"Having [Lindsay] and Karen a part of this song is so sentimental because this project is blending my roots of pop-punk and country," the singer tells PEOPLE of her new track "What the Stars See"

By Brianne Tracy
May 14, 2021 10:00 AM
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Cassadee Pope is stepping into the future with some help from the past.

While creating the new music video for her single "What the Stars See," premiering exclusively on PEOPLE, the singer, 31, took inspiration from '80s sci-fi action films like Blade Runner.

"I knew I wanted it to be a little bit more obscure," Pope tells PEOPLE of the music video, which was directed by Ed Pryor. "As far as the storyline, I didn't want it to be on the nose. I had some directors send the treatments for what they thought would fit the song, and I gave them some focus words like sexy, badass, obscure. I got a lot of treatments, but Ed sent my favorite. When he said Blade Runner, I was immediately intrigued."

"Overall, it's futuristic-yet-vintage," she continues. "It has an '80s approach to the technology, and there's video of me monitoring my love interest. I'm looking at screens, monitoring my acts in a different room and it's just what we all wish we could do in our breakups. I love the colors and the fashion and the edginess of it all."

In the video, Pope is joined by her close friends and collaborators Karen Fairchild (of Little Big Town) and Lindsay Ell, who are both featured on the song. Her touring band can also be seen playing behind her.

"It was fun to have them be a part of it," she says. "We've been missing playing shows and touring together, so sharing those couple of hours filming together was really fun."

Pope co-wrote "What the Stars See" with Jake Rose and Lindsey Rimes in April 2020, during her first Zoom writing session ever.

"I went into that session kind of nervous because I had never written virtually before, but I knew that I needed to start," she says. "The night before the session, I was getting anxious like, 'How is this going to work?' It was a starry night, and I just remember looking up and being like, man, the stars have a really good perspective. It reminded me of the times where I was going through a breakup or maybe I wasn't friends with someone anymore, and I just wished I could see what they were doing in that moment. Going from knowing what somebody is doing all the time to not knowing anything, it's such a weird transition. So we wrote it in the session the next day."

When it came time to record the song, Pope leaned on Fairchild, 51, and the All-American Rejects' Nick Wheeler, whom she went out on tour with a decade ago with her band Hey Monday, for help with the production.

"I wanted to use Nick Wheeler to produce the song because he's a rock guy, but I also wanted somebody like Karen to be involved to cater to my country side and not forget that and not lose sight of that," she says. "I loved bringing both worlds together."

Cassadee Pope
Cassadee Pope
| Credit: John Shearer

After getting Fairchild — whom Pope calls a "mentor" — on board for the feature on the song, she then asked Ell, 32, to lend her guitar-playing skills to it.

"I sent Lindsay the song, and she was very excited about it," Pope says. "She was like, 'Oh my gosh, this is badass.' As a guitar player, she heard a lot of moments where she could shine. So she was definitely down to do it as soon as she heard the song."

For Pope, having someone like Ell to lean on in the industry has been "a gift."

"Lindsay has seen me through many obstacles, and I've seen her through many as well," Pope says. "I love so many amazing female artists, but Lindsay's definitely somebody I've connected with on a much deeper level. Having her and Karen a part of this song is so sentimental because this project is blending my roots of pop-punk and country. It means a lot. So to have Lindsay and Karen involved, people that I love dearly, it's just taking it to another level."

RELATED VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Behind-the-Scenes of Cassadee Pope's "What the Stars See"

When asked to take an introspective look at the meaning behind "What the Stars See," Pope says in her own life, the "stars would see that I choose joy."

"There are a lot of days where I know I have errands that I need to run, but if I'm not fully equipped mentally that day to take that kind of thing on, I'll relax and read a book or something instead," she says. "So I just listen to my body. It's not like I don't do anything ever, but there are some days where you just need to let yourself relax. I think the stars would see that."

Cassadee Pope
Cassadee Pope
| Credit: John Shearer

A huge source of joy for Pope has been her relationship with boyfriend Sam Palladio, whom she started dating three years ago.

"We have fun," she says. "We love where we live, and we've created a really homey, safe space for us. Life is so crazy, so we wanted to make sure when we come home it feels very safe."

With work commitments picking back up, Pope says Palladio, 34, has been splitting his time between their home in Nashville and Los Angeles, where he's been shooting ABC's TV drama Rebel.

"When I last visited him in L.A. we ended up watching all the Harry Potter movies because I hadn't seen them," she says. "I always liked sci-fi and fantasy, but I had never fully dove in. People might not know this about him, but he is a very big sci-fi nerd and loves all of that stuff. So he got me into Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter."

"When he comes home, we love playing this game Star Wars X-Wing," she adds. "We'll sit there and do that for hours — sometimes it lasts days! Our house ends up looking like a complete nerd den, but we enjoy it."

Cassadee Pope
Cassadee Pope
| Credit: John Shearer

When she's not playing games like Star Wars X-Wing with Palladio, Pope can often be found in her home writing.

"This past year I've had the time to reflect and confront the things from my past that might've been a little difficult to write about," she says. "I've done a lot of therapy, but writing songs about things that were painful to go through in my young adult years, or even my childhood, has been so therapeutic. It was the outlet that I didn't think I needed."

As she looks to the future, Pope says she has "tons of songs to sift through and decide on" for her upcoming new album.

"There's definitely a project coming and more songs like 'What the Stars See' where it's pop-punk and country," she says. "Then I am definitely going to get out [to perform] in the fall. It's all looking very promising!"