Citizen Cope tries to attend college games throughout the country when he's on tour. On Friday night, the singer-songwriter and beat-maker will play a show at the Manship Theatre. Saturday he'll be in Tiger Stadium to watch the LSU Tigers play the Alabama Crimson Tide.
He's seen the Tigers play on TV for years and has always wanted to see what Death Valley was like, the Los Angeles-based musician said last week. “And I have a friend who’s coaching at Alabama, so I’ll get to see everything.”
Cope has another Baton Rouge connection: His song “One Lovely Day” is featured in “Battleship,” which was filmed in Baton Rouge. He also had a role in the 2012 movie.
“But they cut my part out,” Cope lamented.
Cope has had better luck placing songs in film and TV productions than acting in them. His music is in episodes of “One Tree Hill,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Cold Case,” “Entourage,” “So You Think You Can Dance” and more.
Cope’s earnest, acoustic guitar-anchored pop is easy to like. His louder, faster songs reveal his foundation in go-go, a funky hybrid of Latin and gospel music that became the signature sound of Cope’s hometown, Washington, D.C., in the 1970s.
Cope’s musical outlook was shaped most of all by D.C. As prominent as hip-hop and local punk-rock were in D.C. while he was growing up, Cope gravitated to go-go. He found a mentor in Chuck Brown, the godfather of the genre.
“Chuck was a big influence on my life and my music,” Cope said. “He performed with me and I gave him my first demo tape.”
Cope played trumpet and guitar during his elementary and middle school years, and he began writing poetry at Texas Tech in Lubbock. Dropping out of school, he moved to Austin, bought drum machines and samplers, picked up the guitar again and taught himself to write songs.
During Cope’s late teens in Texas and D.C., he supported himself by buying and reselling tickets for major sports events. On event days, he resold tickets to football and basketball games, hockey matches, tennis and golf tournaments and NASCAR races.
“I had to do something that let me work at writing and developing my craft while everyone else was playing,” Cope said. “I could make good money selling tickets during weekends and maybe a couple of weeknights. That sustained me while I was in the writing thing.”
A 1997 recording deal Cope had with Capitol Records yielded nothing after the label refused to release the album he delivered. Following his move to New York City in 1999, he signed with DreamWorks SKG, which released Cope’s self-titled album debut in 2002. Four more albums followed, two for another major label, RCA, and two more for Cope’s label, Rainwater Records.
Cope has yet other Louisiana connection via his remake of “Southern Nights,” a song by the late New Orleans songwriter, pianist, producer Allen Toussaint. The mystical “Southern Nights” fits the summery vibe of Cope’s 2012 album, “One Lovely Day,” perfectly. It’s also the only song in Cope’s catalog that he didn’t write himself.
“It’s such a great song,” Cope said. “The Glen Campbell version, that’s how I got turned on to it. But after I listened to Allen’s version, I took his vibe more so than the Glen Campbell version.”
Cope will release his sixth album, “Heroin & Helicopters,” on March 1.
“Sonically, it’s a lot of the stuff you’ve heard before, but I feel like the production on this one is really strong,” he said. “And still there’s live instruments and real drums on it, not just drum beats and stuff.
“It’s funny,” Cope mused. “I think it’s really all about the song — but then you have to make a record out of that song. You can have a great song but, if you if don’t make a great record, the song doesn’t come to life. Making records is fun but challenging. They say it’s not rocket science, but I’m starting to think it is.”
Manship Theatre, 100 Lafayette St.