A question presents itself in seeing Cassadee Pope’s name atop the bill for the 2019 Next Women of Country Tour.
Specifically, “What exactly is ‘next’ about the Florida-born singer?” Having taken top honors on the 2012 season of “The Voice” (the first female artist to do so), she released her platinum-selling, chart-topping “Frame By Frame” album in 2013 before earning a Grammy nomination for a duet single with Chris Young (“Think of You”) in 2016.
Sounds more like the accomplishments of a longstanding performer than the forecast of an artist billed as what is “next” for country music.
But there is some latitude in the definition of “next” when it comes to the Next Women of Country. Overseen by the music network CMT, the program was initiated in 2013 as a means of spotlighting signed and as well as unsigned female artists. Pope was part of the first Next Women class, joining at a point when her commercial profile exploded. Now at age 29, she is on the road as a kind of emeritus of the Next Women crew with comparative newcomers Claire Dunn and Hannah Ellis. This will be her first tour as a headliner.
“I think the Next Women of Country is very indicative of every woman with talent who works really hard for her career, so I’m excited to be part of it,” Pope said. “For them to put me on it is such an honor.”
Curiously, Pope’s renewed role as a “next woman” is also part of a career re-birth. But first, let’s go back to when “Frame By Frame” ruled the charts. The album set in motion a tidal wave of commercial visibility that would last for over three years.
“When you work really hard and certain thing things start happening, it gets very exciting,” she said. “There’s a little disbelief and you’re pinching yourself. But also, for me, I’ve never looked at things like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m lucky.’ There is a time and place for things, sure. But I have worked really hard, professionally, for the last 12 years. When the (Grammy) nomination came in, I let it soak in. I definitely didn’t shy away from it.”
Eventually, though, the need surfaced to partially withdraw from the pace and attention her career had set into motion. The end of a long term relationship, along with a need for personal time and a general overhaul of her working team, caused the singer to downshift in 2017.
“There were a lot of life changes going on,” Pope said. “I was going through my own personal life changes with becoming single after 7 ½ years with the same person. But I also had a change of (record) label, publishing – everything, really. I wanted to take time to get my head on straight and have some time away. I just wanted to focus on me. It was really necessary.
“But even though I was staying away from the limelight, I was still writing and recording and just talking about what songs we wanted to record. I was still working kind of behind the scenes, but I stayed away from social media and being out there. I just took some time for myself.”
What brought her back was a new, independently released solo album called “Stages” and a chance to re-team with Corey Crowder, who produced “Think of You” as well as Pope’s 2016 EP disc “Summer.” Over a nearly 18 month period, the two cut the songs that became “Stages” at several Nashville studios.
“It was interesting. As a singer and producer, Corey is so busy, so for him to take a time out to do a record with me was wonderful,” Pope said. “When I got the songs together to take to him first, he was all in. He was very much a believer.”
Still, for many prospective fans, the introduction to Pope came not through country radio but through national television as the season three winner of “The Voice.” She was coached by country star Blake Shelton.
“’The Voice’ gave me a fanbase,” Pope said. “When I got off the show and was going to radio stations and playing for them and then going on tour with Rascal Flatts, I already had fans. That’s something artists just starting out don’t have, which was a really, really helpful thing for me. It gave me value. Instead of having to playing in conference rooms just to show people I could sing, I was putting on actual shows and having fans show up.”
So what’s next for this “next woman”? Well, songwriting for starters. Pope is already at work composing for her next album. But the focus remains on promoting “Stages” and reveling in the renewed drive of a reactivated career.
“I’m thrilled for what’s to come. I’m staying creative. I’m still writing about my experiences,” she said. “I’m just excited for everything that’s coming up. We’re working a lot behind the scenes, too, so I think everything going to get pulled up a notch.”
Next Women of Country Tour featuring Cassadee Pope
When: 7 p.m. April 20
Where: Manchester Music Hall, 899 Manchester St.