More than he seems? Interview with Clarence Greenwood, the elusive musician known as Citizen Cope
Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet, wrote: “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls, the most massive characters are seared with scars.” Clarence Greenwood, a.k.a. Citizen Cope, has a distinct scar on his face by his right eye from a childhood accident. Cope is a man of few words, both in conversation and in the majority of his songs. However, where there’s a lack of noise, you find the profusion of presence. His deliberate prose echoes in your mind long after the fleeting moments of song have passed. Cope is hard to categorize an eclectic blend of rock, folk, and hip-hop. He prefers “rebel street music.” In his latest release, a luminous Citizen embraces Every Waking Moment, creating a world in which we long to share.
What thoughts or feelings were you realizing throughout your new album?
Well, you always want to have an evolution. I don’t think it’s a huge departure; it’s just hopefully an evolution of what I did in the past.
What was it like working with Carlos Santana?
It was cool. I was really glad that he chose me to be on his record (Shaman, which has sold over five million copies), and then he asked to be on the song (“Sideways”) and I toured with him. Carlos is like an ambassador at this point. He’s out there spreading peace and love, so it’s a good thing.
What’s behind your name Citizen Cope?
My nickname is Cope. When I was first doing demos, I needed a name and I came up with Citizen Cope. There’s not any big meaning behind it.
This issue of movmnt is entitled “Army of Me” what are you fighting for?
I guess I’m just like any other place that’s fighting for a little justice and a voice for people that maybe don’t have a voice. Being able to explain things that everyone feels innately. Sometimes a poet can actually express those things. I guess I’m fighting for your voice and your expression.
You’ve said that when you began recording Shotguns you truly began to connect with your soul. Would you share with us a little bit?
Right! The first moment – when you start writing and you get the goose bumps and you feel like you touched something within yourself – that’s a pretty deep feeling. I think when you start connecting with yourself, people can connect with you.
What’s life like on tour?
It can be pretty unsettling. You know, you’re just going from one city to the next. But it’s a joy to play. It’s just the travel that can get monotonous and tedious and tiring.
Is it lonely?
Yeah, it’s definitely lonely. I’ve had the opportunity to see you perform live, and I can’t even begin to explain the atmosphere that you create.
You’re a hypnotist. It’s very magical to be in that space and among your fans.
Aw, thanks. I’m just trying to connect and have a spiritual show, and hopefully everyone can feel the same thing. I just think if I can get there, then hopefully everybody else can get there too.
What’s going through your mind up there?
I try to always give more. Even if I don’t always achieve it, that’s my goal to just to play a better show every time we play. Play it like it’s your last show, because you never know. Life can end, or things can change.
So, if you’re there, you want to give it the best you can at the time. Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m inspired by God, and by love, the people I meet and situations I’ve been in, my life, my ancestors, and all the things that inspire you.
Where’s home for you now?
I live in Brooklyn, New York. I love it. Moving to New York was the best thing I ever did.
So you have 39,000 friends on MySpace, how do you decide which ones get Christmas cards?
Um, I don’t know. That’s a good question! That’s a lot of friends, huh? (laughs)
Do you personally check your MySpace?
Yeah, definitely. It’s cool.
What’s your process for finding that consistency and flow in your albums?
You try to work with what happens and what feels good. And if anything pops out and doesn’t feel right, you switch it around a little bit. It’s like a puzzle.
In the title song you say, “Every waking moment I’m alive. I’m searching for you whether I know it, or whether I realize.” Who are you searching for?
You can get all the material things in the world and you can achieve a lot of the things that you want, but one of the basic things in life is finding that soul mate. That love that you have drives people.
Do you have a soul mate?
What? (laughs) Oh no, we’ll get into that later
Do you have any other passions outside of music?
This is what I do, writing songs and producing. I’m interested in writing books one day. I don’t really have hobbies; I don’t really have time for it. I love good company, good meals, all those kinds of things; I enjoy life.
What is the movement of your art?
My movement is rebel street music. It’s for everybody, but it’s hopefully going to spark something in people. It’s not supposed to be mainstream, and following the trends. It’s about individuality and expression of beliefs.
And what are your beliefs?
You’ll have to listen to the record! (laughs)
Interview by Lauren Adams