Pope's parents were teachers and members of the Open (Plymouth) Brethren in the Brynhyfryd area of Swansea. In childhood he is said to have demonstrated unusual talent as a singer and songwriter.
In the early 1970s, a tape of Pope's songs was sent by his brother to BBC Radio 1 presenter John Peel, who invited Pope to perform at the BBC. The session resulted in a recording contract with Elton John's record label named The Rocket Record Company. He performed while also studying at Christ's College, Cambridge, from which he graduated in 1981. On leaving Cambridge, Pope resided in London, under the management of rock promoter Harvey Goldsmith.
In 1982, Pope returned to Wales, working for BBC Radio Wales in Cardiff. Combining the activities of singer, songwriter and broadcaster, he was managed by Larry Page, wrote songs for Cliff Richard and The Hollies, duetted with Bonnie Tyler and Aled Jones, and toured with Art Garfunkel and Belinda Carlisle.
From February 2016, Pope will present the weekday early breakfast show on BBC Radio Wales from the Corporation's Swansea studios.
Pope presented a Radio 4 series on black gospel music called Gospel Train. His HTV series Heaven's Sound on the same subject, won an award at the New York Film and Television Awards in 2001.
In the 1990s, a late-night music chat show for HTV, The Mal Pope Show, won a number of Welsh BAFTA Awards. The show featured interviews with personalities John Cale, The Bee Gees, George Melly, David Gray, Lloyd Cole, Evelyn Glennie and Neil Kinnock. He also sang the theme songs of the Welsh children's television shows Fireman Sam (1987), SuperTed (1982), Satellite City (1988) and Joshua Jones (1991).
He is married to Hilary Pope, a teacher at a local school, Grange Primary School.
He was the President of the Welsh male voice choir Gwalia Singers between 2005 and 2010. He and his daughter, Miss Daisy Blue, performed at the choir's 40th anniversary concert in 2006, together with The Storys and the Vivace Singers.
His 2005 musical Amazing Grace, based on the 1904 Welsh Revival, and directed by Laurence Olivier Award winner Michael Bogdanov, received acclaim in performances at the Swansea Grand Theatre, the Cardiff International Festival of Musical Theatre, at the Sherman Theatre, and at Theatr Clwyd in Mold. In 2006, it was performed to standing ovations at the Wales Millennium Centre, the first original Welsh musical to be presented there.
In 2007, Pope's next musical, Contender, about the career of heavyweight boxing champion Tommy Farr, exploited an even more popular Welsh national legend. In a highlight scene set during 1937, the title character sings the Welsh national anthem "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau" before his third-round knockout of the Nazi German opponent Walter Neusel, for whom "Deutschland über alles" has been played. Contender was premièred at the United Nations building in New York, followed by seasons at Swansea's Grand Theatre and the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. A theme of the musical is that Farr's controversial loss to Joe Louis, and his disproportionate lack of success in the United States, may have resulted from his refusal to co-operate with fight-fixing American mobsters and bookmakers.
A new musical, Cappuccino Girls, opened in February 2009, treating contemporary themes and relationships.
Pope was the main vocalist, along with Julie Costello, on religious albums composed by the musician, Phil Baggaley, and his co-writer Ian Blythe. Released in 1996, the debut album City of Gold won awards and sparked international critical acclaim, followed by a number of concerts throughout England. The success of this led Pope to become involved in other albums and concerts including Shipwrecks and Islands, Road to the City, Strands of Gold and, most recently, The Time Project.