Less than 24 hours after being named the winner of the third season of The Voice, Cassadee Pope is still catching her breath. "I don't think it's really settled in yet," she tells Rolling Stone. "It's just unreal. I can't believe it. I haven't had a chance to sit down and soak it up. But it's just crazy. I'm very excited."
In addition to winning the show, Pope, 23, is still coming to grips with the fact that she sang "I'm With You," one of her "all-time favorite songs," with its original vocalist, Avril Lavigne. Pope has long admired the Canadian singer. "She's always had that thing about her that always spoke to me, which is being who she is and not apologizing for it," explains Pope. "That's something that I have trouble with, honestly. I do care about what people think about me sometimes, and sometimes it affects me in a negative way. Her music has always been there to remind me to not care what other people think and be myself."
Pope – a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, and the former lead singer of the Warped Tour vets Hey Monday – admits she was hesitant at first to audition for The Voice. Last year, while still a member of her band, Pope turned down an offer to audition for Season Two. But after moving to Los Angeles to try her hand at a solo career, struggling to pay the bills and exhausting all her contacts in the music business, Pope says she was forced to reconsider her options when The Voice came calling again. "I almost passed on it again," she admits. "I don't know why. . . just being in the band world, you tend to get a little proud. A part of me just didn't want to do this show because I wanted to do it from the ground up. I really wanted to do it the old-fashioned way, which is kind of impossible nowadays – especially when everyone thinks you're going to sound exactly like your band and no one's interested."
Not surprisingly, Pope has no regrets now. "Doing the show was, I think, the best career decision I've ever made," she says. "It got people to really take a second to listen. It's not going to be Hey Monday; it's going to be something entirely different."
That's not to say Pope didn't have second thoughts throughout the season. The singer admits she was taken aback when many on the Internet protested that her previous music-industry experience put her at an unfair advantage in the competition. "When I came into [the show], I got a lot of that and it was discouraging," she says. "But I had to just prove myself and try to prove people wrong. I thought it was kind of crazy to think that someone like me – who's been working towards this my whole life, since I was four years old, and then toured in bands and did all that, and really has been working hard – doesn't deserve it as much as someone else next to me who's never done it before. I feel like if you have the heart and the passion for it, you deserve it."
Pope evolved significantly as a singer on The Voice, shedding her pop-punk roots and embracing country music, the genre of choice for mentor Blake Shelton. In fact, the singer's standout moment of the season was her performance of the Shelton ballad "Over You," which became the sole song on the show this season to top the iTunes charts. While initially dismissive of the genre, Pope says now that she sees many similarities between it and her more familiar pop-rock. "Country music tell stories," she says. "That's something that I can relate to."
Having secured a record contract with Universal Republic in her victory, Pope will soon hit the studio to record her debut solo album. "[It will be] a little bit more of a Nineties, early 2000s feel," she says. "Pop-rock but with a little bit of a country twist on it. There's a lot of things to work out and I know that it's going to take some meetings to figure it out. But I would love to do pop-rock/country [album] so I'm able to cover all the bases."