“When I was a kid, I was a listener,” says Clarence Greenwood, a.k.a. “Music was something coming out of a radio or off a record, something that made me feel these things I couldn’t explain. Or however you want to say it: The man has the gift.
He sets them to the simplest of melodies, and weds those in turn to the most soul-stirring grooves. He’d played a little trumpet in elementary school, but knew that was not his path. The B string was tuned to a B-flat, and I thought that’s how it went. All throughout, the music he heard in these places was his escape. He caught the ear of Capitol Records, signed with them in 1997 and made an album (“Shotguns”) which was never released.
I was a teenager, I didn’t know.” It didn’t matter. “I was writing poetry, and working on some bits of songs here and there, and I just knew I wanted to try to make somebody feel the way I was feeling when I listened to music.” What he put into his music was his whole life: lots of time in a small town in Texas with an aunt and uncle, a year in Mississippi, up to Washington D. It was in Washington that Clarence Greenwood found his voice. He then moved to Brooklyn (where he still resides) and was signed to Dreamworks and released, “Citizen Cope,” in 2002.
“I was keeping to myself, spending a lot of time on my own in my early twenties,” he says. About that time, a demo of a new Cope song “Sideways” was passed to Carlos Santana, who was enchanted with it and asked Cope to produce and sing it for his “Shaman” album which went on to sell five millions copies.
“I got a drum machine, figured out a little bit of sampling, and was writing songs on my guitar. After disappointing sales of his Dreamworks album, Cope asked to be released from the label and was immediately signed by Arista Records but before he could get his next release out to the public, further label shuffling ensued, Arista closed its doors and Cope landed on RCA where he continues to record.
I was learning to make demos of my own stuff.” In the mid-nineties, demos by Cope were eagerly passed around the D. His RCA debut, “The Clarence Greenwood Recordings,” showed the world that the brilliant simplicity of “Sideways” was no fluke.
His own version of that song was featured in movies and T. The uplifting song “Son’s Gonna Rise” found its way into a Pontiac commercial, as well as several television and film soundtracks.
In fact, the film world embraced his album so much that every song from it was licensed numerous times. Although never embraced by mainstream commercial radio, in 2004, he was seemingly everywhere.
Though he was living in Brooklyn, his real life at that point was on the road.
He toured steadily for sixteen-months, a grueling stretch that Cope was determined to use to build a connection with his fans.
He knew radio didn’t know what to do with his genre-bending music, and that he would have to bring his music to the people. “Out there for so long, it’s a lonely existence, even when you’re surrounded by people,” Cope says.
“You’re away from the ones you love and it can be unsettling.” You can hear the difficulty of those times in the songs Cope wrote for his latest release, “Every Waking Moment.” There’s a marked change in his writing from character-driven stories to deeply introspective ruminations on self, on love and its challenges: “Been stuck in the middle of a vendetta between me and myself, I sure could use a witness.