Carole Pope: Not Going Gently (Part 2)
Part two of an exclusive interview with the Canadian rock provocateur
One of the foundations of Carole Pope’s new album, Landfall, is its message of searching, of seeking safety and safe harbor in turbulent times. “It’s all about how we’re in a state of flux and how we’re looking for landfall,” she explains, “a place to settle somewhere, because everything is so unsettled now.”
Landfall not only boasts Pope’s distinctive voice and lyrics, but also a coterie of some of the best musicians around—like Rufus Wainwright, with whom she duets on the title track. But getting Wainwright was a bit like threading a needle on a bumpy road. It came down to precision timing. “I asked him a long time ago when I was first working on this record,” Pope recalls. “I’m a huge fan of his work and I love Kate and Anna McGarrigle [Wainwright’s late mother and aunt, respectively]. So, I just asked him and finally there was this window of opportunity because he’s so busy every second.”
Landfall—the album and the song—was a labor of love that involved many players. By the time Wainwright came in, the title track was nearly written, but Pope really wanted his voice in the mix as the final ingredient. And it worked. “He was recording down the street,” Pope remembers, “and we he came in for an hour and just did an amazing job. He sounds amazing on it.” Pope and Wainwright both have unique voices that one thinks would be in contrast to one another. But they mesh together beautifully on the song, sinuously wrapping around the lyrics in perfect harmony.
Another player on “Landfall” is former Spoons keyboardist Rob Preuss, another ex-pat Canadian working in New York. Preuss had an idea to add even more texture to the song. “I co-wrote the song with Rob and he said we should get a cello player,” Pope says. “So, we got Jeanne Leblanc from the New York Philharmonic.” Her cello adds a sense of drama and majesty to the song and becomes the third voice in the harmonies.
From the sublime soundscape of “Landfall” to the stark, gritty electronica of “God=Love,” the medium may change, but the message stays on point. It deals with the political, sexual and religious dichotomies in American politics—especially in the ways certain people and groups are obsessed with Scripture as it pertains to homosexuality.
“They are making our sexuality an issue with all this Bible-thumping,” Pope says. “I mean, it’s insane; there are so many closeted Republican politicians. I don’t know why they are so obsessed about what we do in bed.” While the landscape of American queers may look grim at times, Pope thinks things are slowly improving. “The younger Bible-belter Baptists are not so concerned and are more open, although there is still a lot of gay-bashing going on. I think the American public is more accepting of homosexuality than it was.”
Aside from politics, Pope is anticipating the film version of her best-selling autobiography, Anti Diva. The film has been in the works for a few years now, and according to Pope, “they are just waiting for funding. Hopefully that will be next year because everything else is in place.”
Having a movie made out of your life can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to casting. Who could possibly play Carole Pope? “I hope someone who can sing gets my part,” Pope laughs, even throwing out Eva Green of the James Bond film Quantum of Solace as a potential doppelganger. “They’ve got to go lesbo and they’ve got to be able to sing! It’ll be fun casting the movie.”
Pope also has an itch to write the follow up to Anti Diva. The book’s timeline ended in 2000, and “people are always asking me, ‘what happens next?’” Pope says. “A lot has happened after that, like moving to New York days before 9/11. I’ve had more adventures since the first book was written.”
With a movie based on her life in the near future, the possibility of another follow-up book, and more touring on the strength of her latest album, Carole Pope will have her calendar filled for the foreseeable future.
Landfall is available now through amazon.com. Pope, an ambassador for Hetrick-Martin Institute, will appear at HMI’s first Women’s Initiative Committee Awards Ceremony on May 9 at the HBO Screening Room (1100 Ave of the Americas at 42nd St). Visit hmi.org for more information.