If last year’s Work album let Ron Pope crank things up, the sequel Worktapes EP, due out Jan. 26, turns down the volume a bit — including the opening “Twin Falls Idaho,” premiering exclusively below.
“I’ve been really in love with a lot of quiet music recently, for the first time in a very long time,” Pope tells Billboard. “I think over the years the things I’ve written that resonate the most with me tend to be some of those things where I feel I just want to sit down and play them alone and not embellish them too much. As a producer and arranger, I love to add stuff to my songs. But as a writer if a song can stand on its down and I can sit down and play it and people get it, it seems that’s a good song.”
“Twin Falls Idaho,” which opens the seven-track EP, is a case in point for Pope. It’s one of the most austere songs on the project, featuring piano and a bit of accordion. “That (song) was for some reason, like, bedeviling me,” Pope recalls. “I just wanted to sit down and play it. I didn’t want to give it to somebody else to play. I didn’t want to overdub my vocal. But for some reason that incredibly simple piano part was beyond the farthest reaches of my ability; I would sit down and get 70 percent of the way through the song and mess up, and I would scream and start again. It was like my arch nemesis at that point. So I hadn’t played it at all after (first) recording it. Then I sat down recently and I played it; Of course, because no one was around I play it through perfectly the first time, very easy and comfortable.”
The quieter songs also dovetailed with Pope’s lyrical approach on Worktapes. “When we started writing songs for this record, one of the things I wanted to do was write some more of these plain-spoken narratives,” Pope says. “So when I happened upon the idea for this one it could be very simple and honest. I didn’t want to hide any parts of this song. That’s why there’s no explosion behind me — no horns and drum and bass, electric guitar and three people singing along. This time it’s just me playing the song.”
Pope worked on Worktapes alongside Work, during sessions in Austin, Texas, and Nashville with co-producer Ted Young. Some of the EP’s songs, including “Chasing Angels” and “Texas Wildflower Honey,” date back to the very beginning of Work two years ago while he was in the midst of touring. He wound up with a wealth of tunes to consider and ultimately chose to break them up rather than pile everything into one release.
“We were sitting there with 20-plus tunes in the end,” Pope says, “so Work was, like, Chapter One and this is Chapter Two, sides three and four, if you will. For me it’s kind of a continuation of the project. I just didn’t want to give people a whole bunch of stuff all at once. I feel at this point it’s very hard to get people’s attention if you don’t give them bite-size pieces.” Worktapes also offers Pope something to freshen his story when he heads back on the road for North American dates starting Feb. 7 in St. Louis.
“That’s a positive of breaking up the release into parts; We have an opportunity to remind people, ‘Oh yeah, there he is. I like that guy!'” Pope explains. “One of the large parts of the battle is for people’s awareness. You want people to know that you’re going on tour, putting out music. I think that’s true for artists at every stage at this point. It’s hard for us all to get people aware of new music and pay attention.”