Clarence Greenwood — aka Citizen Cope — is a highly-acclaimed American songwriter, music producer and performer. He’s also a savvy small businessman after years of learning on the road and through multiple mistakes (his words, not ours).
“My success was built by one small step at a time,” he says. “It was a result of a lot of failures and continuing to push along.”
We sit down with Cope to learn about his childhood (his first jobs will surprise you!), early days in the music industry, creating his own record label and how he figured out how to run a successful brand and company while staying true to his passion and beliefs. Tune in to this poetic episode to be inspired and energized by this candid creative chock full of sage small biz advice.
Have you always known you’d pursue music? I always loved music as a listener and I played a few instruments in school. I didn’t really find that music was going to be my thing until I started writing poetry when I was about 18-years old. I got a drum machine and a sampler and was really into learning how to record. I was self-taught and would ask a lot of questions.
What did you do before pursuing music? Besides small odd jobs like shoveling snow, mowing lawns and a paper route… I used to go to the stadiums, buy extra tickets off of fans and resell them. I used my scalper money to pursue and self-fund my music career.
When would you say was your “big break”? I never look at any one thing as a “big break” for me. It was one small step at a time. The great thing that happened was a result of a lot of different failures and me pushing along. I sent out a lot of demos to a lot of record labels.
As a creative and an artist, how do you get inspired? I think there isn’t really an option if you have a passion. You can be inspired by being broke, trying to prove someone wrong, just wanting to get something out creatively… I think it’s so much deeper as a creative. It’s an obligation as a creative of having to do it. It’s those times of self-doubt, tough times, not being heard supplemented by the fact that there is something deeply motivated by that person that really can’t be explained.
What’s the meaning behind the name of your latest album “Heroine and Helicopters”? I named it that because Carlos Santana told me “stay away from the two H’s – heroine and helicopters” and I always remembered that.
Any tips for people listening who are trying to follow their passion? Be authentic. If you give your heart, you’ll get something out of it. Don’t chase something or do something for money or fame.
Dream dinner guest: The photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson
Dream musical collab: Tupac and Dr. Dre
Pre-show rituals: Vocal warmups and say a prayer
Dream travel destination: The Maldives
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? Probably would have been a writer of some kind… or I would have started a major business!
Don’t miss Cope’s podcast. It’s so good! Check it out along with other Fridays with Flea Style episodes on iTunes here. Want to nominate somebody to be a guest on our show or have a question for Brittany to answer? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
*Lead image courtesy of Kevin @surewhynot