Recommended Tracks: “Only Human,” “Fool’s Gold,” “Faded Love,” “Heart Safe”
Artists You May Like: Eighty Ninety, Maddie Regent, Mercer Henderson
In what was certainly an uncommon yet not totally unexpected experience, this writer recently sat down with NYC-based singer-songwriter Cade Hoppe for what clocked in at an hour and twenty-minute interview outside a small coffee shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that was only interrupted by the occasional passing of a loud vehicle on the surrounding residential streets.
Hoppe’s new EP Just Look At The Moon, which is out now, was the main focus of the formal yet informal chat.
“‘Only Human’ is ALL about me”
“I think for me, as an artist, I don’t want to put my creative worth on solely ‘relationship songs,’ he said. “That’s not really what I think about most of the time. I’m in a healthy, steady relationship… I wouldn’t want to be in a position where a relationship is what consumes me at night.” Songs like “Heart Safe,” the standout of his last EP Everything That’s Wrong With You, explore a different avenue of love and anger towards a third party while “Morphine,” first a stand-alone single and later included on Everything…, is Hoppe figuratively wringing himself dry, maintaining the idea of the EP straying from, simply, a “love” project.
“I joke that the songs I write, especially the ones I love, are just… all about me,” he said. “I am a very selfish writer.” Five out of the seven tracks on Just Look At The Moon, including “Fool’s Gold” and “Only Human,” were referenced by both parties in a back-and-forth exchange regarding this topic, essentially proving his point. “’Only Human’ is, arguably, the most ‘love song’ I’ve ever written… and it is ALL about me,” he said. “The whole thing is about me and my problems and the things that I’m ranting about in this… scene that I’m trying to paint, then just asking, ‘How is this person not walking away?’”
“Only Human,” produced by Harper James of Eighty Ninety, is, up to this point, Hoppe’s opus. James masterfully captures his essence, taking Hoppe’s swirling thoughts and ramblings, the latter of which shifts in every chorus, and places them into a sonic world full of layers and girth: “She said, ‘’It’s only music’ is something anyone would say’/ I said, ‘They treat me like I sit around all day.’/ Yeah, I ramble about my deep insecurities/ She still thinks I’m fun/ I can’t stop thinking how all these random things would make sense in a song/ Don’t tell me I’m wrong.”
How It Started
This new era of material began with stand-alone single “Faded Love,” released late September 2022. The track, from the first beat, introduces a level of urgency Hoppe had not yet explored, and ultimately is the little brother of JLATM cut “Labels.”: “Do you wanna hold me?/ Or do you want the old me?/ Do you wanna love me just to love somebody?” He also released “Past Time” around that same period.
“Those two songs felt more like clothes that I was putting on than my own skin,” he said. “And I don’t know why. It’s not that those songs weren’t honest… they just felt like not quite the same arc as other songs I was working on at that time that became this EP.” Soon after, in what he calls one of his “greatest runs,” he wrote “Moon,” “Fool’s Gold,” and “Dirty” within the span of about a week. For this project, “Dirty,” which Hoppe says was meant to be a B-side to a scrapped song called “Guitar Solo,” fits the vibe sonically, but does not possess the same kind of musical grip that the other tracks do. In fact, it feels like a B-side to “Morphine.”
Just Look At The Moon, if summed up in one word, is cinematic. At the mention of that word, Hoppe perked up, referencing Interstellar as his all-time favorite film, hence the space gear he dons in the promotional materials and other visual aspects of the project. “That’s my taste… my taste is like… expensive,” he said. “I want the shiny thing. Not only does it sound expensive, but it CAN be very expensive to do that. But, it has encouraged me to just do it on my own.”
He bought himself a saxophone and a violin to be able to add those elements to the record at his leisure, but also tapped producers such as Rob Moose (Phoebe Bridgers, Sufjan Stevens) and Dr. Jesse Blum (Nas, Twenty One Pilots). The work with Moose was done remotely, while contributions from Bobby Hawk (Florence + The Machine, The 1975), such as strings on “Only Human” and “Fool’s Gold” were done in person. Blum contributed flugelhorn to “Moon.”
Lyrically, this record showcases Hoppe fixated on his legacy. On being remembered for having done great things. It starts on opening track “Fresh Start,” an appropriate title for a song that establishes the producer’s efforts to compliment Hoppe’s voice in a more experimental fashion, and works its way down the track list: “Money’s tighter than it used to be/ I’m spendin’ way too much time doin’ shit for free/ Cause I’m scared of goin’ down a nobody/ Baby, I know you know what I mean.”
“I feel like once you leave Earth and set yourself on this… mission, this journey to become a star… to have a career in music, you are either God or garbage,” he said, on this hyperfocus on legacy. “You’re garbage all the way up until you are God to these people. Until you’re headlining Madison Square Garden, you’re just a guy playing a show. You’re begging people to come.” He experienced an artistic surplus upon stepping away from a certain social media platform that he once saw moderate success from, but later proved to be fickle as his streaming numbers took a hard hit. In that sense, modernity has failed us.
In “Moon,” a captivating track that highlights the light touches of his baritone that later turn to a bitter snarl on the bridge, he dives deeper: “If I’m not moving at the speed of light, you’ll say I’m just another satellite/You’re missing every flicker/ I’ve been reflecting something bigger/ Just look at the moon.” Outside of the standout vocal moments, the orchestrations in the second verse are the most compelling of the record. While they occur, Hoppe is sinking so far deep into a bed of luscious strings and sparse doses of classical piano.
“To me, the metaphor of ‘Moon’ is just the helpless feeling of floating in between and you’re just endlessly stuck between these two places… and you just have to hope that you set yourself in the right direction and that one day you’re going to make it. Until then, you feel like the moon. You’re not in Earth’s atmosphere, but you’re in its orbit.”
“I think “just look at the moon” is like… it’s a really lonely thing to be caught in the middle,” he said. “You’re not with the people you were always with, and sometimes they feel like you’re not with them either. They can try to understand it, but unless you’re in it… even the people who are in it, they’re all in their own thing. It’s their own version of it. You’re on an island. When I say, ‘Just look at the moon,’ just remember I’m still there. When you need to remember, I’m literally right there, but I’m way too far away to reach out and grab. It’s really hard not being the same person everyone always thought you were. The same person you always thought you were. But you can’t go back. You shouldn’t. Just look at the moon… seeing things for how they are and how they’ve changed and being okay with that. Hoping that other people can make their peace with it, and still be connected to you.”
When he’s not creating, you’ll find him tucked away at a lower Manhattan restaurant serving tables. Surviving, making the type of fast money the hospitality industry provides, but still suffering, isolated from the city and his art during the most critical times. Surviving and suffering… never letting go of the dream, but not yet achieving it fully. That is Cade Hoppe. Just look at the moon.
Stream Just Look At The Moon: