Sounds Like: Earnest, melodic story songs written and sung by a guy who knows his way around an electric guitar
For Fans of: Tom Petty's hooks, Little Feat's grooves, the rock and soul wing of Americana
Why You Should Pay Attention: Marietta, Georgia, native Ron Pope has spent at least a decade cultivating a highly successful DIY operation, racking up literally hundreds of millions of streams on Pandora and Spotify, landing high-profile TV placements for his music and selling out concert venues around the world without a traditional record deal. His forthcoming album Work, out August 18th, expertly balances raucous, horn-accented tales of misbehaving like "Bad for Your Health" and "Let's Get Stoned" with quiet, contemplative numbers. On the hushed title track, Pope sings of defeating the odds and proving everyone wrong, including a teacher who warned his mother that he'd probably end up "a long-term guest of the state." "Anytime I've ever done anything good in my life, my mother has wanted to send this woman notes on it," says Pope. "I'm like, 'Ma, you gotta let this go.'"
He Says: "We're kind of representative of this emerging middle class in the music business," says the Nashville-based performer, who operates his own Brooklyn Basement Records with his wife. "We aren't making Mick Jagger money, but I don't have to make people lattes."
Hear for Yourself: The tart kiss-off track "Can't Stay Here," premiering below, gets an assist from singer-songwriter Katie Schecter and evokes the sweet-and-sour power pop of Fleetwood Mac. J.F.