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‘The Voice’ champ Cassadee Pope fondly dishes on Earnhardt look-alike racing grandpa at awards appearance
“The Voice” Season 3 winner Cassadee Pope’s debut album, “Frame By Frame,” drops on Oct. 8.
But on Monday night in Manhattan at the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Awards, the frames on her mind were the pictures she couldn’t wait to show her grandpa, 73-year-old short-track racer Alfred Casagni.
“He’s going to be so jealous,” the West Palm Beach, Fla., native admitted.
Pope, 24, performed at Gotham Hall for sports car racing’s elite. After singing breakout single “Wasting All These Tears,” she sat down with Newsday and explained that her passion for motorsports has always rivaled her love of music -- largely because of the man she couldn’t wait to show those pictures to.
Newsday: What do you think about country having more of a presence in New York with stations in Manhattan and Long Island ,and it maybe giving you more of an opportunity to do events like these?
Cassadee Pope: It’s great. I love that country is making its way in very unlikely places such as New York City, but I am even more excited to be at the awards show because I grew up around racing, and I have such a great opportunity being on Big Machine [Records] and having Big Machine sponsor [owner] Chip Ganassi’s team, it’s so great for me to be involved because it’s a part of who I am and what I grew up loving, so this really fun for me tonight.
N: You talked a little bit on stage about your connection to racing. For people who don’t know, why is it so important to you?
CP: My grandpa has been racing stock cars since he was a teenager in Pennsylvania, more precisely, Vandergrift. He still races stock cars in Lernerville. And actually, [Ganassi NASCAR driver] Kyle Larson has been in a few of the same races, and he’s done dirt races as well. It was always a part of our family. We would always watch the races on TV, we would always go to my grandpa’s races in the summers because we would always go to Vandergrift every summer. Yeah, it’s just a way of life for us, and he’s still kicking butt out there, and he’s in his 70s, so it’s pretty crazy.”
N: Country music and NASCAR are similar in that you always have some people saying they stray too far away from tradition, and others saying they have to modernize a bit to attract new fans and then expose them to the traditions. How do you feel country music and NASCAR do in striking that balance?
CP: I think country music and racing do that really well because they’ve been around for so long, and they keep it traditional, but they’re not afraid to keep it modern, to update things and get new fans, because that’s how you stick around for a long time, that’s longevity. And that’s why country music and racing are always relevant, they’re always massive and people are always tuning in. So, they’ve done that pretty well over time, it’s pretty impressive.
N: What’s the craziest moment you’ve had in the past year, the one that made you think, “I can’t believe this is happening?”
CP: I have a lot of them. I still am in awe every night when I go and sing with Rascal Flatts. I open for them on tour and they have me come up and sing with them every night. And it’s to 20,000 people every night. Everybody’s got their cell phones out, the crowd is so loud, and I love that band. So, it’s an honor to get up there with them.
N: An artist like Chris Young has had a bunch of No. 1 singles to start his career, yet with his latest album seems to be just starting to find A-list country status. Talk about having so much mainstream exposure so early in your career.
CP: Yeah, coming off of “The Voice” gave me a really great platform and I’ll admit going into meeting someone for the first time and them knowing my story is a great way to start things off. But it’s almost a little bit more of a challenge, because then you have to really prove yourself. You have to make people believe you are, yeah, a winner of a TV show, but you’re more than that. You’re an artist, and you write your own music, and you’re worth their time. So it’s all about proving yourself to them and that’s kind of what I’ve been doing this whole time is going on a radio tour and touring with Rascal Flatts.
N: Favorite NASCAR driver ever?
CP: Dale Earnhardt.
Because my grandpa looks exactly like him, and he idolized him his whole life, so we kind of did, too.
N: Where do you see yourself at in five to 10 years?
CP: I’m hoping to have a few No. 1 singles under my belt, and I’d love to headline my own tour, and have the shows sell out, and win some awards, and basically take over the world. That’s what I’m hoping for. You know, small goals.