It’s been a minute — nearly 3.7 million of them, actually — since we’ve had a new album from Citizen Cope. That wait ends with the March 1 release of Heroin and Helicopters, singer-songwriter Clarence Greenwood’s sixth studio effort, whose track “The River” is premiering exclusively below.
“I did a lot of touring, and then I had a daughter, and it just got to be that the record took longer than I expected,” Greenwood tells Billboard. That interim also saw Greenwood reconcile with his father before he passed away three years ago. “I just wanted to make the record as special as it could be and not just put a record out to put a record out. And I was having kind of a block for a while; I recorded some of the songs, like, four or five times. They say it’s not rocket science, but I’m beginning to think it is.”
The good news is that Greenwood wound up making enough songs for a double album, so his next release should come sooner rather than later — and certainly not take another seven years. “I’ve got all these songs that are already recorded, so I’m gonna follow up a little sooner on the next album,” he promises. “I’ve got some tweaking I want to do and a couple of new things I’ve got in the lab, but I’ll try to get to that a little quicker.”
“The River,” among the many personal and poignant tracks on Heroin and Helicopters, was one of the new album’s quicker finishes, according to Greenwood. “It’s just about dealing with your own personal struggles and what I feel the coldness of society does to your life,” he explains. “I think everybody feels like there are elements in this world that are not so fuzzy and warm, and we see the harshness in the reality of life. Life is not an easy thing, but we need to look for a commonality of love and empathy that can conquer even the worse situations.”
Heroin and Helicopters‘ title comes from a conversation Greenwood had with Carlos Santana when the rock veteran came to see a Citizen Cope show at the Fillmore in San Francisco. “He said, ‘Whatever you do, watch out for the two H’s — heroin and helicopters. They don’t go well with musicians,'” Greenwood recalls. Despite that, he did take his first helicopter ride recently, transported to a show in Jamaica. “They said, ‘You’ve got to take a helicopter’ and I thought, ‘F***, this is gonna be the end,’ but we got there OK.” Nevertheless, Greenwood — who kicks off his Heroin and Helicopters tour on March 1 in Philadelphia — found both items to be useful metaphors for the album’s songs.
“I don’t want people thinking I’m promoting heroin or anything,” he says with a laugh. “It’s so prophetic how we’re in this huge epidemic of people overdosing and prescription drugs. And then with the helicopter reference, that indulgence of getting somewhere really fast in our society — with material wealth, with all the short cuts of the Internet. I don’t think we’ve had the same kind of authentic art and culture as other generations had; When you look at Martin Luther King or Albert Einstein or some of the great writers and painters who have come before us, and leaders and athletes and stuff, it seems like we haven’t had the same level of input from our fellow man. Everything has been on hyperspeed to economic empowerment as opposed to personal growth and actually questioning the ills of society, and that’s something I think we should correct.”