There are almost no words for how amazing I find Danielle. When I started researching her, at the suggestion of a bad ass chick I know online, I knew I had to talk to her. She is an independent music artist who heads the indie group Danielle LoPresti and the Masses. She is also Founder and President of Say It Records, co-founder of San Diego IndieFest, as well as co-founder of Indie by Design (trust me the list of accomplishments goes on and on). I should mention, though, that she is only 1/2 of a seriously badass duo. Her partner, in business and life, is Alicia Champion who is an accomplished Record Producer and owner of Durga Sound in San Diego. They are both incredibly awe inspiring and getting to talk to Danielle was a rejuvenating and amazing experience. I hope you love her as much as I do.
You’ve made no secret of staying Indie to preserve your voice. What are the pros and cons of staying Indie, as you see them?
When you do things independently, when you believe in it and are that passionate about it, you just find a way to make it work. You find will and energy when you didn’t know you had any more left. I can’t be more passionate about what indie is and what it offers people in terms of an option to manifest what they want in their life. It’s a great way to look at things instead of buying into an idea of what we have to do to make a living and make money. It’s not for everyone, because it does require a lot of sacrifice and time, but it’s an incredible possibility for people who have that drive.
When you surround yourself with other people who do it to, other people who believe in themselves, it is so powerful. Early on I was given the option to go with a major record label but they wanted to change who I was on a fundamental level, from my image, my voice, and the message I wanted to express. I wasn’t willing to do that. Staying Indie has allowed me to stay true to myself and my voice. That means more to me than being commercially acceptable.
We love the idea of IndieFest and celebrating independent artists! How has it grown since it started?
IndieFest is a labor of love that almost drove us crazy. Long days and dedication is the only way it ever came to fruition. We knew it could be fantastic, we knew it could be a huge event for independent artists, and we knew it wouldn’t happen without a lot of hard work. The amazing thing is that through the establishing and growing of San Diego IndieFest we were also going through the long and emotional process of adoption. They both culminated around the same time and we took a year off to be parents and to find ways to make Indie Fest sustainable. That’s the one problem; how to make our art sustainable in a way that we can be present with our art, our families, and our world.
One of the beautiful thing about IndieFest is that we have multiple stages and all different kinds of artists. You get a surging rock bad, hip hop, blue grass, and a singer songwriter. In the crowd you have all ages, colors, and sexual orientations. It’s an amazing melting pot. It’s so liberating to realize there is no age limit on being fulfilled creatively. We have branched out to feature independent documentaries and movies as well. Alicia wanted to kill me for adding another component to the festival but I told her I’d handle it. It felt so right to have them there. It’s impossible to walk away from IndieFest and not be inspired and moved. Everywhere you go there are people who have done it on their own. It’s amazing.
How have you seen the Indie music industry itself grow?
When I first became aware of Indie it had a bit of a negative connotation. You were often thought to be Indie because you weren’t good enough to make it on a major label. I think that’s starting to change. A lot of people still don’t understand Indie the way I wish they would; that it’s a great alternative for some people, but not because we lack talent. Indie artists are more relevant in movies, music, and other art forms. We are gaining commercial popularity. It’s kind of sad that our relevance is based on money but I’m still glad it is gaining credibility.
A lot of your songs are about topics like racism, sexism, abuse, and inequalities. It’s very raw. Are your songs ever taken the wrong way because they are so edgy?
I had a real gentleman in the music industry (a lot are assholes as seen in “Dear Mr. Penis Head”) who asked me why I was so angry. I thought it was the strangest question. I do take on topics that a lot of people may avoid but it’s because I feel they deserve attention. For example, “Say It” is about child molestation and walking through the fire to come out the other side self empowered. Isn’t it clear what I was upset about there? “Worthless” is about one of my cousins who was killed by her husband in a horrible act of domestic violence. Then there are songs like ”Call Me Sister” about racism and the history of injustice but how we can get beyond it and unite. Sure, there is anger in some of those songs but I don’t consider them angry songs. I see it as writing about topics that means something; fist in the air, carpe diem, and saying something meaningful.
I still see a lot of double standards when it comes to women speaking their mind being called “angry”. I rarely ever hear a man who expresses himself be called “angry”. I hope that changes one day. I want to see women stand up against that way of thinking and say what they want to say regardless of how others might take it. There is so much rampant sexism, I rub up against it constantly as a female musician. Even something as simple as a man going grey being seen as distinguished while a woman going grey is still not “sexy”. Look at what men call each other when they perceive the other as being weak. A pussy. Can you think of anything stronger or more important to mankind than the pussy? Mankind comes through the pussy! Why don’t we call them a ball sac? You barely touch those things and they wince in pain. I love women who say “Here I am. My body is beautiful. I am who I am and I won’t change.” I’m going to be a kick ass grey haired lady one day!
I’m dying to know, what do you see in the world today that is moving you to write?
Writing right now is so difficult. After 7 years in the adoption process being a first time mother is so important to me. Finding the time to write is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I am writing right now. I know I will be taking on rape, the definition of rape, and a woman’s right to choose abortion. I was floored by a piece covered by Rachel Maddow about a young woman reporter from Al Jazeera who asked Ohio State Representative Jim Buchy a simple follow up question. Buchy is against abortion unless it poses a health risk to the mother and when asked by the young woman why he thinks some women may want to have an abortion he had no answer. He stuttered a bit before saying, “I’m not a woman…A lot has to do with economics. I don’t know. I’ve never…it’s a question I have never thought about.”
Can you imagine a man taking such a strong stance on a topic he’s never thought about?! I want men to put themselves in a woman’s shoes before they try to make decisions for us. I feel emphatically that women have the right to govern all decisions about their own bodies, period. This goes WAY beyond abortion, pro/anti-choice, etc. It’s about the fact that there are men trying to pass laws about women’s bodies. Imagine what’d happen if women legislators were making laws about men’s bodies.
Danielle wanted to make one thing very clear at this point.
I am not a man hater. I love men. I just dislike the way some men think and treat women. I equally dislike some women and their treatment each other. I can’t stand to see women who view each other as competition, that tear each other down instead of seeing each other as our greatest resource. (We get that don’t we ladies!? It’s time to build one another up and cheer one another on!) It’s perpetuated by the media and reality television. They have people believing that women can’t be true team mates, honest friends, and supporters. It’s just not true. It makes me so sad to see women cater to their worst potential instead of their highest.
I had a great community in LA of people who supported one another. We would refer each other for gigs and encourage one another; it was magical. When I moved to San Diego I tried to reach out to a woman who was very successful in the area and we met for coffee. I explained that I was new in the area and I’d appreciate so much if she’d let me know about the scene; who to see and what to avoid. She said she couldn’t help me and that I had to figure that out on my own. I was just shocked. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down and said, “Take out a pen and paper and let me give you some ideas.” I still haven’t found a group like I had in LA here in San Deigo, yet. I’ll never stop looking for it though. Once you know how good it can be you’ll never stop looking for it. I know that supporting one another is our true nature as women. That is what the Sisterhood is all about. A success for you is a success for me. When one of us succeeds we raise the collective impression of all of us.
At the end of a fantastic conversation I asked Danielle just a few more things. What is your message to a woman who is at the tipping point of deciding to make her dreams come true? What is your encouragement to the women who read our magazine? Her answer made me teary eyed.
I have two things I think of immediately when you ask those questions. The first is to surround yourself by diversity. If you are having money issues, make sure you socialize with somebody who isn’t. If you surround yourself with people who are struggling with the same things as you, you tend to stay down. Make sure you are with people who thrive in areas you want to thrive in. Create a diverse community and feed off each other in the most positive way.
The second is to take a moment, close your eyes, and imagine yourself as an old woman. I mean, so old you could die any day. How do you want to feel? Do you want to feel, “Hot damn, I fucking did that! I may not have been perfect, or been world famous, but I did that thing that my heart and spirit were longing to do.”? Or do you want to go, “Well, I didn’t do it in this life but maybe I’ll do it in the next.” Either can be the right answer. Either can be your answer. Just ask yourself how you want to feel.
You have such an opportunity right now to make the most of your life. You have the chance to be appreciative of what time we do have left. It’s not too late to make changes or make a difference. Being thankful for the time you have and make the most of it so that when your time is up you can go with the knowledge that you made the most of your life.[signoff2]