Ron Pope & The Nighthawks will release their first album together in January. Self-titled, it’s an ode to the music of the American South — soul, rock, gospel, country, and the blues — and actually came together as a lark. “This is such a ridiculous rock n’ roll cliche,” Pope says with a laugh, “but for a while last year I was holed up at the [Los Angeles hotel] Chataeu Marmont, living in a bungalow by the pool. It’s like stepping into another world. It inspired me to write really classic sounding music. I had just released [Calling Off The Dogs] a couple months before, so writing for an album wasn’t even on my radar.”
But the songs kept coming. And as Pope began to organize for his fall tour, so did the band. “It was this really incredible accident,” he says. “The guys in the band are my first-call guys — the guys that I call every time I have a gig or a tour, and none of them are ever available. But it was this domino effect, one said yes and then they all worked out.” With the band of his dreams and songs scrawled across Chateau stationary, an album became inevitable.
Pope has released 10 albums as a solo artist, but this marks a brand new sound. Heavier, deeper, bigger, louder. The warm glow of the West, and a heavy meditation on classic sounds of the South seeps out. “I felt like I hadn’t heard an American rock record that meant anything to me in a very long time,” Pope says of the set’s goal. “But I thought, if anybody could do it, these guys could.”
EW is thrilled to premiere one of the collection’s tracks, “Hotel Room,” below. It’s a sparse, straightforward guitar track, and as a nod toward his country influences, a story as vivid as anything out of Johnny Cash’s playbook. It’s one of his bungalow tunes, born one morning as his wife still slept in the room and he sat at the desk. “I saw my wife still sleeping and I was like, ‘Man, this is a beautiful hotel room,’ so the first line of the song is, ‘Beautiful hotel room,'” he says.
The track ends with a gorgeous depiction of a woman, through the eyes of a man who loves her. “Hotel Room” is streaming below. Ron Pope & The Nighthawks is due out Jan. 8. So far they have shared the hootenanny flare-up “Bad Intentions.”