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Volume18 #6

Ghost Whisperer
Montana Rocker Danielle Egnew sings, contacts ghosts,
and talks about her Va-Jay-Jay. What can't she do?

by Tania Himmidi

Danielle Egnew's music career hasn't been swinging at nothing since the Montana-raised songstress stepped into the limelight. From "kicking butt and taking names" with the all-girl band Pope Jane, to releasing her first acoustic album Red Lodge, the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter is a hugely talented musician. She came away with the Best Pop-Alternative Female Guitarist Award at the All Access Music Awards in 2006, and won Best Keyboard Player in Pop-Alternative-Glam in 2007.

So what are you excited about these days?

I am profoundly excited about the release of Red Lodge. I did everything on that album: bass, mandolin, violin, guitars, all the percussion.

It is different from the kind of music you've been putting out?

Yes, Pope Jane -- who are back in the saddle for Montana Pride this June, which is really exciting -- and Junkie Cousin were alt rock, heavily produced, lots of sounds. This album, Red Lodge, is the first album of an acoustic nature I have released. I love it.

The video for "Swinging At Nothing" is on MySpace. Tell me about that song.

The song has done really, really well. We shot that video about 10 miles out of my hometown, in Billings, Montana. The piano I played in it was the piano I grew up playing in my mother's house. It meant a lot to me.

It is a song about letting go, isn't it?

It is about having someone that is so dynamic in your life, that you just love to death, but you know they're not going to stick around. They tick backwards and you know that they eventually are going to be gone.You can't keep the shadow after the sun sets, so you just have to enjoy what you have.

What came first, women or music?

Women, at about 18. The music thing came at about 20. I was a musical theater major at the University of Arizona, and I couldn't figure out why I had such strong attractions to women in my theater company. Finally, some of the graduate students said to me, "Well, uh, it's because you're gay." I grew up very conservative in I said, "No I'm not, what do you mean?" But then one kiss and I was like, "Wow, OK, I'm queer."

One of your heroines is Annie Lennox.

I grew up listening to The Eurythmics. Annie Lennox is a Royal Academy of Music Graduate, and an exceptional composer, producer...she is an exemplary talent. I just saw her at Hugo's [in Los Angeles] six months ago, and I had my only big star-struck moment. She was walking by and she looked at me, smiled. I was thinking, that is the human being that formed who I am as a musican. I just started to cry.

You did Vagina Monologues with Jennifer Beals last year.

What an extraordinary experience. The Vagina Monologues is a body of work that is a phenominal healing tool. I did not know that until I got into it. Yes, Jennifer Beals is a very charismatic woman, highly intelligent.

You have a side career as a paranormal. Are there lesbian ghosts?

I have run into turn-of-the-century women who killed themselves, some of them because of sexuality issues. Some spirits who lived during what I call "religiously archaic times", like when homosexuality was forbidden, think they are going to go to hell. They bring that to me. So I have this conversation with them and say, "God is not going to spit on you, you can go, you can go."

So ghosts can't listen to NPR?

They don't. They are stuck in the last trauma that occurred. If you were taught that if you crossed the street, you were going to go to hell, then you'd never cross the street. And if I come from across the street and say, 'Hey, there's a great club over here, you should really come across the street [I can make change].So it is a matter of advocating.

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