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Blues Rocks the World Magazine - France


ISSUE #3
January / February 2008




Danielle Egnew
A Steady Stream of Dreams

An interview by Paul Bondarovski

"DANIELLE EGNEW IS ADDICTED TO CREATING THINGS. Not sure this addiction is healthy. This woman does not rest, ever. She's a steady stream of dreams, how to build the dreams, how to bring people to the dreams, and back to the beginning to start again...Ten years ago, Danielle Egnew created both an Indie sound and music marketing plan used by so many artists today. It was so successful that Pope Jane didn't need a record label..."
- Jakks Andersen,The Alternative E-Zin
e

P.B.: You're doing so many things at the same time! Singer/songwriter, actor, producer, radio show co-host, clairvoyant, even ordained minister! (Have I missed something?) But who are you above all?

Danielle Egnew: Above all? That's a really good question. Maybe I'm still trying to figure that one out? I think I would have to say that above all, I'm that one chick who would love to live in a tiny cabin on top of a mountain in Montana or Alaska, and hole up to write novels or record ambient albums! But I would like my mountain to be near a town of at least 14 people, so I wouldn't completely lose ALL of my people skills to the call of the wild. But until then – I guess I'll keep my fingers in all sorts of pies, and I'll juggle a few more plates.

P.B.: Your all-female rock band Pope Jane was a big success for almost ten years. And then, when Dreamworks, MCA and Universal were all interested in signing the group, it ... dissolved. What's happened?

Danielle Egnew: Ah, that was a heartbreaker at the time! Pope Jane was in the right place at the wrong time. Three years ago, the record industry hit a very big financial wall and went bankrupt overall, and it's been fighting its way back every since. Pope Jane had done so well independently that the big labels finally wanted to sign us – and then the financial ceiling caved in on the music industry, all in the same month we were negotiating with the labels. MCA was bought out completely by Universal and Dreamworks sold their music division to somebody, I think maybe it was Virgin Atlantic but I could be wrong on that one. Anyway, every record company has an A & R department, and when the labels went through the transitions, all of the parties that were interested in Pope Jane were laid off. So basically, everyone who had scouted us was gone! Pope Jane took a really big break from playing after that happened. I'd like to do another album with the band this upcoming year, and the girls seem to be into it after all the dust has settled. Even though the labels fell through, our fans never did, so a new album would be a lot of fun!

P.B.: So, you seem to be in the best place to tell us, how does the record industry's decline feel for an artist...

Danielle Egnew: Honestly, it's six of one and a half dozen of another. On one hand, the age-old dream of being found in a nightclub and being signed on the spot, like what happened to The Doors at The Whiskey, has been dashed because the labels just don't have the money that they used to, and they are much more cautious before signing someone. People still do get signed, but it's a lot more rare, and it's after the artist has really, really proven their track record and is basically doing very well on their own and is their own business, like Pope Jane was. Or, it's someone who is brand new to music and the label can build the artist from scratch, and keep a majority of the income off of them. On another hand, the internet has really leveled the playing field for artists with digital distribution, so artists truthfully aren't dependent on a label anymore for record distribution. If an artist is a smart business person, they can make a lot of money. The problem is, most artists are artists, not business people. Labels are still helpful in terms of marketing budgets, breaking through the radio glass ceiling for radio play, although radio listenership has dramatically declined in the last few years, and of course, planning tours. But I would say that beneath all the rhetoric, even though their careers are now 100% in their own hands with the internet music boom, I think most artists miss the dream of being signed, and being whisked off to become the next great rock star who plays the big bowl arenas. Those kind of gigantic concerts are rare these days, too. We just live in a very different world that has gotten very small and convenience-oriented, where on-demand, Tivo, and the internet have really taken the place of big live events, which can be a hassle to get to. Artists can say what they want about the labels being the bad buy, but labels aren't the problem in the music industry. Greedy people are, and you can find those people in any industry.

P.B.: You seem to have a special sympathy for iSound digital music store - it's the only place on the Web where all or almost all you've ever recorded is available - the entire Pope Jane collection, your solo albums, even your unreleased singles. What is there so special about iSound?

Danielle Egnew: You know, nothing that I can tell! (laughing) iSound was the first digital place that I put up all my recorded material. I mean, some of the Pope Jane stuff has been up in WalMart.com and iTunes and the like for awhile now, and part of the reason I loaded up iSound with the rest of the catalogue is that some of the albums I put up there digitally are out of print, and iSound doesn't care about that. At the time, some of the other carriers, such as iTunes, required that you be able to sell hard copies of the album as well, and I didn't want to re-press 10,000 copies of Pope Jane's stuff right now, but that rule has since changed with iTunes, so I'm sure I'll get the other online retailers my material. I've just been so slammed with everything else I have going on that I've lagged a bit on the distribution end, which is really stupid, as that's what pays the bills!

P.B.: CD sales are falling, and digital downloads rising and becoming cheaper and cheaper. Don't you think the trend is catastrophic for the music?

Danielle Egnew: I think that if price wars keep happening over downloads, it could potentially be a problem down the road. You can down-price yourself right out of the market, if you're not careful. The consumer only thinks of a per-song basis, but to record the song takes money for most artists, and of course, time, so to keep undercutting a track – 99 cents, then 89, then 59 cents – pretty soon, it's just not cost-effective for an artist to rent studio time, or buy decent equipment so the album doesn't sound like garbage, or buy all the software to make a great album in a home studio. It costs money to make music. It doesn't just flow out of the endless magic music fountain and onto the internet, and I think that consumers sometimes forget that, because it's so easy to access. I think 99 cents for a track is perfectly reasonable. I pay it for other people's music and I have no problem. The digital download phenomenon has really made it easier to produce music and sell it in terms of retail hard costs – artists don't have to shell out thousands of dollars up front on CD's and hope they sell – they can make one copy, upload it, and sell it over and over again. People love to get stuff for free, heck, so do I, but once people get used to having something for free, or near free, they will freak out if asked to pay for it. I give a lot of mp3's away free on my website as promotion. But I think moderation is a powerful thing in this area. The classic example is Stephen King, who wrote a novel and sold it digitally, telling his fans that they could download the book, THEN pay whatever they thought was fair for the book. He thought his fans would support his good faith. Actually, the book had millions of downloads, and most for only one penny -- a penny, from his die-hard fans who were supposedly supporting his effort! So he said he'd never do that again, and it goes to prove that we all love free stuff, but even artists need to eat.

P.B.: 2007 was one of your most fruitful years - a new album, Red Lodge, a starring role in the new Clear Pictures film Changing Spots, which is, musically, also a kind of your solo work, isn't it?...

Danielle Egnew: Yeah, composing scores is a very solitary activity, that's for sure. I have composed scores for several TV and film projects, and I always love the symbiotic relationship between the action onscreen and the message of the music. I did compose the original orchestral score for Changing Spots, and the soundtrack also includes some of my pop music.

P.B.: The publicity slogan for "Changing Spots" says, "The future is as far away as home." Sounds great, but what does it mean?

Danielle Egnew: My interpretation would be that sometimes people need to go back to their roots to figure out who they really are, in order to go forward.

P.B.: You are actually co-hosting a radio show, "The Music Highway," with Sheena Metal, another huge personality on the American music scene. How did it happen that you started to work together?

Danielle Egnew: Sheena is one of the most multi-talented people I have ever met in my life, and I am so lucky to have the chance to work with her. She had e-mailed me years ago when Pope Jane was going strong, and she wanted some music to play in between her talk segments when she was hosting on 97.1 The FM Talk Station, here in Los Angeles. She loved the music so much that she began booking me in clubs here in LA, and the rest is history! We work very well together, as I tend to be more literal and earnest on the air sometimes, and Sheena is a brilliant stand-up comic and the show's lead, so it's a great balance. I was on-air talent for a music radio station up in my hometown in Montana, so I had on-air experience, and it's just a blast to work with someone who is so incredibly talented in front of a microphone! She cracks me up a lot during the show, and I try to keep it together, because no one wants that one co-host who is laughing over the top of everything. Although I still laugh, but hey, I'm only human, and one completely susceptible to hysterically funny things!

P.B.: The meaning of success, what is it for you?

Danielle Egnew: Ah, that meaning has changed over the years for me, for sure. When I was a teenager, success meant fame. I got locally famous, got a full ride musical theater scholarship, felt successful, and moved on. As I got into my early 20's, I realized that being famous was nothing without someone backing you, so I thought success meant signing a record deal. I got signed to a smaller regional label up in Seattle with my solo project, felt successful, and I moved on. As I hit my late 20's, Pope Jane was going strong, I realized that being signed was nothing if the label didn't push your material and get it out to people, so I thought success meant a lot of national touring and lots of album sales. We did that, I felt successful, and I moved on. In my early thirties, Pope Jane was almost signed and then wasn't, we weren't touring anymore, we weren't recording anymore, we still had the fame, but nothing current to back it. I didn't feel very successful at that point, because everything I had worked for, and everything I had judged success on, was gone. A few years later, after acting as a lead in a film, I felt successful after doing something I really enjoyed doing. And that's when I realized that success isn't something you can prove to yourself on paper. It's a feeling, inside of you, that comes from doing something you love, and doing it well. I'm a success in my life because I love what I do, and I'm lucky enough to have people in my life who enjoy what I do – friends, fans, my family. What more can a gal ask for?

P.B.: You are a multi-award winning artist. In 2007 you were named best Keyboardist and in 2006 you were named Best Pop Alternative Female Guitarist. (Congratulations!) But, honestly, what do you think about all those Olympics-like competitions in music? Does it make any sense to declare one artist "better" than the other? Beethoven "better" than Bach, Bob Dylan "better" than John Lennon?

Danielle Egnew: Well, honestly? I'm probably the wrong person to ask, because I love awards shows. I mean, I do. I like to win shiny things, just like the next guy. It's fun! You don't always win, but when you do, it's a great feeling. Sometimes your friends win, and that's a great feeling, too! I don't think there's anything wrong with friendly awards competitions, and I don't think anyone really thinks one artist is actually being declared "better" than another per se – I just think it's a periodic recognition for someone's work. I think people who live for awards may want to consider some balance in their work, and I think people who become psychotically competitive in every aspect of their life may have some serious emotional problems that need looking into. But if a person can keep awards shows in balance, they can be a blast. I like awards, because I like the pageantry, the dressing up, the hub-bub and the excitement. Any artist who tells you that they don't care if they ever win an industry-related award is usually lying, mostly to themselves. But that's so common, to see some artist posing in the corner with this feigned indignant look on their face when you talk about awards ceremonies. It's very cool to act like you don't care, because that way, if you don't win, you won't look like the big gullible geek who wished they did win! There was a great line in that Christopher Guest film, For Your Consideration. In the film, Parker Posey plays and actress who may be nominated for an Oscar. When her character was asked how she felt about it, she says, "I don't act for trophies!" I turned to my friend I was watching the film with and said, "Hell, I do!" (Laughing) It's sad to me that people can't just have fun with awards and ceremonies, and not analyze them to death. I sure have fun with them, even if I don't win, but hey – I'm always hoping! I don't think it's embarrassing to hope, and I don't think it's embarrassing to cheer for the winner, even if it's not me.


P.B.: There are three very special albums in your catalog - your meditation music. They made me think of that very old theory according to which the Universe is filled with music, but its frequencies are too low for a human ear. Musicians are mediums making this music audible. To you, where does the music come from and what is it really?

Danielle Egnew: Wow, I think that's the coolest quote I've ever heard – Musicians are mediums making Universal music audible! Very true! Music is a language. I mean, really, like a real tonal language with a structure and a syntax, not like some analogy for a language, that encodes an enormous amount of information in wavelengths. You know how fiber optics works, right? You have this beam of light that is encrypted with enormous amounts of information that is decoded once it reaches its destination. Music is the same way – there are huge volumes of emotional information stored in how you play a chord, or which chords you choose to put in what progression, or how you use the note, or how your throat creates the note if you're a singer, that get decoded once they hit the human ear and are interpreted by the human spirit. Composers and clergy have known this for centuries, and that's why certain Gregorian chants drone in the keys that they do because the tonal cues inspire the human brain to leap into a Theta wave pattern, which is very much like a dream-state used in conscious meditation, and the human spirit is then more free to communicate with the spiritual realm, as the conscious mind isn't butting in and getting in the way with that day's grocery list! Well, okay, they were monks and didn't go shopping, but you get the drift. So yes, human beings, and animals, and trees, and plants – we're all busy decoding these constant wave pulses from a conscious, caring Universe that is continually attempting to connect with us on an emotional level through the sounds of waves crashing and how that makes you feel, or the sound of wind through the trees and how that makes you feel, as emotionality is a base common denominator in all human beings, and almost all living things, no matter what language is spoken. That's why some artists are more consistent hit songwriters than others. The ones who have a handle on the concept of music as a tonal language can then continually create melodies which in their native tonal language also fit with the content of the linear spoken lyrics, and marry them with an accompaniment that tonally sends the same message. A melody is a data stream, accompaniment is a data stream, and it all better match up with the meaning of your lyrics, otherwise, when the human spirit goes to decode the song, it's just a jumbled mess. Most songwriters have a handle on this unconsciously, as "Universal Mediums" as you put it, but the ones that aren't really wired for songwriting but love performing can't quite figure out why the songs don't work, or don't stick with people even though they have catchy lyrics, and it can be really frustrating for them.

P.B.: If I understand it right, any music may be considered as meditation music, and its effect is always triple - emotional, intellectual and physical... Should I add pharmacological!

Danielle Egnew: That's absolutely correct. Sound is one of the most intense healing tools on the planet. Tones and sound can heal people on levels that they don't even know are wounded, because the conscious mind is arrogant, and doesn't let people clue into their darker crevices inside where the conscious self has little control. However, the human spirit only answers to what calls to it in the same language, and even though the conscious mind spends a lot of time talking and chattering over the top of the spirit, the spirit tunes it out and listens for a language it understands and can relate with, and then the spirit responds. I mean, why do you think that you can be in a really bad mood, driving down the street, and a song will come on the radio which suddenly puts a smile on your face within the first few bars of music? It's because the human spirit has heard and connected with the language of its origin, and it's thrilled to be able to communicate back.

P.B.: I'm feeling a little bit jealous... You are not just a theoretician, you are a practitioner - you're healing people! Where do you find the time to do all this?

Danielle Egnew: Ah, I bet you heal all sorts of people everyday and you don't even know it, with something you say, or with a hug, or maybe you've made them laugh when they really needed it! You know, I really do love my healing and clairvoyant practice. I try to balance my spiritual work with my entertainment schedule the best that I possibly can, but the entertainment end is really off the hook lately, which is a good problem to have. I don't get the opportunity to teach as many classes on spiritual issues as I used to, and I still try and get to my tonal healing practice with clients as much as possible. But everything has its own season, and sometimes I'll be busy with my healing and spiritual work while the entertainment end of my world breathes a little bit. That doesn't happen too often as of late with everything I'm doing in film, TV and music, but I just try and keep a window open.

P.B.: Now, a very hard question (for me). From your website, I know that you are "a first decant Pisces with a 0 degree Leo Moon and a 24 degree Cancer rising, with Venus in Aries, Mars in Sagitarrius, North Node in Aries, Jupiter in Libra, Neptune in Scorpio, Saturn in Aries,and Pluto in Virgo." What the heck it could mean about you for an ordinary mortal?

Danielle Egnew: (Laughing) Well, it means a lot to some, and nothing to others, but the cliff notes version is – it means I'm heavy on the creative and spiritual aptitudes, and I'm designed to be an entertainer, a priest, or Black Ops Special Forces Marine! Usually, I find all three are applicable in entertainment!

P.B.: You have a dog and four cats. I won't ask you whom you love more. But ... whom do you admire more - dogs or cats?

Danielle Egnew: You know, I love them both, but as far as admiration goes, I'd have to say the dogs have it. They have an ability to love unconditionally, and I guess so do cats, but if a cat doesn't like you'll, they'll poop on your carpet, or throw up in your hair when you're sleeping, just to prove a point. But not dogs. Dogs especially have the ability to look past people's ugliness to find the best in them, and focus on it. Dogs aren't stupid, they just choose to overlook people's external grotesqueness and love on people anyway. Maybe they think if they keep reinforcing the good behavior in people, their owners will eventually be the people on the outside that the dog knows they are, on the inside. I think God put dogs on the earth to remind us that if a dog can love a person that much, a person who is full of all sorts of frailties and darkness sometimes, then surely, we can chose to love one another.

P.B.: My favorite pair of questions. What do you esteem the most in people?

Danielle Egnew: I adore selflessness in people. Not fakey put-on selflessness, but the genuine kind. A sense of selflessness is indicative of an enormous sense of self – not ego, but of true self esteem, which is the foundation for the internal security to have hope, and generate compassion, enthusiasm, effort, and all things this world needs a little more of. We all need to focus on ourselves now and again, but that whole "looking out for number one" garbage from the pop psychology of the seventies is just so dated, and in the long run, it doesn't work. People are not intended to be islands. A little selflessness goes a long way.

P.B.: And what do you detest?

Danielle Egnew: I think I detest cowardice in people the most. We all get afraid now and again, but living the life of a true coward, someone who stands for nothing but satiates their sense of me-me-me and fear from moment to moment, no matter who is thrown under the bus in the process, is different than battling confusion once in awhile. Cowardice breeds selfishness, it breeds contempt, it breeds a dysfunctional competitive attitude because the person always feels invisible, it breeds lies and apathy and covetousness and misdirected aggression out of a false sense of being threatened. I have a really hard time having empathy for people who make others suffer because they're afraid to handle their own lives or their own issues. You never really know who they are inside, or what they stand for, because the answer is -- nothing.

P.B.: To finish on a positive note... The way things are going, don't you think it's the end of the world (as we know it)?

Danielle Egnew: Why yes, I do think it's the end of the world as we know it – and I'm just fine! (Laughing) Seriously, everything must have an end to have a beginning, and we desperately need a new beginning, so something has to end. It's just the way of things. I don't look at it like the end of the world. I look at it like The Beginning. We can't keep on this same course, because even mathematical models of say, global warming, show us broiling like mad over the next few years, ergo, something must change. The "global system" has gotten so myopic and corrupt that it serves only itself, and the truth is, anything that serves only itself will implode after awhile, because the Universe is made for one cog to support another cog – not one cog to turn itself. The Universe will consider that idle cog broken, and spit it out. This is true for both people and organizations. I don't think its The End for everybody – just for those who insist on subscribing to a defunct system. I think as a race, we have the chance to really step up, or we're going to have to suffer the consequences, plain and simple, as the whole system has broken down to the point of needing an overhaul. We need to power-down, so to speak, in order to clear the viruses from the mainframe to re-load a better operating platform, and re-boot. It's that simple. I'm looking forward to the re-booting of the global operating system, myself – hopefully, I'll be a part of it! If not, then I'm sure there's some big cruise ship in the sky that I can board and hang around the heavenly buffet for a millennium or two, or until I decide to come back down here on planet earth again for another tour of duty (laughing)! Either way, it's just another day in the life of planet earth, and happy to say I'm a resident – for the time being, anyway!

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