JBL Emerging Interview: Cade Hoppe opens up on new single Labels

Up-and-coming New York-based indie pop singer and songwriter Cade Hoppe – who kicked off the new year with his new single Labels – recently joined Headliner for a chat about songwriting, music production and everything in between.

In this Emerging Headliner interview powered by JBL, the 23 year old talks candidly about his musical influences, the ups and downs of pursuing an artist career, and how the new track came about…

What have you been up to recently, and at what point did you realise that you wanted to pursue a full time career in music?

I’ve been spending a lot of time at the studio where I record; it’s called Degraw Sound and it’s on the edge of Park Slope in Brooklyn. I’m still in school finishing my last semester at NYU, so I scheduled all of my classes for one day a week, meaning yesterday I had 13 hours of class! That way I can be efficient on the other days music-wise.

I grew up playing musical instruments and started writing when I was 14. I started studying finance, and I also wanted to do music, but quickly discovered that it’s not something that you can really do on the side. I was unhappy not having music in my life, and when I was about 19, I realised I needed to start adding it back in.

My main musical idol growing up was Ben Folds. One time he was doing a book signing – he was in conversation with Sarah Bareilles at the Cooper Union in New York – and I got a ticket to go. He played a song that I had never seen him play live before called Evaporated; it's a really emotional song, and at a time when I was feeling down in the dumps about not having music in my life – that’s a moment that I'll remember forever. I started writing songs in the first place because of him, and when we met, he told me to just keep doing the thing that I love. That was the moment when I started making music a priority, and now we’re here!

Who were you listening to growing up?

Ben Folds was obviously a huge one. Then Coldplay, The Killers, The Fray, Taylor Swift and Bleachers when they came together. I love musician’s musicians and artist’s artists – those that love what they do and really respect the craft. They were always the people that I looked up to.

You've already put out two EPs and a bunch of releases, mostly reflecting on love and relationships. Have you continued that narrative with the new track, Labels?

I think this one marks slightly different territory for me. Something that I’ve found satisfies me as an artist more than as a songwriter is writing about things that really are having an impact on my life. This song is definitely from more of a place of existentialism, and where I am on my own journey of chasing an artist career, and so the song to me is about the uncertainty of what it feels like to do this, and never having reassurance that you're going to get that big break or any kind of longevity. You have to learn to be OK with that if you’re going to pursue this. It’s something that I am grappling with constantly, and it manifests itself in Labels. I had just watched 500 Days Of Summer and all these feelings were bubbling up; I realised that my relationship with music is kind of like a relationship with a girl that I have really strong feelings for, but she’s telling me, ‘I like where we’re at right now, but I don’t want to put a label on things’. That’s where the metaphor came from.

How did the track come together from a creative perspective, and what is your general process when it comes to songwriting?

Creatively, this one definitely felt different. It's kind of ironic that the first couple of lines are, I've been counting the days / I've been staying up late, because it was like 2am when I wrote it. I was drained from an all-day writing session, but in that moment I felt very emotionally inspired, and so the song itself came together pretty quickly.

Originally it was more of a folk song, but then listening to it back it felt very anthemic to me. We sped it up, brought it out of a falsetto and went from there. We knew we wanted a solid back beat drums-wise, and I think one of the first things we laid down was the main synth – a Juno running through a Blue Sky reverb pedal. It’s a pretty common trick, and one used by a lot of my big influences like The Killers. Then we laid down the piano and guitar and we were on a roll. It was a quick turnaround compared to usual, and it felt like the perfect start to this new era for me, writing things that are a little bit more existential – not just about relationships – but the bigger picture in terms of how I'm feeling.

Something I appreciate about the process is that it’s different every time. For me, lyrics are the most important thing; the first line of a song will make or break it. If the first line doesn't inspire me, then it's just not going to take me to a place where I can finish a full song. A couple of times, I’ve written four to eight lines almost as a poem, and then if I really like it maybe I’ll turn that into the first line of a song.

How involved are you on the production side?

I'm a producer on all of my tracks. I’ve been working with Harper James who is just so talented and underrated, and I’ve learned a lot from him. I feel really lucky that a couple of years ago I stumbled upon an Instagram ad for him and we connected. Our musical tastes are mostly the same, although he's millennial and I'm Gen Z so some of our influences are slightly different. But I’ve always wanted to be as involved as possible. Nowadays I actually produce and co-write for my girlfriend Maddie Regent, doing some cool synth pop. And so the process has really changed over the last couple of years and given me the confidence to go off and do production on my own. I could never be someone that just sends the song off and isn’t involved in the mix. That's not what I do all this for – it’s all creative expression.

What are you most looking forward to in 2023?

The next song that I’m putting out is like my favourite thing that I've ever written, as well as being my favourite thing that Harper and I have ever produced. I actually am fortunate enough that Rob Moose – a strings player and arranger who has worked with Phoebe Bridgers, Bon Iver, Taylor Swift and Ben Folds – has arranged and played some strings on the track. So I'm very excited about that!

Listen to the full interview with Cade Hoppe on Headliner Radio below:

Images: Will Shellhorn