. For the finale, I did raise the key half a step. Even that was still too low for me [in places] and too high [in others]. Moments before going on stage, I was trying to warm up my voice, and I was trying to get those low notes to be warm, but they just weren’t, because nerves tend to affect my lower register every single time. I was actually thinking of changing the melody just so I knew it was solid instead of trying to hit these low notes that weren’t there. But I ended up doing them anyway. They turned out to be a little bit more of a breathy kind of thing, but I liked it. It’s definitely not the strongest thing I could have done as far as my lower register, but I think it worked because it’s such a vulnerable song. It’s asking someone to feel something for you. The set was really magical and fairytale-like. I feel like it all came together.
TVLINE | With Hey Monday, you never achieved massive chart success. What was it like to wake up on Tuesday mornings and find your songs at number one on iTunes, or sometimes have multiple songs in the top 10 on iTunes?
It’s so rewarding because it’s not like I just woke up one day and said, “I’m going to go solo and it’s going to be great!” I gave it a lot of thought. It was really scary. It wasn’t something that I was positive was the right idea. But I took a risk. Seeing my songs at No. 1 on iTunes, even if they are covers, it’s still such an accomplishment, something that the band and I had worked toward the whole time we were together, and never achieved.
TVLINE | With that iTunes momentum happening right now, how urgent is it to get some new music released in the next few months? Do you feel like you have to strike while you’re still really present in Voice fans’ minds, or is it a matter of taking your time with the music and releasing it when it feels right?
I definitely want to hit the ground running. I want to get started on making an album or at least a single. Everything shuts down for the holidays, so I’ll have to wait until January 1 to pick things up again. But I really want to release a single mid-January . I know that that’s really soon. But I want to be involved in the writing, I want to do co-writes with people and get something going as soon as possible. I’m hoping to release an album in January or February. The thing is, I’ve been writing. I’ve always kept writing. There’s never been a moment where I went through a spell where I just don’t write. So I have a lot of material, which I’m really excited about. It’s all acoustic right now, but as soon as I can get in the studio with some great producers it’ll probably come to life. I’ll experiment a little bit with my sound. But I want to do pop-rock, maybe even crossover into country just a little bit, too, because I know that that’s more common now than it was before.
TVLINE | So that first single may already exist somewhere in your arsenal of acoustic numbers that you’ve written recently?
It may, yes. It won’t be acoustic when I record it, but that’s how I write, so that’s what it is at the moment.
TVLINE | Are you going to arm-twist Blake to spend the last days of December listening to a couple of these tracks and giving you some feedback?
Absolutely. I mean he’s always down to give me advice. I even asked him if he’d sing on the album and he said he would. So that will be really amazing. I need to have his advice every step of the way because he’s been really great in this whole process. I know it’s nothing like the real world where you’re on a label and going through the grind. But he’s successful and he’s a genuine person and a good guy. I would love to kind of model my career after his, because everyone loves him and he’s so great to everyone and he’s still successful.
Excited about Cassadee’s win? Eager to hear her post-Voice output? Sound off in the comments! And for all my reality TV recaps, news and interviews — including Q&As with Terry McDermott, Nicholas David and Trevin Hunte — follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!