Afterward, the six-year-old Danielle found her mother and, with difficulty, explained what had happened to her. Even though she begged her mother not to say anything, Danielle's dad was promptly told. "I have a recollection that my dad, who was and still is a huge tree of a man, a tough-ass Sicilian fisherman who has a total reputation for being a ball-smasher of a guy, walked over there and had a little talk with Kenneth -- that was his name, and I have hated that name ever since." Danielle doesn't know what became of the boy and can't remember ever seeing him again.
"Say It" earned a nomination in 2000 for a Los Angeles Music Award in the "Best Female Singer/Songwriter" category. The awards ceremony, which takes place in Hollywood, was held at the House of Blues. Producers of the show dubbed Danielle the "Say It Girl." "The saddest and sickest part of that whole thing is that they found the song sexy," Danielle says. When the producers called to inform her of her nomination, they gushed about how provocative her song was. "All they listened to was the tone of my voice, like that whisper-talk tone right up close on the mike; they didn't even pay attention to the story." Danielle informed them that the song was about child molestation and abuse, and one of the producers said, "Girl, I just want to hear your voice whispering to me, I don't care what the song's about."
The producers referred Danielle to Todd Cooper, an attorney known for brokering the best deals. They told her, "Listen, your stuff is so hot all you need is this guy on your side and all speculation will go away and you will be signed." Danielle never met the man face to face, but he was the inspiration for the song she would pen after their first and only phone conversation, called "Dear Mr. Penishead."
The attorney listened to Danielle's CD. Then he called her at her home in Van Nuys and asked, "Can I be straight with you?" His next words stopped her: "Quit music." He continued, "You're an attractive woman, you seem to be reasonably intelligent, so quit music and find something else that you're really good at, now, while you still can." Danielle tried to end the conversation, but he cut her off and launched into a 20-minute diatribe.
In her song, "Mr. Penishead," Danielle sings: "It was so kind of you to take 20 of your very busy minutes to tell me what you could have said in 2. All that expert advice, are you sure there's no charge? 'Cause when I write it out the list is so large."
Now, as she remembers the phone call, Danielle sounds irritated. "It takes less than two minutes to tell an artist, 'Listened to your music, hate it, thank you very much.' But he just went on and on. He said, 'You're writing adult music. And there's no market for that. Teenagers are the ones who move the units. The business of music has nothing to do with music, nothing. It has to do with one thing and one thing only -- money. Hear me and hear me good. Your music will not sell units. If you are writing music that does not appeal to teenagers, which is what you're doing, you are wasting your time and you are wasting my time. You cannot be pretty. You have to be gorgeous. You cannot be smart. You have to be genius. You have to be the most amazing, incredible, awe-inspiring creature to have walked planet Earth in order to make it in this business.' "
Danielle called a friend. "I told him about the whole thing, and I told him, 'I am so mad that I feel like killing somebody or something or myself. I want to break something, I want to hurt something!' These are the broken-record responses that you hear from the A&R people -- you're not thin enough, or sexy enough, or coquettish enough, 'You don't fit the image,' and 'Your style is too diverse; you need to be all angry or all sad, all poppy or all sexy."
The Start of Something Good
In 2001, Danielle started her own label, Say It Records. "When it's all told, to establish the record company and get the first real quality piece of music done, it was about $20,000." She funded the project with her savings. To get started, Danielle read All You Need to Know about the Music Business, by Donald S. Passman, and obtained a DBA, or "doing business as," for the name Say It Records. She then acquired a post-office box and hired someone to help create a website, all of which cost around $800 and "a lot of time and energy." Fifteen thousand dollars went to three producers. "You write a song and bring them your chords and your lyrics and melody, and producers make it sound gorgeous by adding organ and a kick-ass drumbeat and arranging it and so on. Basically, the song comes naked, and they dress the song," Danielle explains. The last step of creating a record is called "mastering," which cost Danielle $1000. Finally, it cost $2000 to reproduce the CDs, not including $500 that went to a man named Xavier for art direction.
Once her label was set up, Danielle moved back to San Diego. On September 28, 2003, while playing a gig at the San Diego Dyke March, she met Alicia, who was also booked to perform. Danielle watched Alicia's set and asked for her contact information. A few months later, she called Alicia (who was still living in Los Angeles) and asked if she wanted to come down to San Diego and audition for Danielle's new band, Danielle LoPresti and the Masses. Alicia agreed and arrived to the audition prepared. "She had every song I had sent her memorized and played without a note in front of her," Danielle says.
In March 2004, Alicia, Danielle, and Kelly Bowen (who had been playing with Danielle since she was referred by a friend in 2001) produced a show in celebration of Women's History Month. Because it was a positive experience, they decided to produce another event, one that focused on independent music. They scheduled the event for November of that same year. A small team was established. It included Alicia, Danielle, Kelly, an artist's manager, and two old college friends of Alicia's who were still living in Los Angeles.
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