Cassadee Pope on Going Country: 'I'm Just Being Me'

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In case you were wondering: It's been nearly two years since former Hey Monday singer Cassadee Pope became the first female winner of hit reality show "The Voice," and yes, she does still keep in touch with her mentor. Really.

That of course would be Blake Shelton, about whose genuine nature and concern for his mentees on the show Pope terms "awesome." It's certainly rare in the entertainment business, if nothing else, something that Pope acknowledges readily.

"The thing that I always remember is I wouldn’t be here with out him," she says with a smile. "When we were still on the show and when - he didn’t have to come to the practices with the band because those weren’t being filmed, he would still show up. So as soon as I saw that, I knew he was the kind of artists that really cared about his job and his artists on the show."

One thing that Cassadee Pope is sure of, besides the fact that Shelton has her back, is that she's found a welcoming home in Music City with the release of her country debut for Republic Nashville, Frame By Frame, which came out last October and entered at No. 1 on Billboard's Country Albums chart. "I feel like the Nashville has really embraced me with open arms," she says. "I was a little worried at first; you know everybody knows about my immediate past, which is rock music. But everyone is coming to find out that I’ve been singing country music my whole life."

Pope isn't kidding about her background: The 24-year-old confidently lists her resume of modern country influences, which eventually grew to include time-tested genre standouts as well. "I grew up singing a lot of Martina McBride, Shania and LeAnn Rimes and because of my age, those were my main influences. And I soon found out about Patsy Cline, George Jones and all the classics. So as soon as they get into a writing session with me and they see all those classics come out, I think they know that I am authentically country.

"I think I’m constantly trying to prove myself, I’m not trying too hard to where it’s looks like 'okay, what is she trying to hide?' But at the same time, I do want people to know my background is in country music," she continues. "And there’s always that kind of push and pull inside: 'Oh should I bring up the fact that I have a lot of Southern tendencies and I go to Western Van der Griff with my family and we shoot guns and we go horseback riding and all these things that make me country.' And then I realize “I’m just going to sing my music, I’m going to write my songs and I think that people get to know me in that sense.

"The more people do hear my music, they do realize that I’m being true to myself," she concludes. "So there is that conflict but I think more and more people are realizing I’m just being me."

She's done a great job of showcasing that individuality and growth on Frame By Frame. Lead single "Wasting All These Tears" appealed to both Pope's country and pop audiences, proving she indeed can be nimble in terms of her talent. Second single "I Wish I Could Break Your Heart," co-written by fellow country-gal-in-demand Ashley Monroe, followed to equal fanfare.

"I went through all these different phases in my life. And now I’m finally in a place where I know who I am, I just needed that extra push," she notes. "I feel really, really good in the position I’m in right now and I don’t feel like I completely neglected my pop-rock sound, I was able to bring it in with my country roots. So if anything, I think I would just stick to what I’m doing because it feels so good."

Of course, Pope can't totally shed her rockin' side; her latest endeavor is a duet with Cheap Trick's Robin Zander for the upcoming Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Motley Crüe album, set for release August 19th. Pope and the rock legend pair up on "Animal In Me," which she explains was an offer she couldn't turn down.

"I grew up listening to Motley Crue and my dad especially is a massive fan - so I had to be involved," she enthuses. "I’m really happy with how that came out. It’s a far departure from what I’m doing, musically right now. And the lyrics are very risqué and very unlike anything I would write, but that’s why it was so fun to do....I think a lot of country music is heavily influenced by rock music these days."

Pope comes across as such a confident personality who has done so many TV appearances and live shows, that it may come as a surprise she has been overwhelmed by the spotlight at times. "I’m pretty unhappy still to this day with my performance of 'Payphone' on 'The Voice,'" she admits. "It was the Knockout Round, and on my season that that was the first time they’d ever done that. So there was still some things being sorted out. And the fact that we were basically standing for about four hours straight while they paired whoever with each other and nobody knew what was coming next.

"And we couldn’t really go to the bathroom because we were being filmed the whole time, we didn’t really have food, so there were a lot of things working against us," she continues.  "Of course I went last, so I’d been standing there and I’m starving and I’m nervous, it’s been a few hours. And that song is very, very wordy and very fast-paced, so when you’re tired, you don’t have the breath or the energy. And I look back on that performance, and I don’t know what Blake saw in me, but I’m surprised he picked me! I was like 'oh man, that was not one of my best'"

Pope laughs engagingly, adding: "It was a relief to be finished and know that I was moving on." She pauses for a second. "But it was even a bigger relief to pee!"

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