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The Billings Gazette


January 23rd, 2007


Pope Jane singer now sizzles in L.A.
By JACI WEBB
Of The Gazette Staff

Danielle Egnew likes to joke that West High in the mid-1980s was like the "Julliard of Montana."

Egnew graduated from West in 1987, after singing in choir with jazz vocalist Kristin Korb and acting in plays with Venture Theatre founder Mace Archer.

A talented musician with a charismatic personality, Egnew helped found the all-female rock band Pope Jane in Billings in 1994, and even though the band dissolved two years ago, people are still talking about it. Egnew said much of her success is due to her days as the lead singer and guitarist in Pope Jane. The music is still so vital that most of the songs Egnew is using in the musical score for the new film "Changing Spots" are Pope Jane's.

"The director Susan Turley liked the songs so much she wanted the entire soundtrack to be our music. The score is like a Pope Jane greatest hits," Egnew told The Gazette in a recent telephone interview from her home in Los Angeles.

Egnew landed one of the leading roles in the film, a drama about relationships. She spent most of 2006 involved in the filming of it and is in the final stages of finishing its score. The movie, which is expected to be released in 2007, includes a large live music sequence where Egnew is lip syncing to her own songs.

"2006 was crazy busy in a good way. I thought L.A. was going to be a lot tougher nut to crack," Egnew said.

Egnew and the rest of Pope Jane, including Kristen Coyner on drums and Holly Shawver on bass, moved to Los Angeles in 2002 to pursue a record deal.

Living her dream

"This radio talk-show host, Sheena Metal, wanted to play Pope Jane music between her talk segments," Egnew said. "She was L.A.'s Howard Stern at the time. I sent her music and she said, 'You have to come out here.' We played a couple of shows and were immediately booked on Sunset Strip, which is great because there are so many bands out here."

Dreamworks, MCA and Universal record companies were all interested in signing Pope Jane. Then the bottom fell out of the record industry and all three deals went sour.

"It was really disappointing," Egnew said. "That's when Pope Jane ended."

Shawver moved back to Billings and Coyner moved back to Washington. Plans are in the works to record another Pope Jane album, though.

"Even though we weren't playing music anymore, Pope Jane just kept going and going with digital downloads,' Egnew said.

Egnew is also wrapping up a solo album named after one of her favorite places, "Red Lodge." Also in 2006, Egnew was invited to be part of a celebrity cast of a production of "Vagina Monologues" in New York City, with among others, Ally Sheedy.

"I did get a blush or two reading the script and I thought, 'How am I going to say this out loud?' But when they put it all together, it was such a healing experience. We were in New York for seven days to produce this and we stayed at the St. Regis. I've never stayed at a five-star hotel before. It's the kind of place where you call the butler to bring you coffee in the morning."

Egnew's first love was musical theater, and she studied theater at the University of Arizona and Montana State University-Billings. Now she feels fortunate to combine all of her talents by writing movie scripts, acting and playing music. Her first script, the sci-fi thriller "Thunder Walk," has been optioned by a film company.

"That went into the writing vacuum of hell," Egnew said. "I did 16 rewrites on that script. Light Renegade Entertainment had optioned the script, and I had meetings with them. They would read it every week then have me re-write it. It was like getting paid to go to screenwriting school."

Another script she wrote, "Imogene's Waltz," is set in Montana, and Egnew hopes to shoot it here someday.

"The biggest thing is you just can't quit," Egnew said. "At the end of the day, you'll be the one standing out in the wheat field and you know how far away you can see someone standing in a field."

Egnew is also co-hosting a radio show, "The Music Highway," where she plays all-independent music. And, lastly, one of Egnew's biggest honors was when she was named Best Pop Alternative Female Guitarist in 2006 through a nomination process that included L.A. music business executives and online voting. She won a custom Minarik guitar, which led to an endorsement by the guitar company.

"Winning that award was a testament to everybody who believes in my music and everything they did to help me get here," Egnew said.


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On the Net

• To hear Pope Jane's music, visit popejane.com

• To check out Danielle Egnew's music and career, go to www.danielleegnew.com

• To submit independent music for consideration for airing on Egnew's L.A. radio show, "The Music Highway," contact the show at musichighwayradio.com

• To view a trailer for the upcoming film "Changing Spots" starring Egnew and featuring a soundtrack with Pope Jane tunes, go to changingspotsmovie.com

• To listen to music by Egnew's new band, Junkie Cousin, with L.A. guitarist Paul Houston, go to junkiecousin.com

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