Clarence Greenwood, a.k.a. Citizen Cope, doesn't like to write about current events. It's never been his source for creativity.
"I like to write about the human condition," Cope said during a recent phone interview. "I like to somehow express what I'm feeling at that point. I've said some things in songs that have come frighteningly true. My songs can be meant for different people and periods of time and different struggles. It's about struggle but also perseverance."
That approach comes at a time of great economic strife. On Cope's fourth record, the recently released Rainwater LP
, even he seems to dance around the edges of commentary, as on opening track "Keep Askin'" ("There comes a time and a place / When you kind of mind living / Day to day when / Country to country / And state to state where / They all got their leaders / Who all push their weight").
Ultimately, Cope hopes his listeners find assuagement in his music.
"The songs help me out a lot," he says. "They give me solace. That's one of the reasons I started doing it. It made me feel better. Hopefully that rubs off on somebody else."
Prior to the release of the freshly funky folk of The Rainwater LP
, Cope hadn't issued any new music since 2006's Every Waking Moment
. As he explains, the first two years of that interval were spent touring. Last year was devoted to creating what would become The Rainwater LP.
"It's kind of hard to get inspired while you're touring," Cope says. "Inspiration is a collective thing that happens over your life. You evolve as a songwriter. For each album you're making a statement for that time as well as you can."
One statement Citizen Cope is making this time is his independence as an artist. His first three records were released on three labels - his self-titled debut on Dreamworks, The Clarence Greenwood Recordings
on Arista and Every Waking Moment
on RCA. An initial contract with Capitol Records yielded an album titled Shotguns
that was never released.
Issuing The Rainwater LP
on his own RainWater Recordings proved to be "a lot less stressful, a lot fewer hands in the thing," says the Memphis-bred, DC-raised and Brooklyn-based musician.
"A lot less money in my pocket," Cope says with a laugh.
Still, he was determined to stay the same course on this collection that he had established previously.
"I made the record like I made all the other ones," Cope says. "I spent as much money if not more on this album. I still used the best studios I could find and the best players and didn't ask them for reduced rates. I just wanted to continue how I was doing it on a major. The other part of it is just trying to set a precedent for continuing to be inspired and make good records. All the rest is going to follow."