A Day Drinking Exclusive Webisode, Chatting With Glyn Johns, Sam Llanas and Debra Fine, Plus a Premiere by The Cush

Debra Fine: Nobody told me how difficult it was to do these things, so we closed on money, we were off and running and putting out products and they were doing well and then the whole CD-ROM market went from $49 for a CD-ROM to about 10 cents.
11/12/2014 12:01 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

DAY DRINKING - "DUMPED OR FIRED"

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photo credit: Ben Sherman

According to the Day Drinkers...

"Have you heard the one about the radio DJ who walks into a bar...at 9am...on a Monday? Welcome to Day Drinking, a new comedic web series that follows a mismatched group of friends who work the graveyard shift while we sleep, and then drink together at an early-morning bar while the rest of us are sipping our lattes."

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A Conversation Glyn Johns

Mike Ragogna: Glyn, you are associated with so many iconic albums and classic recording acts over the years. What was your reaction to their critical and commercial successes at the time of their release?

Glyn Johns: Well, obviously, I was very pleased! [laughs] Listen, the whole thing was a roller coaster ride, to be honest. I didn't really have time to stop and reflect on anything because by the time something I had made was released and became successful I was already two or three projects down the road. I just never stopped working, I worked very hard. Then all of a sudden you'd hear that the record you had made six months previously was successful and then you were obviously a bit thrilled by it. It was wonderful, it was very exciting, of course, but to be honest if you're a producer the thrill really comes when you're actually making the record. Once it leaves your hands and it's turned over to the record company and released, it's in other people's hands. I tend to let go then because there's nothing more I can do, if you know what I mean.

MR: Many classic bands can thank your guidance for their sound. Were you aware as you were working with these acts and these projects that you were creating something significant?

GJ: Yes. At the time you feel it's tremendously significant, yes. The Who and The Eagles stuff, absolutely. Early Kinks records that I was the engineer for, early Rolling Stones stuff, yes, you felt you were involved with something really special. But at the time, you're the only person who's heard it, so you can have that feeling but you don't know it's going to happen because you only find out in the fullness of time whether other people have the same opinion as you.

MR: Did you feel that one of your responsibilities or roles as producer was to make the act evolve?

GJ: That's quite a difficult question to answer simply. The simple answer is, "Yes, of course," but no two artists have the same requirements and some need more input on that level than others. I tell you what; the simplest way of answering that question is that as I've always worked with self-contained artists who wrote their own material, I've always seen that while making an album with that individual or band, my responsibility was to help represent where that artist was at that given moment in time. As each next album came along, there may well be conversations that were had whereby I might make a suggestion to leave one aspect of what they were doing behind slightly and try to develop something else. But invariably, that came from the artists rather than me.

MR: Could it be argued that Who's Next needed to have Glyn Johns working on that project because of the chemistry, the vision that got enhanced by this particular configuration?

GJ: It's impossible for me to answer that, to be honest with you. Clearly, the combination of everybody there created the end result that everybody got to hear, and who the hell knows what would've happened if it had been done without any one of us--It would've been different of course, but it's difficult to say in what respect. I didn't actually notice when I went in the studio with them that they had made one previous attempt at making Who's Next prior to my involvement with their old producer Kit Lambert. It would be very egotistical of me to say, "Oh, without me it wouldn't have been anything like it was." That's for someone else to say, not for me.

MR: What inspired you to go down the path of being an audio engineer?

GJ: The fact is that I had no aspiration to be a recording engineer when I left school. I didn't know what a recording engineer was. I fell into the opportunity of getting a job at a recording studio as a quirk of fate which was described quite clearly in the book. I saw it a great opportunity because my hobby like a lot of people my age then was music. I taught myself to play the guitar and I had written the odd song and I was in a cover band that went round and played but that was just for fun. I'd never ever considered it to be anything to do with a profession. Having got the opportunity of being offered a job at a recording studio, I was fascinated by that, knowing absolutely nothing. It was like landing on the moon, I knew nothing about recording and had no aspirations of anything to do with it. So having been given this opportunity I grabbed it with both hands thinking it would be a fascinating thing to learn about. As it transpired, through another complete quirk of fate, having got the job in the studio, I found that I ended up being not bad as a sound recording engineer. I took to it really well. However, the initial phase of me working in that studio I saw as getting my foot in the door to being discovered as a singer. I didn't imagine that I was going to become a recording engineer particularly. I was using the process to meet people in the industry and hoping to get discovered as a singer, which eventually I was, and that was a grand failure. But in that process it became apparent that I was okay as an engineer, so that was the obvious thing to continue doing.

MR: You have some great Beatles stories. Care to share any of those?

GJ: They're all quite memorable, it was a fascinating experience having never worked with them in those circumstances before. I'd never been close to them, I didn't really know them at all prior to that. But the fascinating thing about it was being part of and watching them play as a four-piece band live, in the raw, as against what they had become incredibly famous from--brilliantly produced records with everything but the kitchen sink on. Here they were playing as they had played in the German clubs when they were getting started, no overdubs, just the four of them playing and singing. That was pretty extraordinary to see. I was in awe of them just as much as everyone else when I walked in the door on the first session. I had been used to working with very established acts. I had worked with The Stones for fifteen years before that, but they were still on a huge pedestal. As far as incidents that were memorable but not slightly "informative" to the press--as I state in the book, I'm not prepared to give that up--I've seen all kinds of stuff go on in the studio that I'd never talk about, and that's part of the job. There has to be a client relationship that's trustworthy and I think that's what I've always adhered to and always will.

MR: You were at the middle of some of the most important periods for some of these artists you've worked with. Did you ever feel like you were in the right place at the right time?

GJ: Listen, there's a massive element of luck and good fortune throughout my career without any question. I don't know that that's different from anyone else, really. Certainly in the recording business, if you have a degree of success with two or three really big acts that sell well, other people who require the services of what you do will notice you and seek you out. One thing led to another and I guess that's no different from actors or directors in movies. It's the same story, really. Success, hopefully, breeds success.

MR: Recording in the beginning versus recording now, what are some of the major things that have changed for you as a producer or engineer?

GJ: Well, to be honest, Mike, there are very few differences, based on the fact that the people who would seek me out to work with them now know that I haven't really changed my modus operandi at all. I still record rather boringly using the same methods that I always did, because I actually despise most of the way technology's gone now. I don't appreciate it at all. There have been rare occasions where I've had to use Pro Tools or whatever, but I honestly don't care for it at all. I don't like what it does, I don't like the sound of it, I don't like looking at a screen when I'm recording and looking at the music on a graph. It's got absolutely nothing to do with it to me and it isn't the way I work and it isn't anything I want to have anything to do with. Anybody who works with me knows that and they're actually seeking what I bring to the project from the past. And hopefully they benefit from it. That's the idea, I guess. The thing is that there's a simplicity about the way I've always worked which hopefully is holding true today. There are still a few people who want that, and also the quality of sound that you get if you record analog, which I still do--although it ends up digitally reproduced in the home. The fact that it's being recorded analog in the first place does make a tremendous difference.

MR: Do you keep it analog until the very last moment? Even in the mastering process?

GJ: Yes. It leaves me on tape and goes through the mastering process where it is transferred to digital.

MR: Got to love the warmth of analog.

GJ: I think digital is too synthesized for me. It's too primitive.

MR: But there is a certain precision you can apply with digital that you can't apply as easily with analog.

GJ: Of course, you can edit tape, you can edit between tapes, and because that's how I've been brought up. That's quite legitimate. To dissect performances in the manner that you're now able to do and to take a beat and move it or to take a notes and change the pitch of it, et cetera... Listen, a lot of people are really clever at that and the net results they make are astonishing and I'm sounding like a boring old fart here by criticizing it. Astonishing stuff has been done, and of course, there's a place for it. Things have to move on and everything is moving on, but if you're asking me what I like, what I like is the performance of a piece of music by a group of people and the interaction of them while they're playing it. It is literally their performance that you're trying to capture. It's very interesting, I don't know if I said this in the book, I can't remember or not, but recording equipment was originally designed to capture the performance of a piece of music. Now it has got to such a state that it now influences the way it's played beyond belief and actually in my opinion invariably to its detriment. Not only the way it's played, but the way it's written, as well. I think it's rather sad. Listen, there's room for everything, of course there is, but I just hope that what I'm about to leave behind doesn't disappear altogether.

MR: One of the funniest things that I think has happened as a result, to what you're describing, is when singers try to vocally imitate pitch correction machines.

GJ: [laughs] The interesting thing is that if so many things are lying flat or sharp or out of tune somebody will spend God knows how long retuning it when it would be far simpler to get the guy to sing the bloody thing again. You'd do it in twenty seconds! "Oh, no, no, no, we have to be clever and use all this equipment." No, bollocks! Get the guy to sing it again!

MR: Is it a sad parting when a group moves on and you see what they've "done" to their careers and recordings after you?

GJ: [laughs] Ooh, trick question. Okay. Invariably it has been a sad parting, however I very quickly came to realize early on in my career that that is only to be expected. Very often, in fact invariably, I think the artists that have moved on from me have benefited tremendously and gone on to have even more success and that's completely brilliant. I wish everyone really good luck when they go. I think it can get too comfortable in a relationship if you make too many records with people. And equally I learned very early on not to expect there to be the same kind of loyalty that you would expect in a friendship necessarily. An artist has got their career to consider, and very often--And understandably--My rotors run out and they need the input from someone else to turn in something fresh or to change directions slightly or whatever else. I've always understood that. I learned it very early on, let's put it like that.

MR: But in some respects, I imagine for every producer, it's like letting your child move on.

GJ: I suppose so. I was really upset when Joan Armatrading decided to move on, for example. I was so proud of the records that I made with her. She is an astonishing talent, and in fact she did exactly the right thing. She moved on and the next album that she made was far more successful than the records I'd made with her prior to that. I don't personally think it was as good but it was commercially more successful. Listen, it's a business, she was looking for more success and she got it and I think that's great. It's the same with The Eagles. When The Eagles moved on, there was a disagreement with the direction that I wanted to continue with them on and what Glenn Frey wanted. As I say in the book, I don't blame him at all. He did what he felt was necessary. He felt I was holding him back in some way, so they went on and had tremendous success and they didn't need me at all. They needed me like a bloody hole in the head. Again, I'm terribly proud of the records I made with them and I think hopefully I was instrumental in some degree to the success they had later because they had a sort of springboard to jump off of, if you know what I mean.

MR: By the way, speaking of Joan Armatrading, "Down To Zero" is one of my favorite recordings of all time.

GJ: It's good, isn't it? That woman is absolutely remarkable. She was like a breath of fresh air. That's not the right phrase, but it'll do for the moment. When I first discovered her, she took me down a musical road that I had no idea that I could even identify with. Fortunately for both of us, not only did I identify with it, I was able to help in some small way. But I learned a tremendous amount from working with her. She's an exceptional musician. She's a great guitar player, never mind about a wonderful singer and songwriter.

MR: I always felt it was more important for her to get the emotion out as opposed to an overemphasis on structure.

GJ: Maybe that's it. I've never considered it, I just think the whole package, certainly the stuff I did with her, was pretty amazing. To be around somebody as stimulating as she was brings out the best in me without any question at all.

MR: Glyn, what advice do you have for new artists?

GJ: [laughs] I'm the wrong person to ask that! The reason is quite simple: I'm so detached from the industry now that I really don't know what's going on or how it goes on anymore. The more I hear, usually from my son, the less enchanted I am with the idea of having anything to do with it at all. Listen, I love making records, don't misunderstand me, I still love it as much as I did the day I entered a studio for the first time. It's just the biggest buzz, and I will never admit to being retired, I have no intention of retiring and I'll keel over in the middle of a mix, probably. I've constantly got my ear to the ground for something else to do, so don't misunderstand me.

MR: But there are still basics.

GJ: I don't think the basics that I know apply anymore. I really don't! There's a kid in England who's just got discovered--I don't even know what his name is, my wife told me about him. He was a busker, he was sleeping rough and busking in underground stations in London and he's now the biggest-selling artist in the United Kingdom. How the hell that happened I've got no idea, but the fact that that can still happen is fantastic. Whoopie, good luck to him. I think it's great but I've no idea how he achieved it. For years now, record companies have signed artists and before the ink's dry on the contract they want to change him into something else. "Sorry, you're not really what we want, this is what we want you to be." That's just ridiculous! Why hire him in the first place? They start making a record and they go, "Oh, we don't like this." Well fuck off then. It's just mind-boggling. That's the thing now, A&R men seem to interfere tremendously with the production process. I was really lucky, I didn't have any of that. I hardly knew any A&R men and the acts that I worked with had little or no relationship with their record companies at all and the record companies were quite pleased to get the end results delivered to them and that was it. I didn't have any interference at all, but it's increasingly the case now it would seem that A&R people interfere with the process. I don't want to be told by some twelve year-old how to make a record. I'd rather go and mow the lawn. It's as simple as that. I couldn't possibly give a youngster any advice now on how to proceed if they haven't got a record deal or anything. I wouldn't know where to begin. I might try and persuade him not to bother! That's horrible, isn't it? Very sad.

MR: What are you looking at for the future?

GJ: I've been working on this book for quite a long time to the exclusion of everything else. It is my intention in the new year, when this is all dead and buried and forgotten about, to concentrate on going back and finding something else to do. There's a couple of things brewing now which are really appealing, neither of which I can talk about because it's early days, but they're very exciting and I can't wait to come back into the studio. Simple as that, really.

MR: Since you're associated with so many iconic acts and albums, do you have a favorite recording?

GJ: No. I get asked that all the time and the answer is there are so many that there isn't just one. As you can imagine, there's lots and lots. I could give you a few if that's good for you.

MR: Please!

GJ: Okay. You could start with "All Day And All Of The Night" by The Kinks. That parted my hair and blew my socks off and I knew that I was witnessing something pretty special. I could go on for hours here. There's Stones stuff I did that I knew was absolutely extraordinary. The first Led Zeppelin album, I'd never heard anything like that. I'd known Jimmy since I was a kid and I had no idea that that was what I was going to be dealing with when I walked through the door. That was, to me, quite revolutionary for rock 'n' roll, that specific record. The adrenaline rush I got during the making of it was constant. That record only took nine days to make, which is pretty extraordinary, really, but it just shows you the competence of the musicians involved. "My Generation" with the Who I mention in the book, again an extraordinary moment that I'll never forget when we were actually taking that. That was the first track we cut for the Who's Next album. The first Eagles album, the first Joan Armatrading album we just talked about, I got really excited about both of those because we were on to something really amazing. Particularly not just because the artists were so extraordinary but because I felt that something had clicked with the sound I was getting. I was really happy with it sonically and I felt what I was doing was doing the music justice in a way that was very satisfying.

MR: And to what I was pointing out earlier, I know you were being modest about it, but I feel you also gave a template to so many groups that in some way, without words, you did give advice to new artists very often in your career.

GJ: [laughs] Well, I'm sure I did when I knew what I was talking about but I don't know that I know what I'm talking about in that regard now. I don't think I'd fit in now. One of the two acts that I'm hoping to work with next year is a relatively new act and I'm sure some of the experience I've had will come to bear, but you know what? The reality of everything we've been talking about here is that the artist has to take the credit for the astonishing stuff we've just been talking about, the revolutionary stuff that we've come up with. All I've done is interpret it sonically and maybe added a little bit here and there. People give me credit a lot of the time for stuff that I don't really feel is just, because I know that without the artist I'd be sitting at home doing my knitting. It's as simple as that, really.

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne

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A Conversation with Sam Llanas

Mike Ragogna: Sam Llanas, as I live and breathe. What's shakin' beyond your third solo studio album The Whole Night Thru that I'll be asking you questions on?

Sam Llanas: I'm just trying to survive in a world where music has become almost completely devalued and it seems to be getting harder everyday.

MR: Sam, you got together with Gary Tanin for the project. What was the studio chemistry like? Did he energize you to try new or different things than you would normally?

SL: It was more like l energized myself. These days a band without a recording contract, which is to say most bands out there, has to be creative when making a record. So I decided that we would record the album in my house. That is where we were rehearsing at the time and I really liked the sound of the room, which was in fact my living room. Gary was up for it though and he knew a guy--Ric Probst, Remote Planet Recording--who had the right equipment to make it happen. The project was not without its challenges but I think the results speak for themselves.

MR: "Deja Vu" is your new single. Can you give us some background on that recording and song?

SL: "Deja Vu," which could be my favorite track on the record, is a song about a guy who is having a dream. He is wandering around a dark and shadowy house. And as the dream slowly turns to nightmare, he realizes it is his own house and things are not looking too good for him.

MR: It's been said you look at "The Whole Night Thru" as practically being your first solo album though it's your third. Why is that?  and did you perhaps there was some bleeding of BoDeans approaches into your previous releases?

SL: Yes, although it is my third--quote unquote--solo recording it is the first one that I have made since my departure from my previous band. On the first two solo projects, I was very careful not to compete with what could be called the BoDeans sound. On this one, though that was not a consideration at all. I just tried to make the best record that I possibly could. If from time to time this record sounds a lot like a 'Deans record might, well that is only to be expected, no?

MR: Take us through the nine songs. What are a couple of the more interesting stories behind either the creative process or the storylines or both.

SL: People ask a lot of questions about the songwriting process. I don't think it's exactly the same for any two songwriters. Sometimes they want to know how long it takes to write a song. The answer is it's never the same. The song called "Dangerous Love" on my new album is a good example. I started writing that song in about 1981.  I liked it a lot but it was too long and so I would revisit it from time to time and try to edit it down and I really didn't get it right until about 2012. I knew there was a good song in there but sometimes it just takes a while, kind of like a sculpture I guess. If anyone wants to know more, then ask me on my Facebook page. I will be happy to respond.

MR: Were there any challenges on the project and did you at times have to completely rethink the approach to a song or rewrite it drastically? And what inspires you creatively these days?

SL: The biggest creative challenge of the record was the song called "Addicted To The Cure." One night I was talking to a lovely lady bartender named Amber and I asked her what she was listening to these days. Her response was right now I'm addicted to The Cure. I immediately thought to myself 'wow that would be a good title for a song,' so as far as being inspired creatively it can come as simply as that. Anyway, we recorded the song using the whole band but somehow it just wasn't working for me. So Gary and I started to strip away the instruments until it was pretty much just my voice and my guitar. At that point we started to re-insert tiny bits of the drums and bass and electric guitars. It turned out to be quite a challenge. I have to admit that some days I like it and some days I don't, but at the very least it's a very interesting track. You decide for yourselves.

MR: Sam, what is your advice for new artists?

SL: I think at this point, I'd be more interested in what advice new artists would have for me.

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THE CUSH'S "SUMMER'S GONE EXCLUSIVE

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photo credit: Jeevan Antony

According to The Cush...

"Some songs are a lot of work, while others just seem to appear. This is one of those songs that sort of materialized in our brains. I think it's about dealing with changes in our lives and saying goodbye to things that we'll never see again. Some of the images in the video are reflective of the nomadic nature of our lives as musicians. I really love the feel of this video, it reminds me of the early days of MTV."

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photo courtesy Debra Fine

A Conversation with Debra Fine

Mike Ragogna: You've had a fascinating career full of peaks and valleys including being the CEO of a Disney company. Let's start there. How did you become CEO of a Disney company?

Debra Fine: I went to USC and when I got out of school I was open to talking to a lot of people. When I was at USC I did internships with CBS and kept track of everybody I talked to. I was on a plane coming back from Texas to LA and just by chance I was sitting next to the CEO of Disney. I just started talking to him, I had no idea who he was but I was looking for a job, I'd just graduated and sure enough he called his product placement company in Los Angeles, that's wehre I was, and he said, "I met this girl, I think she'll be phenomenal because she'll talk to anybody, why don't you look at hiring her?" I started out in product placement for products into film. What happened as far as CEO is that after that I went to Lion Pictures and then I went to MCA and did strategy for Disney and Kraft and Quaker and when I was working on the Disney business they asked me to come over to their side to do marketing for consumer products. I was there for a year working on CD-ROM products for Lion King and everything else. I wanted to start my own company and I had an idea of educational CD-ROMs for kids where they could explore what they wanted to be when they grew up. It could be, "I Want To Be A Veterinarian," "I Want To Be A Firefighter," "I Want To Be An Archaeologist," a dinosaur finder as we called it, with all this animation and gameplay where they'd actually learn math and science and medicine and everything else because they have to find out what's wrong with a puppy and other things.

Nobody told me that I couldn't raise money, so because nobody told me I couldn't raise money I got friends and family to put in some money, I put in some money because I'd been working at Disney and I was single, and we put together $50,000, got a team started and wrote the business plan with a friend who had written several. I just went out there and I talked to all the venture capital firms who were interested in educational and consumer products and I got about one hundred "No"s, but that didn't really bother me very much because I didn't know it should. Then about the hundredth response was a "Yes." And because they were a "yes," the next one we talked to said, "Oh, we like working with them." So I raised $3 million when I was twenty-eight and from there I was nominated one of the top fifteen most powerful women in entertainment because I was one of about three women in technology back then.

MR: Oh, you're THAT Debra Fine!

DF: [laughs] Nobody told me how difficult it was to do these things, so we closed on money, we were off and running and putting out products and they were doing well and then the whole CD-ROM market went from $49 for a CD-ROM to about 10 cents. That and I was having twins at the exact same time, so we sold the company to our distributor, which was Simon & Schuster. It was a win because we got the product out, it got a lot of awards, kids loved it. It was not a win in that I certainly did not make any money from that. A real win would've been somebody buying it and all of the investors making money and me making money and then starting another company. For a while it was a hard time because about a week later I gave birth and that was a rollercoaster. I felt like a failure. It was not until a couple of years later that people said, "That was such a big win, you'd never been CEO of a company, you'd never written a business plan, you'd never raised money, you hadn't produced and distributed a product, and you did a lot of good for kids and for the people who worked there." So I got to see the other side and learn from the things that I did very well. I didn't have a really good team around me because I just hired friends, and I could've done better personally. I think I spent too much money, actually. After that I was in the hospital with my kids and Scott Ross from Digital Domain somehow got a hold of me in the hospital room afterwards because he and I were featured in that fifteen most powerful and he was CEO of Digital Domain with James Cameron and Stan Winston. He got a hold of me and said, "I want you to come and run our interactive division." I said, "Who are you and are you crazy? I'm in the hospital! I'm not coming back to work anywhere for a while!" He said, "Come on, this is perfect! We were right next to each other in the spread!"

Then he had Stan Winston call me and then the big one was that he had this huge basket sent to the hospital room that I was in for about a week and he had James Cameron call me. My husband was in the hospital room and he said, "Debra, if they want you this much, they're going to be really nice to you. Take it." Once James Cameron himself called I said, "Okay, yeah, I think is probably something I should do." I was president of the interactive group and we partnered with Mattel and all these different companies and I worked with software and some IT on their website. Then it really did get to be too many hours and I couldn't see the twins nearly enough, so I took a leave and after that I was asked by a group of VCs to go in and turn around a science fiction company that had magazines and events. Xena's belt sold for ten thousand dollars. It was so funny going from Disney to Xena and Star Trek.

MR: What was the magazine?

DF: It was Fandom. We were doing interviews with Angelina Jolie when she wore black eyeshadow and mascara and nails and tats. She was a wreck and she had a huge following in sci-fi. After that I went to work for Mike Milken's group as a venture capital person because they had money in that company that I helped turn around. I worked with Sandy Climan who ran Universal and CAA. He was terrific, but I really like working with a team. I love working with a team, but not with a bureaucracy. Everybody wants that, I think. So I and two other individuals with funds, one from China and one from the United States, bought an interactive company with Cloud Nine Media called Small World Kids. We took it public, it has been in existence for forty years. Incredible infant, toddler, preschool products. We took it public, got it to be a pretty decent size. Then there was just an enormous fight between the bank we brought in and the investor fund about whether to sell it, whether to get more funding because were buying companies, et cetera. The whole thing turned into a battle until a private equity firm bought Small World Kids.

MR: That's the story of the industry. You don't seem like you've based your life on the ups and downs of the entertainment world, though. It seems like your ventures are more based on your interest in educating children than just running a business. Would you say that's been your true calling all along?

DF: It was and is. What's interesting about that is my real calling and love and dreams; singing and writing. I did just recently put out an album. The whole time I was growing up when I was young I was singing, songwriting, riding horses, doing things like that. My father was very much against it all. He said, "That's ridiculous, you need to get a business degree." He was a very high level person at Miles Laboratories--Alka-Seltzer, One-A-Day, Bayer Aspirin and all that. So I listened. It was probably a good thing at the time. I went down the marketing path and stopped writing songs and singing and writing books. I was actually a television anchor for a short time which was my favorite of all things that I've done because it involves writing and on camera work and everything.

MR: What was the station?

DF: It was the local cable station and then I had a short stint at KTLA as a business reporter.

MR: How do you juggle all your reinventions? Do these opportunities come to you or do you just feel like trying something new?

DF: That's a really good question. When I want to do something I just put my absolute all into it. I had already been a journalism major, I took every class, I did demo reels, I got to be quite close with Marta Waller who was a longtime reporter on KTLA, she trained me. I just didn't ever think that it couldn't happen. I worked really, really hard to get it to be as good as I could for a year nonstop. I really was trying to go to the CNNs of the world, the networks, but that was not going to happen overnight. At the time it meant that I had to do everything, taking the cameraman out with me, interviewing the people, getting b-roll, going back and editing it myself and doing the voiceovers. It gave me such an incredible amount of satisfaction and knowledge. I was never good at editing so that was the part that was trickiest, especially when we went to digital, but I really did learn it all. Then I got an offer in Bakersfield, a bigger market, for about thirteen thousand dollars married with kids and I'd been making ever so much more. My husband said, "Honey, we are not moving to Bakersfield." But I got to try it.

I went into a deep depression, to be honest, after the toy company because again instead of seeing all the incredible good that it did and how much it grew and how much we were able to accomplish, I looked at the people who I had to let go. That was pretty hard. I was getting over that and just really finding who I was without a title, just as a person and a mom and a wife and a friend and a sister and all of those things and that's when I started writing songs and recording again and writing a book which I'm about halfway done with. Just then as I was coming out of a singing lesson, actually, because I made it to the finals of The Voice at the age of forty eight, I took a shortcut and there was the guy with the kevlar vest and semiautomatic rifle. He had just executed his father and his brother in their house and was burning it down. He was hijacking the car of a woman right in front of me and then a neighbor came out on the other is a lady, and he said he was going to kill both of them. I was bullied when I grew up and for so long I thought it was my fault and that I was weak since it happened and that's partly why I pushed so hard to be a CEO and strong instead of vulnerable. I saw a bully when I saw him and I have absolute hatred for bullies who pick on people. So I slammed on my accelerator and I drove between them. He stopped and looked at me, he was ten feet away from me in front of me and I looked at his eyes and went, "Okay, this is it. Oh, my God."

He started shooting, he shot me five times, there is not any reason whatsoever that I should have lived. It was because he shot me first in the left shoulder and it spun me around and I fell into the passenger seat with my head down. The two women lived. I thought about, "This morning did I say everything I needed to my twins and my husband?" Thank god I had because I'd taken that year to just be a human, to just be a mom and a wife and a person and I wasn't rushing to a meeting or thinking about work. He got every part of my body except a vital organ. He was an incredible shot. There are forty bullet entries in my and my passenger headrests. After that I really tucked into founding the Fineline Foundation For Victims Of Violent Crimes and getting very deep in trauma work and helping other people. I've been mentoring girls for a really long time because my daughter was bulimia and cutting when she was thirteen. We just went through hell with her and I think that was part of what helped me through the shooting, I was just so used to staying calm when she was standing there bleeding and I'd wrap her arms and take her to UCLA. It took me about a year to recover by really throwing myself into helping others and talking about it a lot.

MR: For physical and emotional recovery?

DF: It took about a year for the physical recovery. I had my last surgery about sixth months ago. Emotionally it took me about that long as well. There are still times when I'll hear emergency vehicles and have a little flashback. But I got through by doing the things that I loved and expressing and getting it out and helping other people and just being in motion and hearing other people's stories and helping them. But even that wasn't the end of what happened. About three months after I was shot a friend of my husband who is schizophrenic moved in with us. He was brilliant and sweet and had such amazing intellect but the emotional control of a ten year-old. We really trusted him, we'd known him for so long, and three months after I was shot he hanged himself in our house. My husband and I found him thirty-six hours after he did it in our garage. Thank god the kids didn't see. But you could imagine, the kids come out of boarding school and hear, "Your mom was shot, she's okay, but we're flying you right home," and then just three months after that I have to call their counselors at school and say, "Please hold them, don't send them home."

MR: You must have some pretty big life thoughts after all these suddenly violent events in your life.

DF: I do. One, I know that I can get through everything. Two, my sense of protecting others has become huge. I look for the small things when I think I can't do something. When I was in the airport to go see my son after all this and it was delayed eight hours I started crying and thinking, "I can't do this," and then I looked up and there was a man who was half blind with a cane who needed help. I look for signs of things that I can do to help others and put my life into perspective. It has changed me so much. Now I'm CEO of I Have A Dream, Los Angeles, we adopt at-risk kids and stay with them and mentor them and tutor them all the way through high school and then pay for their college. Things that I would have done when I was younger and in the entertainment world, politics or talking about people or wondering, "What do they think of me? Am I good enough?" none of that comes into my life anymore. All of that stuff is so irrelevant now that I'll just go, "Okay, is this worth it for me to get upset about?" and then it's back to , "How can I help this person? There's something going on here." I don't know, I don't get that jealous, competitive feeling, I just want to mentor instead of taking an employee to task. It's changed everything.

MR: All your experiences and careers have led to you being a huge survivor. Does it give you comfort that everything you've done has led to this point?

DF: Yeah. I think that from being bullied as a kid and coming from a home that was very chaotic that I did have a sense of being a victim and yet I was always a survivor and I always knew that there was a light at the end of the tunnel and I was going to be able to get through it and I was going to be able to achieve all of these things. I don't think it was until I had all these things that happened with my career and my children especially that I realized how strong I really was without a title, without all that stuff, just how strong I was as a human being, and that vulnerability is even stronger. I don't think I had the depth when I was younger. I had the survival, I had the go-get-'em, but until my children I don't know that I had a really grounded vulnerable sense of, "I just am who I am and that's okay."

MR: How much of this goes into your creativity? Does your latest album reflect some of what you've been through? How did the album evolve out of that?

DF: I wrote a song kind of about what happened when I wasn't sure if I was going to make it and then got a second chance, and I wrote a song for my son which reflected all the things he thought about himself when he was younger, how he could throw them away and leave the skeletons in the closet because he's meant to be the way he is. He came out as gay about two years ago so I wrote the song for him to say, "Hey, it's okay to be whatever you are." The songs are pretty inspirational. They're kind of blues pop, kind of like Carly Simon. I love her. I actually did "Walls Come Down" on the album. I had met a producer and we started working on the songs, I wrote the lyrics, we composed together and recorded and then a lot of very kind people chipped in and I'm just putting out the vinyl version in another month.

MR: Really, this is your first album?

DF: Yep!

MR: You made it all the way to the finals of The Voice and now, you're doing your first album, I'm sure you must have had this love for music before. Did you just keep pushing it off?

DF: There was no way that I could ignore my need and my love for music anymore. I had been singing and writing since I was eight years old and I pushed it away when my father said, "That's stupid," so I went the business route. After what's happened to me there wasn't a chance in the world that I would keep myself from doing what I really, really love. Doing what I really love healed me. Just going into the creative part that I had kind of shut down for the longest time.

MR: Where are you going to take your art from here?

DF: Well, God willing, somebody will pick up the book. That is my absolute hope. I spent a year writing it, so I'm hoping an agent or a publisher will be interested in working with me to finish it and we'll put it out. I also love performing. I want to perform my songs out there. I have, I actually performed at The Mint, which was absolutely fantastic. It was packed. Jackson Browne went on after we did. Things pop up, it's the strangest thing. When you're really open and out there and trying hard and being really nice to people, things just come up as opportunities.

MR: What advice do you have for new artists?

DF: Take your time. Believe in what you're doing. Get help, take input, really listen, but make sure you stay true to yourself, and give without expecting things back. If you expect somebody to do something for you and they don't, you might get discouraged and give up, but take it step by step. Work with somebody who is a musician or producer. Do not give up. That's what eighty percent of the people do; they give up. And put it out there in little steps so you can achieve the little steps, such as getting a song co-written. You can do all these things cheaply. You don't have to go into a big studio or anything like that. You can now with ProTools literally do it yourself. Or do it with others.

MR: Okay, so now you've got the album, you've got your novel, how do you envision the future now?

DF: I've taken the position as CEO of I Have A Dream Los Angeles, which is very important to me, but my absolute goal is to also have my book published and go out on speaking tours to help others whether it's in business, in being an entrepreneur, getting through trauma. I'd love to perform the songs in an outdoor concert with the breeze blowing. Ultimately, I would like to be a talk show host. I want to interview people about real life things that have happened to them, from trauma to triumph. That's what I would like to do. Nothing too big! [laughs]

Transribed by Galen Hawthorne