photos by Kristen Coyner
Interview by Sasha Lobeman
| One of the greatest voices of all time Personifying
the mission of the unsigned artist. The sexy grrl rocker who put the Pro
in Producer. All these phrases have been used to describe the once power
indie vocalist/musician now turned rock star, radio star, film star and
screenwriter, Danielle Egnew. This fantastic frontwoman has enthralled
crowds for years with the all-girl band Pope Jane and set the bar high
for independent artists, leading the movement of the do-it-yourself musician
from theory to thronging fans. Now Danielle Egnew has earned her rank
as a multi-talented creative prodigy in the mainstream entertainment industry,
with Hollywood’s deepest respect. Even so, she hasn’t forgotten
her DIY roots
SL: Now that you’re a big mainstream success in so many areas, do you feel that you’re treated differently by the independent music community?
DE: It’s interesting you would bring that up. There’s a reverse prejudice in the Indie community that’s pretty prevalent, that creates an ‘us against them’ attitude when dealing with major labels, major promoters, or major anybody. I think that’s too bad. As a music community that’s preaching freedom and independence, I don’t think we need to create the same oppressive environment that a lot of the mainstream entertainment industry creates. I’ve lost some professional contacts and even some friends in the Indie community because I’m no longer what they consider an Indie, which to me, blows my mind! But I guess those people are more focused on their ‘cause’ than their music, or their friendships. And really, the Indie music community needs to remember that a ‘cause’ is only as effective as the intentions of the people who are captaining the cause
SL: What would you tell the Indie music community to change this ‘us-against-them’ perspective?
DE: Well, I’d tell everybody to lighten up and lose the chip on the shoulder! (laughing) Not every industry person is part of the Evil Empire. I mean, yes, there are huge jerks out there that you have to be smart and watch out for, but that’s any business. There are plenty of people in the mainstream industry who are really good people, who want to reach out and find great Indie artists and put them in their films, or their T V programs, and get them hooked up with decent labels. Those people do exist – they’re the people who have been working with me! But nobody wants to work with an artist whose attitude is one of entitlement. Pope Jane didn’t get where we’re at by acting angry at the world, or acting like somebody owed us something. We earned it, we worked hard, and the same type of people with those same ethics found us.
SL: You're world known for your incredible voice and your songwriting / producing abilities. Are you working on producing any new independent artists right now?
DE: No, not currently, but I wish I was. My film schedule has been pretty hectic, and there just hasn’t been the time. But I do miss it! I’ve been writing a lot, and I’m always looking for new artists to work with. Now if I could just look for a little more time, that would be great!
SL: You've been compared to Ann Wilson, Melissa Etheridge, Barbra Streisand, Janis Joplin, Celine Dion, Faith Hill, even Karen Carpenter! Does that put pressure on you to be compared to so many greats?
DE: Karen Carpenter? Wow! I like her voice a lot better
than mine! (laughing) No, I don’t feel any pressure. Look, just
I have the voice I was born with, and it came from my parents. Both
my mom and dad have huge, amazing voices, and so I just won out on the
gene pool. My mom especially has this enormous Italian operatic soprano
voice that made mine sound like a penny whistle, comparatively. I don’t
feel pressure, I feel a great honor. I’m humbled every time someone
puts me in a category with those amazing women you listed. It really
is an honor.
DE: I do, actually. I love to sing big voice numbers,
like sappy show tunes and cheesy classical stuff, and you’re right,
in pop music, you aren’t supposed to have a big voice, so through
a lot of Pope Jane, I was always trying to under sing, but I don’t
think I did a very good job (laughing). Whispy, breathy voices are very
in, mostly because many of the acts the labels are signing are young,
and these girls don’t have developed voices yet. Plus it’s
just a hip vocal style right now. As a writer and a musician, I like
to do my original stuff of course, but as a singer? Man, give me Cole
Porter, give me Andrew Lloyd Webber, anything in the Italian aria family.
The longer I have to hold the note, the better! I really am an insufferable
DE: Not very well! (laughing) Right now the music is
suffering, but all things have their season. The only live show I’m
playing right now is a monthly residency in North Hollywood, for Festival
of the Egg. But I’m not giving up the music. It just has to get
squeezed in right now.
DE: Ah, man …I couldn’t pick one—ahhhh,
please don’t make me! I think they’re all very important
parts of what I do. Each one feeds the other with its own momentum.
DE: Oh yeah. Kristen [Coyner, Pope Jane drummer] and
I could never totally hang it up. We love the band, and all our fans.
We’d worked so hard for nine years, and it was just time for a
break. Plus, with all this film work I’ve had, it’s sort
of impossible to keep the band active right now. Kristen’s enjoying
her time off in the Northwest, trust me. I grate on her after awhile!
SL: Now that you're a movie star, do you find that you're treated differently than when you were a pop/rock star?
DE: (laughing) No, not really, it’s just that
people are more polite now, because there’s something about being
a female musician that inspires people to treat you like you don’t
have a brain! I think because the budgets on films is so much bigger
than making a record, the folks who work in that field tend to be a
lot more serious, and a lot more organized when dealing with people.
DE: Well, right now I play a lesbian musician in two
of the three films I am in, and I don’t think it can get more
type-cast than that! (laughing) But the characters are really rich,
and really interesting, so it’s not just a snooze a minute to
watch the same exact character in different movies. For me, it’s
a great excuse to be able to sing, and to act! I sort of feel really
guilty about how much fun I’m having, and what a great opportunity
these directors are giving me to showcase every aspect of my art. I
feel really, really blessed and lucky.
DE: Sure. Melody and Harmony is a film by LyonHart Productions, written and directed by Teresa Crespo-Hartendrop, and we’re in prep for filming that in August. Changing Spots is a film by Clear Pictures, written and directed by Susan Turley who directed the big gay film festival hit The M.O. of M.I. . That’s starting this fall. Susan will also be directing a film I wrote, which is being done by Clear Pictures, called Imogene’s Waltz, but that’s awhile out, more like 2006. I have no idea how I lucked out to have such an amazing director as Susan interested in my film. But she is, and I’m thrilled. Plus I get a chance to act opposite Lane West, who I’ve always thought was a really terrific actress, so I’m very excited about that. I swear to God, sometimes I think I got hit by a bus, and this is all some coma-induced dream I’m having (laughing)!
SL: I see you are also scoring your film “Imogene’s Waltz”. How will you find the time to be a lead in a film, and compose the film score?
DE: You know, I’ve never had a hard time multi-tasking, especially creatively. There is always time to write music. I have a [recording] studio in my house, and I tend to do a lot of composition at night, and the filming mostly takes place during the day. Plus, a lot of the score isn’t written until the film is completed. Sometimes I’ll watch the dailies – that’s what they call the pieces of the movie they filmed that day – and I’ll be really inspired to crack something out that night. But usually the score is finished after the film is cut, so it’s not really a problem, time wise.
SL: You’re a talk radio host on two nationally syndicated radio programs, acting as a co-host on The Music Highway with Sheena Metal, and anchoring your own show, The High Road. How did you get into talk radio?
DE: Well, I’ve known Sheena for a long time,
and she’s a long-time talk radio icon genius in LA as well as
a live original music promoter here. She asked me to co-host The Music
Highway with her, from an artist’s and a producer’s perspective,
along with actor Robbie Rist, Ricardo Sebastian who is a publicist,
and Lane West, who of course acts as well as produces films. I rotate
with those guys. The show is about unsigned artists, with talk segments
about surviving in the music industry. It’s a really great show
that only plays unsigned artists by request instead of a station-picked
playlist, and it’s syndicated to over 28 million listeners, which
is great for the artists! My show, The High Road, is different. It’s
an all-talk format, no music, and it’s just me…talking about
all sorts of stuff!
DE: (laughing) I don’t, not well! (laughing) Geez, you did your homework! (laughing) Unfortunately, there are so many whack jobs that claim to do Psychic and spiritual work, you just have to endure the stereotypes. But thankfully there are a lot of shows on TV right now that more accurately portray normal people with spiritual gifts and abilities, like Medium and The Dead Zone. I love the way Anthony Micheal Hall shows that Johnny Smith is just a regular guy. We’re just regular people who happen to have a spiritual skillset, like you know (laughing) talking to dead people, or seeing what we call ‘the future’.
SL: Even though your Clairvoyant work serves a number of celebrities and even some law enforcement agencies, do you find that you have a challenge in being taken seriously, being a Psychic, a rock star, and a film actress?
DE: (laughing) That sounds like when you’re a little kid, and you say, ‘When I grow up, I’m going to be a fireman, and a ballerina, and a CIA agent..’ (laughing) No, I don’t encounter a problem with any of it. When I’m on a film, I’m treated as an actor. When I’m in the studio, I’m treated just like any other musician. When I’m with a client or working on a crime scene, I’m treated like a Clairvoyant. It’s just like having more than one job, like some people working as a cashier at WalMart then moonlighting as a heavy equipment operator. I’m just me, no matter what job I’m doing.
SL: You seem surprised I brought up your Clairvoyant work. Are you uncomfortable talking about it?
DE: No, not at all! It’s just most people doing
[entertainment] interviews consider the subject to be too weird and
too awkward, like it’ll bust the legitimate groove of the whole
interview. Truthfully, I’m really proud to be a third generation
Clairvoyant – I don’t like the word Psychic, it sounds too
hokey. I have Native American in my bloodlines on both sides of my family,
Cherokee and Lakota, and they are such an incredibly spiritual people.
I’m very proud of the spiritual work that I do, and it has its
own forum. It doesn’t cross over into the frivolous entertainment
zone much unless it’s on The High Road, but that show is designed
to get into the nitty gritty of consciousness and spiritual physics,
more as a learning tool for people; that is, when I’m not ranting
about some stupid political thing. I try to literally take the high
road on the air, but I’m not Mother Theresa, and unfortunately,
I do have some pretty stiff opinions about certain things. I guess that’s
what makes it talk radio.
DE: Sure, but I’d have to kill you. (Pause. Laughing)
No, it doesn’t work like that, sorry, man. I wish I could, you
could take us on a shopping spree.
DE: One thing? It would be to never give up your dreams, ever. Never let anyone else define who you are. If someone doesn’t like what you’re doing with your dreams, or considers you to have “pipe dreams” when you voice your desires, then don’t take it personally. They probably have a number of things in their life that they haven’t accomplished yet, and dreams they gave up on, and it’s just too hard for them to watch you pursue yours. People come up with reasons to fail ahead of time, so they don’t have to try, because if they try, the possibility exists that they could really fail. Don’t live in fear of what might not happen. Live in the excitement of what you, yourself, can make happen, which is everything. Then make your life exactly what you want it to be. Go out roaring, not whining!
Danielle Egnew can be found online in several places:
The Official Danielle Egnew Website: http://www.danielleegnew.com