That’s not Ron Pope himself dancing up a storm on Venice Beach in the video for “Bad For Your Health” — debuting exclusively below — the first single from his upcoming seventh studio album, Work.
Instead, the clip stars a longtime associate named Te’Devan, who Pope describes to Billboard as “this 6-foot-8 kind of Jewish faith healer rapper who’s been in and out of my life for many years.” The video features Te’Devan, joined by four dancers, busting some ebullient moves to the song in broad daylight — eventually joined by passerby caught up in the spirit.
“Te’Devan is this crazy, eccentric character who loves to dance — and really enjoys dancing in public,” says Pope, who did not attend the filming, but kept tabs on it via phone from his home in Nashville. “He’ll dance anywhere. He’ll dance at Whole Foods. It’s part of his shtick. So when we got the idea we were going to make a music video with someone dancing in an ecstatic way in public, we decided it would be fun to call Te’Devan. He’s always traveling all over the world, but we found him and he was going to be in California. Some of the people you see in the video are like his hype men to get the crowd to feel like, ‘Oh, it’s OK to dance with this guy,’ and it worked great. Some of the people you see were people we were able to pull off the street.”
The upbeat, gritty rocking “Bad For Your Health” track, meanwhile, is something of a calling card for Work, which comes out Aug. 18 on Pope’s own Brooklyn Basement Records label. Though best known for quieter fare such as “A Drop In The Ocean” and “I Believe,” Pope actually has more of a background as a rocker, a Bruce Springsteen devotee who played in the band the District before going solo in 2007. Led by “Bad For Your Health” — inspired by a disastrous spring break trip during college — the decidedly uptempo “Work” is intended to send that message to the world.
“I think what a lot of people know about my music is the quiet stuff, and they caught onto my music via these ballads,” Pope acknowledges. “But I’ve always been in rock bands. I grew up fronting bands where I would play blues and the Stones and energetic music. People don’t know the show is still very energetic. There’s seven people in the band, and I’m running around playing guitar solos — it’s energetic and fun. That’s one of the things I wanted to get across with this album. ‘Bad For Your Health’ has the energy of my show and the feel of my band, and [for the video] I thought it would be fun to show people experiencing that joy. I want people to hear the album and feel like it’s their favorite bar band.”
Pope and his group are taking the summer off as they await Work‘s release, but plan to be back at it in the fall, starting Sept. 28-29 at Irving Plaza in New York City. European dates set for October and more North American shows planned for the new year.
“I used to ride around in a van and play 300 shows for one to five people very night,” Pope says with a laugh. “It’s definitely a different world for me now that the tours are planned really far in advance. I know where I’m going, people show up every day and they’re excited. The last 10 years the touring has just grown and grown and grown. The Internet has allowed me to grow this enormous touring base and the shows have grown year after year. My grandparents saw me play in Miami once for eight or 12 people and they were super sweet about it, and the next time they saw me years had passed and I had 1,100 people at Irving Plaza. That’s been an incredible thing for me. It’s a real blessing.”
Rock out to “Bad For Your Health” below: