Danielle Egnew is a child of the 60s in the literal and most romantic sense. Born to whom she described as “hippie parents” in 1969 (two years after the idyllic Summer of Love), her musically-inclined mom and dad provided creativity all around her and self-expression was encouraged. From this sprang a healthy sense of self and an attractive confidence that draws much attention to this well-rounded female artist - a performer, writer, musician and actor all rolled into one beautiful package.
Egnew laughed out loud when she recalled how her mom and dad would incessantly play that 1970s children’s recording “Free To Be You And Me,” featuring Marlo Thomas. “It’s all about be yourself, and that we’re all equal,” Egnew said. “Obviously that wedged itself into my childhood psyche.”
Sitting in Cutter’s Point coffee shop on Sixth Avenue, her full head of thick hair cascading in long ringlets down her back, Egnew’s quietly charismatic vibe easily draws admiring glances. She looks like someone you would want to know, her warm and easy smile inviting and genuine. This is Egnew on stage as well. She does not just stand and sing; she puts on a show that is a joy to watch.
“I really enjoy interacting with the audience. I want people to have a good time at my shows.” She said she does not want everyone to feel like they have to sit there reverently enraptured with her every word. “I’m not there to be the omnipotent entertainment goddess. I want to party with my peeps.
“If you want to talk, talk. If you’re drunk, be drunk. That’s what my show is about.”
When Egnew was still a little girl, her dad joined the U.S. Army and it offered the family many opportunities to travel. Egnew lived in numerous different states by the time she was 4 years old, including Washington when her dad was stationed at Ft. Lewis for several years.
The family went through a significant change when Egnew was about 9 years old. “I had stereotypical ‘70s parents so they got divorced,” she laughed. She lived with her mom in Billings, Mont. until she graduated from high school, and her dad chose to live in the Puget Sound region.
On a full-ride musical theater scholarship, Egnew entered the University of Arizona. “What I really, seriously wanted to be was a film actress. That was my big aspiration. I went into college for acting and had all these scholarships for it, but I got a record deal and that took me off the acting track for many years.”
Between 1992-2008 Egnew released 14 albums: ambient meditative instrumental compilations on synthesizer, original solo singer/songwriter material, and albums with her pals in the internationally acclaimed indie band Pope Jane, which she helped form in 1995 and continues to produce for Tacoma record company Maurice the Fish Records, which is also Egnew’s label.
“Red Lodge” is her newest solo offering, an outstanding mix of everything she is about musically and personally told through deeply personal and poetic lyrics that speak to something in all of us. “I love it. I’m beaming,” she said about her new accomplishment. Egnew wrote every song on “Red Lodge” and played an astounding 23 different instruments for the album - various acoustic guitars, mandolin, violin, bass, keyboards, Chumash tribal drums, recorder flute, Tibetan bowls… not to mention finger snaps, lap slaps and beats on a cardboard box. Basically, she is a self-taught musician with a gifted ear for music and tonality and a natural ability to learn musical instruments. She also mixed and produced “Red Lodge,” among others in her extensive repertoire.
A clairvoyant who has worked at police crime scenes and with individual clients, Egnew said she possesses a well-developed sixth sense that she feels affects her music. “I honestly think that some of my sixth sense plays into that, because I feel like I have a built-in Google and I can type in ‘how do you play the violin?’” She is quite humbled by her psychic abilities, and is just now getting comfortable being open about that side of her life while she is talking music.
Egnew continues to produce albums for Maurice the Fish Records, including alt-swamp rock band Whiskey Roadshow Band, with whom she will perform Aug. 16 at McCormick Woods Golf Course. Those who were lucky enough to catch her performances last month at Tempest Lounge and Mandolin Cafe in Tacoma were treated to a memorable evening. It is clear why her songwriting abilities have led Egnew to pen numerous songs for artists like country great Alan Jackson.
Over the years, Egnew has gained a loyal following of fans particularly in lesbian and gay circles, as Egnew is part of these communities as well. Last year the editor of Curve Magazine, one of the nation’s top-selling publications for lesbian readers, named Egnew one of the “Ten Most Powerful Lesbians in Music” and “Most Likely to Turn You Into An Obsessed Fan.”
She is happy her record label makes her sexual orientation as much of a non-issue as she does. “Maurice the Fish is the first label I’ve ever been signed to that didn’t ask me to hide the fact that I’m gay,” Egnew said. “It’s a non-issue with them, and that’s extraordinary in entertainment.”
She has earned great respect from her recording industry peers as well. A voting member of the Grammy Recording Academy, Egnew was a three-time nominee in the All Access Music Awards (Best Overall Songwriter, Best Female Rock Vocalist) in 2007 and 2006, when she won Best Pop/Alternative Female Guitarist.
Her discography includes original film scores, including the soundtrack for the film “Changing Spots,” which has just been released to DVD (www.changingspotsmovie.com). In it, Egnew plays Peg Franklin, a former rock star who quits her music life to help her partner still struggling with an abusive childhood. Egnew has written numerous screenplays. Her “Imogene’s Waltz” is currently being marketed for production in Montana.
To keep up on what this busy, multi-talented artist is up to, check out www.danielleegnew.com.