If I had to name one woman who would always get straight to the brutal, yet truthful point, it would be Annie Danielewski, better known as Poe. Poe, an alternative singer/songwriter who enjoyed a massive hit in the mid-‘90s with “Angry Johnny,” is never afraid to speak her mind. The campers of GRAMMY Camp® were able to get a taste of that honesty during an evening Artist Story Panel. Before that discussion began, the five journalists at camp, including myself, were each able to ask her a question.
Question: Your name is Poe and I’m assuming you’re a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe. Are you in love with him?
Answer: I’m not in love with him seeing that he is dead and that would be a sad life to live. But no, my parents actually read me a story called “The Masque of the Red Death” when I was a little kid. When I was eight, I went to a costume party dressed as the plague. After that I called myself Poe and I was only eight so I thought everyone would get it. It was just friends of my parents, but the name Poe stuck. My mom’s friend called her up and said, “How’s Poe?” And then I embraced it. The next year at school they called me Annie and I said, “No, I prefer to go by Poe.”
Question: What are some childhood lessons that you apply to the music industry?
Answer: No matter what it costs, you always tell the truth. And it pays off in the end in everyway that’s important when it comes to making music and actually contributing as opposed to what people think who have guided you.
Question: How does it influence you working with different musicians?
Answer: If you pick something to do that you love there’s no greater influence than someone that’s better than you, someone that has knowledge that you don’t. I recently spent a lot of time with an upright player by the name of Dave Carpenter…he played with like Miles Davis. He’s one of those guys that’s so gracious that he would sit there and do blue scales with you for six hours -- total ultimate patience and kick your ass and tell you why you’re not hearing it, but never hurt your feelings. In my life there have been a number of those people, but there are very few who can challenge you without shutting you down; someone who pushes you further without challenging your faith in yourself. I’ve had a number of those musicians in my life that I’m constantly learning from. The beauty of music is the fact that you never really get good at it. Every time you sit down to play a chord you’re like “Why didn’t I hear that before?” Every song [you wonder] why isn’t it working? It’s this thing you have to crack and when you do it’s this monetary high for like 10 seconds and then the next ones brutal again, but it always teaches you something.
Question: What artists working today do you think deserve more appreciation?
Answer: The sad thing is that they're all people that you wouldn't have heard of. The greatest cello player in the world is a guy named Cameron Stone; he has an amazing voice as well. He plays cello like Hendrix played guitar. I kid you not. The guy grew up with two classical musician parents. You can sing something to him and he can write it down. When he hit age 16 he decided he needed to be a punk rocker so he starting improvising on his cello and got a big stack of Marshall pedals. The thing is he's one of those rare combinations of a guy who has the technique of a Yo-Yo Ma, but was able to let that go and dive into improvisation in the modern sense, and I actually want to make that guy's record. I'm a huge fan. He toured with us so I know him well. There's a guy named Darren Johnson who's a piano player, the guy's so gifted, it's insane. These are people you would not have heard of. Darren Johnson you probably would have heard, he's a big session player, he plays on everyone's records, and he's also a guy that plays with Miles. These guys write songs that are just mind blowing, I watch some of the things these guys go through as far as people trying to fit them into the industry or to do this or do that, but talent like that is timeless.