Trying to define the musical blend of Citizen Cope is a difficult and perilous exploration into the depths of a nearby thesaurus.
The musician’s voice often is described with frequent uses of the words soul and folk. His guitar has the whine of the blues as it slopes across the scale over the steady pulse of a hip-hop beat... Something like that, plus more adjectives.
His manager and promotions coordinator take great pains to prep journalists before interviews — “No stupid questions. Don’t ask him how he got his name.” — yet even so, the reporter made the mistake of asking Cope to define his style, and the unforgivable faux pas of comparing him to other contemporary artists. Cope groaned.
“You have to make music for the heart and from the heart,” he said over his manager’s cell phone, moments before a show in Dewey Beach, Del. “It’s about songs and connecting, not about how you categorize it.”
Citizen Cope will perform Saturday at Outerland, ending a week of almost non-stop travel and performance. His schedule is a case study in masochism. After Tuesday night’s show in Dewey Beach, he performed every night of the week at different venues along the coast. Tonight, if all goes to plan, he’ll play in Hampton Beach, N.H., before heading down to the Vineyard Saturday.
Tickets are still on sale for a performance he said will be a culmination of his three albums: the self-titled Citizen Cope, the Clarence Greenwood Recordings and Every Waking Moment.
Cope, whose real name is Clarence Greenwood, was born in Memphis and grew up in Washington, D.C., before ending up in Brooklyn. In 2002, the Washington Post called him “the city’s most soulful export since Marvin Gaye.”
Though not exactly a mainstream superstar, Cope has a reputation as a talented live performer. He’s tried music videos, but he said he doesn’t plan on making any more, as his passion is in recording and performing. He sells out shows across the country and the fan base for his blended style continues to swell.
“It’s gained acceptance from the people, but not the radio or the press,” he said.
This is Cope’s second year playing on the Vineyard. Whitney Dailey, the talent buyer at Outerland, said it wasn’t hard to get him to come back. He likes it here. Plus, Outerland’s intimate setting plays well to his laid-back style.
“It’s pretty chill,” Ms. Dailey said. “He does his thing and he really makes a connection with his audience.”
His musical fusion naturally attracts eclectic crowds. Fans of many genres pack together, all focused on the guy playing his guitar and singing about the troubles and struggles of the world around him. His lyrics tell stories of war, drugs and teen pregnancy, coupled with occasional lines of hope.
“It’s a powerful, spiritual show,” Cope promised. And with that, he passed the phone back to his manager and headed on stage for another sold out performance.
Citizen Cope performs Saturday at Outerland at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. Doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets are $35. For details, call 508-693-1137.