Cassadee Pope has a confession.
"It's crazy, because I grew up coming to places like Captiva and Naples," said Pope, the 27-year-old rising country star and West Palm Beach native. "But never to Clearwater. And as soon as I got there, my mom actually was there for the video shoot back in May, and we both were like, 'How have we never been here before? It's so beautiful.'"
Spoken like a true Florida spokesperson – which, in some ways, Pope is.
Summer and its video came about in partnership with Pinellas County tourism agency Visit St. Pete-Clearwater. During the songwriting process, VSPC officials caught wind that Pope and her co-writers were planning to use another Florida city in that lyric.
"Clearwater ended up getting involved," Pope said, "and offering to pay for a lot of it, and to put us up at Opal Sands, and to give us a few landmarks to shoot at."
Now, before you cry sellout and charlatan, know that Pope's Florida bona fides actually do go way back. She rose to fame in the West Palm Beach rock band Hey Monday, passing through Tampa Bay several times on the Warped Tour and other outings, before winning Season 3 of NBC's The Voice in 2012.
As a country singer, she's risen quickly through the ranks; her single Think Of You with Chris Young hit No. 1 and was nominated for a CMA Award. And since dropping in June, the video, featuring Pope having fun all around Clearwater Beach, has pulled in more than 3.6 million views on YouTube.
Tonight, Pope will perform with Young at CFE Arena in Orlando (click here for details). But on Wednesday, she was back at the Opal Sands Resort in Clearwater Beach, headlining an intimate private concert for winners of a flyaway contest organized by, you guessed it, Visit St. Pete-Clearwater.
Before the show, she spoke about Summer, her connection to Clearwater Beach and more.
Have you had a chance to go out on the beach yet?
Oh my gosh, yes. I actually came a few days early, and they were extremely accommodating. Opal Sands Resort has been so nice. I've been on the beach basically for the last four days, and it's just been heaven. It's so beautiful.
What have you done since you've been here?
My mom still lives in West Palm Beach. We drove from there together, so my mom and I had a few days here. We got massages, and we went to a few of the local restaurants. We had room service and relaxed, because I just came off of CMA week when I first got here. It's just been amazing.
That line, "Rolled in as wild and free as a Clearwater Beach-at-17 memory" feels like it could be a marketing slogan. And of course Visit St. Pete-Clearwater worked with you guys on it. How did Clearwater Beach end up injecting itself into Summer?
It was kind of crazy. Originally it was Panama City. And it's funny, because I never really had any experiences in either place growing up. It was always West Palm Beach, but we were trying to figure out a way to fit that, and it never sounded right, so we did Panama City. ... It was a really easy transition from "Panama City" to "Clearwater Beach." We came here and did it, and it was a pretty seamless process.
That sort of product placement in the songwriting process – is that something that's ever been part of your career?
It hasn't, actually. I never really thought about it. When I write songs, I write from the heart. It's not something where I'm like, "Oh my gosh, let me put a truck company in there so maybe I can get a free truck!" Maybe it's something I should think about a little more, but it never is. This is the first time that I really thought about it, and it was even after the fact. So it's more of an organic process for me.
Did you ever write much about Florida with Hey Monday?
I did. I wrote a song called Hurricane Streets, and it was basically about wanting to get out. I loved my hometown, and I loved growing up there, but at a certain point, I kind of got a taste for traveling. We went to New York City for a few meetings and showcases, and that's not a ton of traveling, but it was enough for me to know that there was more out there. So I wrote a song about that, and looking forward to experiencing more. But other than that, all my songs were about real-life experiences and past relationships and all that.
Have you experienced any sort of Florida bump since Summer?
A lot of radio stations here have gotten involved with the sweepstakes, so I felt like my music was played a lot more than ever, which was cool, and to have that home state love was great. But I have a few fans in Clearwater that have been fans sine the Hey Monday days. I've seen them around Florida, but never did they know I even knew what Clearwater was. So it was cool for them to hear that in a song.
What's been the craziest thing Think Of You has led to in 2016?
Oh, man. I think it's pretty even between having my first No. 1 song and a CMA nomination, because both of those things have always been goals of mine, and I never really knew how I would get there. The CMA nomination came in a few days before my birthday in August, so it was like a really cool late birthday present.
This was a pretty cool CMAs to be a part of, given the level of celebrities and one-of-a-kind performances. What was your CMA experience like?
It was so surreal. I just couldn't believe I was in the crowd for some of those performances. One of my favorite artists of all time is Garth Brooks, and also Trisha Yearwood, because I would cover all of her music when I was a kid. So getting to see them right in front of my eyes, doing this duets medley, it was amazing. Also, just being backstage and getting a picture with Peyton Manning, that was pretty cool.
Think you'll come back to Clearwater at any point?
Yeah! I love it here. I'm definitely down to come back.
-- Jay Cridlin