singer names new album after Red Lodge
By Alastair Baker
Egnew, once of Billings now L.A., has named her latest
album 'Red Lodge' in honor of the town she misses "something
fierce." Red Lodge, said Egnew, is a place that has
always "represented utter freedom to me."
became," she added "a place where I could go
and feel complete abandon, outside the pressures of my
everyday life which, at the time, was in Billings."
Lodge also represents the emotional quiet I used to feel
when I would go up to the Beartooths and wander off into
the woods, and it's in that 'quiet' that everything in
your head comes to the surface -- your fears, your hopes,
your pains -- it all comes out and looks you in the face,
when you're by yourself in the wilderness," said
admits to having some deep emotional issues that Red Lodge
helped to check and the new album is named after the town
because all the songs off it reflect this state of mind.
sounds a lot more pretentious than it's meant to! In essence,
I carry a piece of the freedom of Red Lodge with me all
the time, living here in Los Angeles, where a person can
literally be hemmed in and trapped by the five o' clock
traffic and 30 million other people in the surrounding
areas! I'm a Montana girl -- I don't like to be fenced
in! It's during those times that I turn to the town inside
of me, or I'll have a claustrophobic meltdown! Red Lodge,
as an album, very stripped down and acoustically driven,
production wise -- I usually have extremely big arrangements
on my albums, but Red Lodge is very earthy in how it is
put together -- just like the town."
has many fond memories of the area, taking in a weekend
at the Pollard with her "honey" before topping
up the days "with a romantic dinner at Bridge Creek
-- the old location, before it moved to the mainstreet
-- man, the salmon melted in your mouth."
"That coupled with the mountain air -- there was
remembers Red Lodge also for its laid back artistic aura.
my former band Pope Jane was going strong, I used to play
music solo, Sunday afternoons, in the front window of
the Snow Creek Saloon. I would drive up from Billings
and Carl Jr. would set me up with a hot Toddy, and I'd
plug in my acoustic Marshall amp, my guitar and my mic,
and play for a couple of hours. It was actually blissful
-- the wood stove popping -- it was the best gig ever.
I loved those Sunday gigs."
a child Egnew recalled hanging out with her grandparents
to fish, and play in Rock Creek. "My grandpa would
always insists that we get the fresh baked French bread
for our picnics, and we'd always hit the candy store for
snacks on our camping trips, which were up around Greenough
Lake or Limber Pine. Geez, I loved that bread! The crust
not much of a skier by her own admission, she remembers
sledding "our fool heads off."
activity, of course, was always topped off by the reward
of piping hot Bogart's Pizza."
chosen profession had a perfect lift-off because both
her parents were involved with music. "My dad has
an incredible tenor voice and he plays guitar, and my
mom has a voice that would blow Julie Andrews out of the
water, and she plays piano."
folks used to listen to a lot of old musicals on vinyl.
So that's really present in my song writing -- big vocals
and a lot of orchestration. That's not to mention the
Italian arias that we used to sing around the piano at
family gatherings. I had a lot of classical music in my
upbringing, with my parents 'Time Life Collection' of
all the classical masters on vinyl -- more so classical
and musicals than rock and roll, really. Also, musically,
my folks spun a lot of Beatles and Cat Stevens and John
Denver, so I grew up on incredibly strong melody lines
and deep-rooted hooks."
Egnew is a self-confessed Eurythmics nut. "Annie
Lennox is an amazing vocalist and musician, and Dave Stewart
is an incredible songwriter and producer."
surrounded by music from all sides growing up it is not
surprising to learn that Egnew's first public performance
was singing with her parents in front of a crowd at the
age of two.
Theater was also as much an influence as music and Egnew
threw herself in to script writing at an early age because
"there wasn't much else to do."
started acting in children's theater -- I'll never forget
-- my Granny and Grandpa Charlie enrolled me in The Rainbow
Children's Theater in Billings -- and I just went nuts
from there! I always loved performing. I find it really
freeing. I did a lot of theater in junior high and high
school, won three state competitive drama championships,
then got two full-ride scholarships to The University
of Arizona in Tucson for Musical Theater, and The Montana
State University - Billings for Theater. From there, I
went on and got a record deal from a smaller regional
label in Seattle during the Grunge boom, and when my contract
was fulfilled, I moved back to Montana with then Pope
Jane drummer Kristen Coyner, and we started the band out
of Billings, with bassist Holly Hoagland Shawver. The
rest is history."
asked what the philosophy was behind Pope Jane, Egnew
(Laughs) "Well, the philosophy at the time was, 'Let's
do something that no one else has done, and everybody
says is impossible!'"
Pope Jane was an all-female band launching out of Billings
in 1994, and we played all original music... I was told
by everyone who played the Montana circuit that no one
would book an all-original band because people wanted
to hear covers."
to her independent self Egnew didn't buy that reasoning.
"I was playing to some really big crowds out in Seattle,
and saw that people really dug originals. So I called
up these clubs all throughout Montana, and told them that
we were an all female band, and that we played all originals,
all night -- four sets of all original music from 9:30
p.m. until 1:30 a.m., just like a cover band -- but that
their patrons would love us because we would be the only
all-female gig in town."
ploy worked and Pope Jane had booking after booking even
filling up venues in Wyoming. "We would make up really
great show posters and send them to club ahead of time
-- something other bands in the area weren't really doing
at the time -- and we'd get paid great cash for the weekend,
just like a cover band would -- all for playing our own
music and selling our own CD's! Pope Jane was really a
magical band that hit at the exact right time."
side to Egnew is that she is "heavily into Gay Activism"
but strictly from a human rights standpoint and "not
to 'shove the lifestyle down people's throats', as I have
fact, it's to simply educate people. I get a belly chuckle
when I hear people say, 'Gay lifestyle" -- I wonder
-- what exactly IS that? I am a gay woman. My "gay
lifestyle" consists of paying my taxes, going to
the grocery store, singing with my mom and aunt in the
church choir, decorating my Christmas tree, calling my
dad and BSing about semi-boring daily stuff, bickering
with my partner occasionally about how the money is spent
-- really, it sounds like most everybody in Montana is
also living my 'Gay Lifestyle' (Laughs)."
was born gay she says but that "it's like having
brown or blue eyes."
not something you choose. Heck, with all the bigotry out
there towards gays and lesbians, who in their right mind
would choose that life? So the legal bigotry against gays
and lesbians, especially in the area of marriage, is just
unconstitutional, clean and simple. If there were laws
enacted against only people with brown eyes, we would
find those laws unconstitutional and prejudicial. But
because there is so much religious ta-do that has been
attached to being gay, it's become the last acceptable
sociological demon, and that demon is in place solely
through fear and a lack of education."
that there is more and more acceptance towards gay couples.
"I'm glad to hear that there is a growing acceptance
towards gays in Red Lodge -- I would hope so. Red Lodge
has always been very kind to me, and though in my everyday
life I don't shout through a bullhorn that I'm gay, the
folks who have asked I have been honest with. And my favorite
response in Red Lodge was from a gentleman wearing a Harley
dew rag in the Snow Creek Saloon. He asked me out, and
I thanked him, but told him I had a girlfriend. He said,
'So what, are you a lesbian?' I said 'yes', and he took
a sip of his beer. He finally looked back at me and said,
'Me too. Bartender -- a beer for my fellow lesbian.'"
a final note, Egnew is asked who her heroes are and immediately
she says her family. After her parents divorced, her grandparents,
Grammy Pinkie and Grandpa Louie, and Granny and Grandpa
Charlie "dived right in" to help her, teaching
her "what it was to put another person before yourself,
and how to honor your word, and that if you work hard
enough, anything is possible."
miss them very much -- but I'm really glad I still have
my parents around. My mom is now retired after 25 years
with an abundant and successful career in teaching in
Billings, my step dad (who I call my pop) is almost retired
as a teacher, and plays mandolin in many bands around
Billings including the Long Time Lonesome Dogs. My dad
is in New Zealand as a Fulbright Scholar assessing cutting
edge medical training techniques in the area of death
and dying, and his wife is a doctor who is also practicing
medicine in New Zealand for the next six months."
family are my heroes," she said.