Danielle Egnew Sees Red:
The Red Lodge Album
By Kelly Iverson
The word ďprodigyĒ should be reserved for
people who actually are prodigies, like Mozart, Prince, and
Danielle Egnew, because much like the others, Danielle Egnew is
the type of musical talent that only comes along once in a
generation. From scoring films to fronting band after band to
producing artists, her latest album,
Red Lodge is a
solo masterpiece deceptively packaged as a ďsolo acoustic
albumĒ, with tracks that include violin, mandolin, guitar, bass,
drums and percussion, Tibetan bowls and piano, all played by
Egnew, a two-time All Access Music Award recipient .
Red Lodge is a
complex personal diary, an emotionally explosive body of work
that is bound to be labeled as a musical staple next to Carole
Tapestry. A lonely
overtone reminiscent of an empty boxcar traveling through barren
Red Lodge is an Americana story crafted from heartache,
isolation and self-discovery.
Danielle, an acoustic solo album is usually something an artist
releases when they donít have a band to fill out their sound.
You have several bands, so what made you go in the acoustic
Danielle Egnew: Honestly, it was about getting out certain
songs that I absolutely loved, but that were more intimate
pieces. I mean, yeah, I play in a lot original full band
projects, but they just arenít the right platform for certain
There seems to be a commercial stigma around acoustic albums.
Were you ever afraid that all this effort youíve put into
Red Lodge would be
Oh, no, I wasnít. This album is all about reflection, and
everybody reflects, whether they admit it or not. This album is
all heart and all raw emotion. I didnít record this album from
the place of grooming it to be the next number one charting
record on Star 98 in
Los Angeles, although that would be cool!
Actually, Iíve had to really work to not produce the album like
I would my other projects that were rotated on radio. Donít get
me wrong, the album has plenty of cuts that could go radio
ready, but the album is much more about telling stories. Not
everything [musically] has to be framed up with a hip hop
backbeat in order to get people to listen.
video for your single
Swinging At Nothing is beautiful. The video was shot in your
hometown up in Montana?
DE: Thank you. Yeah, the video has gotten
great feedback, and you can see it online YouTube, MySpace,
Google, Metacafe and Yahoo. Did I forget somewhere? Probably.
Anyway, director Paul Mehlhaff, who is also one of my good
buddies, lives up in my hometown of Billings, Montana.
We shot the video in the house I grew up in, where my parents
live, and the piano in the video is the Steinway baby grand that
I grew up playing. So it was really a special project. Paul gave
a copy of the video to my mom in her mailbox, and my mom called
me up thrilled with it, and we were both so surprised that the
inside of the piano lid was so polished and shiny! The outside
of the piano has seen better days! (laughs)
looked through the tracks and I didnít see any reference to a
Red Lodge. Where did the title of the album come from?
Red Lodge is a tiny mountain town in
Montana, and one of my very favorite
places. Itís a sanctuary for me that I used to go to so I could
process big emotional issues in my life, and I named the album
after this place because the album is all about processing big
emotional issues. Red Lodge is an earthy town and an earthy
Stylistically as a writer and producer, you are known for very
full arrangements. What were you trying to accomplish with such
a departure from the musical style that you are recognized for?
I canít say Iím trying to accomplish anything in particular
except to put out these songs that are really powerful. I think
artists fall down repetitive rat holes of their own fear of
change. They think their audiences wonít evolve with them, and
sometimes, thatís true, but in this case, itís my first big solo
album, so thereís nothing to compare it to, and Iím not afraid
of change anyway, at least not artistically. But donít ask me to
give up my Rocky Road ice cream (laughs). I think it
would be weird for fans if this album came out under Pope Jane,
for sure, as thatís not the sound of the band.
But this album is actually very typical of stuff I do on
my own. Itís either this, or really humongous orchestrated alt
rock stuff. Yeah, true, I love a big sound canvass to work with.
I love to sculpt with sound, and the more, layers, the merrier.
But you can do that with acoustic albums as well. There are
songs on this album with 38 tracks in them, yet itís considered
acoustic. I think artists need to relax a little bit about their
song choices ands just record what really sounds good, no matter
what genre it ends up falling into. A good song is a good song.
Itís not rocket science, itís music.
Speaking of your big alternative rock material, I heard a rumor
that you scrapped half the material on
Red Lodge and started
over because it wasnít the right sound for your album. Is that
(laughs) No, itís only half true. I had some material that was
more mainstream pop and rock oriented that I had recorded
previously to Red Lodge, and I thought I would include it since
it was already done, but honestly, it just didnít fit and it
sounded really stupid together. I mean, really, really stupid.
I tried to squish them
all together, because some of these singles are tracks that have
been doing really well on digital download sites and I thought
Iíd give them an official album to land on, but it just sounded
like a train wreck, and I couldnít handle it. I tried to be less
anal about it, but it didnít work, so Iíll put them [the songs]
on their own rock album.
how many tracks did you scrap?
had to then write and record six other songs to finish your
DE: Well, some of the songs were already
written for the most part and I did write some brand new ones,
but yeah, I had to re-record. No biggie. Itís part of the job.
part of the job for you, someone who regularly puts out volumes
of material, but many artists would see this as a huge setback.
It certainly was a time set-back, but I truly couldnít deal with
the inconsistencies of the feeling tone of the album. Iíd rather
be four months behind in releasing a great album than putting
out something that sounds like a K-Tel sampler (laughs).
right about the fact that one of the tracks on the album,
Hey Sadie, is about a
woman who kills herself by running in front of a train?
Oh geez, it sounds terrible when I hear you say it like that.
Yes, itís true, it is about a girl who runs in front of a train
and kills herself.
never say why she killed herself. I have to ask, what made Sadie
I almost donít want to say, because when someone takes their own
life, the people left behind often times donít know why they did
it. Theyíre just left with the hollowness of what happened and
the song is about the hollowness.
did you have a reason that Sadie killed herself?
Well, in my mind, Sadie lives in a small town in
called Havre. Itís a real town, right up North by Canada. Sadie killed herself because
she fell deeply in love with another girl, and had no way to
express this love on the real world, and knew the love would
never come to fruition in her environment, so rather than live
an empty life without that love, she chose death.
Thatís not what I expected. Where would you get the inspiration
for such a dramatic statement?
(Pause) I think everyone has something they wish they could
have, but they canít have it, whether itís a person, a place to
live, a different job. Iím from Montana, and right next door is Wyoming, the state where Matthew Shepard was
bludgeoned to death, and I know quite a few people who have not
lived the way they wanted to live because they were afraid of
the sociological consequences. Itís really sad, but it still
you think that now, with this public knowledge of what the song
is about, that it could inspire people to be who they really are
rather than suffer in silence?
Well I hope so. I havenít really thought about it, as I wasnít
really intending on tipping why Sadie killed herself. But now
that itís out there, I would hope that people would just be who
they are, and be happy. No emotional pain is worth dying for, no
matter how suffocating it feels. As they say, itís a permanent
solution to a temporary problem. But the song is really about
hopelessness, and unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of that
in people that push them towards drastic measures. Everything
has a solution, and if you want long enough, the emotional
weather will change, so hang in there!
completely juxtaposed note, your song
Me Me Mine Mine
My is an upbeat
country song reprimanding selfishness:
Me, Me, Mine Mine My / You
donít know why you even try / Lordy if thatís the best that you
can do / Then go ahead and lay down and die / And give us all a
break for awhile / Iíve
got news, it ainít all about you.
What inspired such a point-blank message?
I work in entertainment! (laughing) Seriously, where Iím from Montana, weíre a
pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps culture, and I canít deal
with self-indulgent, whiny people who cry foul all the time when
they bring a lot of their own misery on themselves, or they
could be using that energy for positive change in their life.
Iím all for being supportive and understanding, because we all
get disappointed sometimes, but so many people just play victim
and whine and cry, instead of doing something productive to
better their lives. In Los Angeles, there are a
lot of unhappy artists, and you hear a lot of whining and
blaming about why theyíre not where they wanted to be, and it
just gets old. Weíre living in an age where the polar icecaps
are melting, where laying blame is the new black, where the
country is completely broke and mainstream news reports here in
L.A. include tips on how to live on a budget, and people still
find time to drift around and wallow in their own self-pity
because someone isnít patting their head and telling them
theyíre fabulous enough. I just find that kind of emotional
self-indulgence really pathetic during a time when people really
need to be reaching inside of themselves and pulling their inner
strengths forward for the betterment of the world, the country,
their neighborhoods, their families, their jobs. Like I said,
Iím all for being supportive when someone is having a bad day,
but there is such thing as being an enabler when someone really
needs to buck up, and I think that enabling is creepy.
read some of your other interviews and you come across as a very
positive person. After listening to
Red Lodge, I can
easily see your dark side. What do you have to say to your fans
that are used to a more upbeat Danielle Egnew?
I would say that Iím
human, just like they are, and sometimes it rains in my corner
of the world just like everybody elseís.
the dark overtones in Red Lodge a marketing decision, to angle
the album toward more edgy subjects?
Absolutely not. This album just poured out of me, and itís where
I was at, at the time. Itís some of the most raw work Iíve done
in a long time. Well, content wise anyway.
must confess that your song
Erased is the most
heart-wrenching ballad Iíve ever heard. It was almost
uncomfortable to listen to. Are you concerned as an artist that
this album will be too exposing?
Exposing? Like, as in, people will know what I really feel like
or think? No, Iím not worried about any of that, because I think
that makes for a great song, but then again, I donít think I see
the album as being nearly as dark as you do.
not dark, what would you call it?
Iíd say itís just emotionally involved in places. But Iím not
sure I think of that involvement as dark. To me, dark is like
Marilyn Manson, or Type O Negative, or any of that growly grind
core where theyíre eating body parts on stage as part of the
think most people would classify that type of stage show as
theatrics, and a woman choosing to be run down by a train as
Oh. Really? Okay. Well, then I guess by your definition, the
album is kind of dark. But I still think Marilyn Manson is
scarier than I am.
you self-identify as an intense writer?
UmÖI guess not in that respect. I mean, IĎve been told that
before, so I guess thereís some truth to it.
label seems to make you nervous.
(Pause) Nervous? IÖwell, no, not really nervous. I mean, okay,
maybe a little, because Iím repeating you like a parrot, and
that doesnít sound very intelligent, now, does it? Hereís the
deal, itís just weird when people see something in you all the
time that you donít see yourself. I hear this intensity thing a
lot, and I donít see myself as predominantly intense per se, but
I keep hearing about it, so unless everybodyís lying, it must be
do you see yourself?
Well, I see myself as maybe thorough, or maybe hyper-focused or
overly detail oriented sometimes. Maybe a little overly-scrutinous?
Is that even a word? I can get intense sometimes, but I think
anyone with any semblance of grey matter and a decent sense of
passion can be intense sometimes, and I think the word gets
over-used in artistic circles, so maybe thatís my hang-up with
it. We all know that one Emo girl who walks in and sheís wearing
all black, and her whole identity is that Ďone intense artist
chickí, and I know a million of those girls, and I just donít
see myself like that. I donít think theyíd see me like that,
either! (laughs) Mostly I see myself as rather dorky, and
Dorky? I donít think your fans would agree.
Well God bless their hearts! Iíve got the best fans on the
lyrics often times go uncommented on in the shadow of your music
and your spectacular voice, yet your lyrical poetry has always
been some of the best out there. What is your process for
choosing the words to your songs?
Oh, thanks! I love lyrics. Actually,
there really isnít much of a process, they more or less just
pop out with the music. Like a lot of artists, I write when I
really have something on my mind or my heart that I need to work
though, and I do have a bit of an obsessive compulsive need to
have the lyrics metered. I could never write lyrics like Alanis
Morisette who does a lot of off-cadence and off-stress
pronunciations in order to make the words work the melody line.
I have a natural attraction to internal rhymes and allegories,
and thatís a big part of my writing style. I do have a really
wonky sense of humor, too, and that comes out in my more country
/ Americana stuff.
Danielle, thank you for talking to me today, and I think
Red Lodge is
Well thank you so much, and thank you for having me! And stay
off the railroad tracks (laughs).
Danielle Egnew is a gifted musical
artist, producer, actress, writer, and radio host. To learn more
about Danielleís latest music, video, film and TV projects,
visit her official website