Ron Pope
Bone Structure

Bone Structure is not the album Ron Pope originally set out to release. After becoming a father in early 2018, he felt almost unrecognizable. Before he found his footing in this extraordinary new reality, a terrifying incident on tour forced Pope to reckon with his own mortality and consider what it would mean for his newborn daughter if he were to die. He abandoned an album’s worth of recording sessions, no longer satisfied with generalizations and lyrics light on context; soon after, a deluge of deeply personal reflections began pouring through his pen. A change of heart? More like navigating a sea change.

Pope found renewed purpose in writing songs to explain his perspective on the world to his daughter as if he were whispering his secrets to her from the other side. The album’s first utterance “flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, the only part of me I’ve ever loved” may seem like a departure for fans who know Pope as a self-assured, confident narrator — with Bone Structure, he’s on a new path. “When I became a father, I spent a lot of time fixating on the things I don’t know and what I wasn’t
taught. What can I do better than the people who raised me and what should I borrow from them? How do I remember to let in the light and not obsess over how to box out the darkness?” he muses.

Pope’s own parents were barely 19 when he was born. As a boy, he felt saddled with responsibility and adult worries as family members fell victim to drug addiction and mental illness. Resentful of the baggage heaped on him, Pope began to rebel against responsibility and drifted toward the margins, where he began looking for ways to communicate how he felt about the world and his place within it, first with poetry and later, music. He followed his muse from Georgia to New York City, where his course began to change when he fell in love with his now-wife, Blair. Two years into their partnership, Pope’s nagging obsession with freedom caused him to blow up the life they had built together, putting him squarely back at the place he started — alone. Eventually they reconciled and committed to one another.

“For a long time, I broke my own heart living like I didn’t need anyone,” he says. “Somewhere inside, I knew that what I really wanted was to build a less volatile life for myself than the one I’d been born into. As cliché as it seems, all I wanted was to be happy; I just didn’t know how.”

In a massive leap of faith, Blair left corporate America behind and became Pope’s manager. They gave up their tiny New York apartment for a life on the road, fully supported by Pope’s music. Not being constrained by a label or publisher allowed them to grow a business together on their own terms. Brooklyn Basement Records was born from this partnership; the pair are devoted to shepherding both emerging and established artists through the challenges presented by the constantly evolving music industry.

Five years into their adventure on the road, Blair became pregnant and they decided to settle in Nashville. Rather than causing those old feelings of unrest to creep back in, this new family life fostered a heightened sense of belonging in Pope and for once, he felt truly at home. The birth of his daughter was the first time in Pope’s black-and-white life that things truly burned in Technicolor.

This radical shift in perspective informs every aspect of Bone Structure. While some songs speak directly to his daughter, others illuminate long buried recollections in an attempt to exhume the life lessons that were interred alongside the memories themselves. The album’s title track is a cinematic epic that drops the listener squarely into Pope’s own New York City fever dream as he recalls coming face to face with the reality that love and lust are not always one and the same. “Practice What I Preach,” which comes with a greasy side of Memphis horns, finds Pope on the precipice of his daughter’s birth recounting all of the ways he is not yet qualified to raise a child while also trying to parcel out any wisdom he may have to offer. In the hauntingly sparse “Wait and See,” Pope’s trembling voice asks himself, “Was I chased all this way by my chemistry? What will become of me?” Even with songs borne out of such an introspective period, Bone Structure is still remarkably optimistic and heartening. The album’s production choices, tied to Pope’s Southern roots but unafraid to push the boundaries of Americana, feel simultaneously rooted in history and completely of-the-moment.

“The narratives on this album are only part of what I wanted to share with my child. This record is also meant to take her on a sonic journey through my influences. On a few songs, I’m playing in one of those weird guitar tunings I lifted from Joni Mitchell, then I put that slide on my hand and do my poor man’s Bonnie Raitt. Maybe I borrowed the big, old timey harmonies from the Carter Family or Sam Cooke & The Soul Stirrers (but it was just as likely the Dixie Chicks, if I’m being honest). We get big and loud and angry, like the end of ‘Whipping Post’ but then there’s the tender orchestral moments that make me cry like Patsy Cline or George Jones. I wanted to show her how beautiful and varied American music can be; there’s no hard and fast rules about what we’re allowed to create in the South and she’ll grow up always knowing that. The Nashville we’re bringing her up in is a beautifully inclusive place; this record was made by men and women from different countries, religions, colors, genders and sexual orientations. My friends brought so many influences together to make something beautiful for my baby. You can hear all of that in there. We even cut an instrumental because right now, her favorite song is Boots Randolph’s recording of ‘When The Saints Go Marching In.’ I guess she’s influencing me now, too.”

Taken as a whole, Bone Structure is the stunning account of a life spent searching. It ebbs and flows, anchored by narrative accounts of harrowing experiences and recollections of an unselfconscious joy that one can only know when their past is considerably shorter than their future.

“Writing these songs reminded me of where I’ve been and how hard it was to claw my way out of that pit of my own creation,” says Pope. “I don’t miss who I used to be; that version of me was constantly on guard, willing to do absolutely anything to keep himself unburdened by the weight of other people's needs. Having to stare at those ancient reflections of myself through this process has not always been so easy, but I’ve tried to be as honest as I can stand to be. God forbid I’m not here when my daughter grows up — this is where she should start when she’s ready to know what I wanted to tell her about the world.”

For more information, please contact Samantha Tillman, Kate Rakvic or Carla Sacks at Sacks & Co., 212.741.1000.