World-traveled and somewhat of a spiritual guru, blues-folk songwriter Citizen Cope tours incessantly, sometimes pushing 200 shows per year. He's collaborated with Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Dido and Sheryl Crow and landed his tunes in a few major films, from Accepted to The Lincoln Lawyer to Fracture.
We spoke to Clarence Greenwood (Cope's given name) about Arizona politics, SB 1070 and how he felt about One Lovely Day, his fifth studio album and his second under his own label, RainWater Recordings.
Up On The Sun: Let's talk about your latest album, One Lovely Day. So far it's your highest charting album. How do you feel about that?
Citizen Cope: You know, I feel good about it. It's kinda funny doing it on an independent, but I don't look at records in week-long periods, I look at the life of the record. It's a little more telling than first quarter sales or first week of sales or any of that. Even though the number was up, I look at them like seven-year projects, like lifelong things. Were you happy with the release?
I'm always happy when I can put the record out and be inspired and have something to say. I feel fortunate to have found music, as it's sort of a spiritual shield for me. Anything you would have done differently?
Uh, it would have been cool to have John Bonham play on a couple drum tracks, but he's not around anymore. [Laughs.] I just try to make a record and feel good about it.
It seems more optimistic than some of your other works. And by that I mean, more upbeat. Was that intentional? Are you in a more positive place in your life lately? When you're younger, I think you concentrate on some of the things you don't have. It's been my struggle and the tendency is to concentrate on the negative. When you're older and you realize some of those negative things, uh, you really need to look at yourself in the mirror. There's records that I've made that I don't feel that way anymore. There's a song from my first record that was like a revenge song, but I don't feel like I want revenge anymore. I guess when I was in my twenties, I felt like that. I don't feel like that anymore.
How do you think One Lovely Day is bringing your message of peace forward?
It just talks about something that's more important than the daily possessions and what we fight for on this earth. We all fight for the dollar, fight for recognition, fight for something over that is basic to us all, which is our inner spirit and our true purpose.
I don't know that our true purpose is to be an astronaut or a professor or a football player or a rockstar or whatever it is. Those are things you do, but I don't know that that's your true purpose or your destiny. I think it lies a little closer in something you're born with and you look around trying to find it all your life and it's within you.Can you give some examples of finding that purpose?
We all are born with our souls, spirits, whatever it is in the universe that is really your true self as opposed to the accomplishments that you have. A lot of times in my life I was like, if I make this money, if I do this, do that, if I could sell this venue out... You realize those make you feel good when you obtain them but there's no end game to it. I think the end game is a lot closer to you than you think. All the different philosophies really expand on that kind of thing, there's modern teachings, it's in the Bible, all these things about connecting with the present moment.
And you think your album helps bring that message across? No, in the record I think I'm struggling with it. I think when you bring it to the foreground you kind of recognize and you can hopefully start to act upon something like that. It's just a first step, to realizing you don't have to break these doors down, you can just sort of walk through.
It's a constant struggle. I put myself as the villain character in a song, so I struggle with the same shit, too. The stuff I'm talking about isn't, "Oh, the world is fucked up because all these people are consumed with capitalism." We're born into a capitalist society, we're born into America where we have to be capitalist. It's kind of like we were born into this Babylon so we have to find spiritual places, but at the same times we have to find out how to pay the bills.
Last time we spoke briefly about the political atmosphere of Arizona. It seems that the Sound Strike is mostly over. How do you feel about Arizona politics lately?
Like I've said before, a lot of those people that are protesting didn't even play that many shows in Arizona. I understand what that was about, but saying you're doing a protest when you don't really tour that much isn't really a protest. I think doing something opposite would've been better.
When I look at government for the betterment of quality of life, of people, of America, I think politics now are just protecting the mass interests of very, very few people. People who are getting themselves worked up over these issues. It's really all a financial issue, it has nothing to do with social issues or handing somebody a fair shake. This country is wrought with an awful, awful history and we've swept it all under the rug. And we haven't even acknowledged the suffering of a lot of people who helped build this country. I don't know how you do that, but the only color America is seeing right now is green.
What is your relationship with Arizona?
I've always found it to be a really spiritual place. It's interesting ... I think it's ironic for it to be such sacred land to become so rigid politically and callous. I think when you're callous toward other people, society is doomed for failure. If you can't soften up to your fellow man, there's real trouble.
I'm not saying it's gonna happen now or ten years from now, but the end game doesn't look good.
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Citizen Cope is scheduled to perform tonight at Marquee Theatre in Tempe.