To fans of pop culture, E.G. Daily is much more than household name; she is an icon. A multifaceted artist, she has starred in more than 20 feature films as an actress, leaped to the top of the charts as a singer/songwriter and voiced some of the most memorable animated characters of all-time.
However, if her unique name doesn’t ring a bell, you will certainly remember her as Pee-Wee Herman’s girlfriend “Dottie” in the classic 80s film, “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” or recognize her one of the voices from the Emmy Award winning “Rugrats” (Tommy Pickles) and “The Powerpuff Girls” (Buttercup). Her eclectic body of work doesn’t stop there, in addition to her voiceover and acting work, Daily co-wrote and co-produced two solo albums, “Wild Child” and “Lace Around the Wound” on A&M Records. Several of her songs soared to the top of Billboard’s dance charts and became well-received music videos, including “Say It, Say It,” which became a number one hit. Through the years, she has also composed music and performed on a number of soundtracks, including “Street Music,” “Thief of Hearts,” “Scarface,” “The Breakfast Club,” “Summer School” and “Better Off Dead.” It is an aspect of her career that she relishes and will surely continue to flourish.
Daily has collaborated with many well-known producers, including Giorgio Moroder, Keith Forsey, Stock Aitken, Waterman, Jellybean Benitez and Harold Faltermeyer. In addition, she worked with producer Bob Ezrin on the song, “A Heart That’s True” for the “Babe, Pig in the City” soundtrack. Her CD, “Tearing Down The Walls,” was co-produced by Daily along with Grammy-Award winner Brad Gilderman and Harvey Mason Jr. and is available on iTunes and Amazon. Daily’s most recent album, “Changing Faces,” which includes the hit dance single, “Beautiful” (reached #17 on the Billboard charts).
In recent years, on top of an already busy schedule, Daily made a groundbreaking return to the television screens around the nation when she performed a moving rendition of Faith Hill’s “Breathe” on NBC’s “The Voice.” Even with decades in the game, she show’s now signs of slowing down as she continues to “follow her bliss.”
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with dynamic EG Daily to discuss her journey in the entertainment industry, her evolution as an artist, the 30th Anniversary of “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” and what we can expect from her highly anticipated new album.
You have been a recognizable face in the entertainment industry for several decades. What got you started on your career?
Honestly, I think my mother had a lot to do with it. I had a best friend who was doing commercials and acting when I was young. My mother was a little French-European woman who came from nothing when it came to entertainment. I think she had a strong feeling about the arts and inserted it into all of us kids because we are all super artistic. I started going on auditions and she was very helpful and supportive through the process. I just ended up getting the bug and I think it really started with singing and my voice. She was so supportive. She was never the mom who said, “Don’t be doing that!” She was all about singing, music and art.
I am sure jumping into the industry at a young age can be overwhelming. Did you ever have any reservations about giving it a go?
I didn’t know any better! [laughs] I just dove in and went on a ton of auditions for a long time and I never really booked anything. I just thought that is what you were supposed to do and how it worked. I didn’t realize until later that you were supposed to be booking jobs! As a kid, it didn’t really matter because I didn’t have any bills to pay! I think that makes a big difference in the scheme of things!
Here we are many years later and you have had incredible longevity in a very competitive industry. What’s the secret to your success?
I just keep following my bliss, man! I lean into things that make me happy and things that get me turned on and joyful. I really use that as my richter scale. If I am feeling super connected, joyful and excited, then I know I am on the right track. If I am feeling down, depressed, sad or unenergetic, then I know there is something I am doing that isn’t working for me and I better change it. That is pretty much how simple it is. It is kind of like the red hot and cold game you play when you are a kid. When you are getting warmer, you are getting closer to something. When you are getting cold, you are moving away from something. I try to stay warm, listen to my body and heart. It leads me from one thing that I love to the next. The same goes for people. I have hung out with people who didn’t give me a lot of joy and stressed me out. When I learn someone isn’t a person I want to hang out with, I pull away from that and move toward people who make me joyful. It works for everything and is really a great tool!
You have several big anniversaries to celebrate this year from “Devil’s Rejects” 10th anniversary to “Better of Dead” having its 30th anniversary. However, there isn’t a cooler anniversary than celebrating 30 years of “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.” How did you get involved with the project early on?
It was just a regular audition. They were looking for someone who was kind of quirky. That was my thing back in the ‘80s. I was kind of the girl next door, the best friend, the quirky girl or the kinda funny, trashy girl. [laughs] I was just sort of that character that wasn’t too glamorous or too Hollywood. I really fit the bill as to what could be Pee-Wee’s girl. I think it is the off-beat part of me that got me the role. I think they wanted something a little strange but weren’t exactly sure what. I think the part of me that is quirky, along with my voice, was just right. I went on the audition, got the call back and booked the film. When the film came out, you could really feel the energy behind it and, all these years later, I’m super-blessed to have been a part of it. It was a terrific experience.
This wasn’t your first role by any means but I was curious if you felt like you faced any challenges on this project as a young actress?
I think I just wanted to be better than I was before I was ready. I think I wanted to be more confident as an actress when I was younger. The thing about confidence is you can’t get it without learning and understanding how acting works. I really wanted to be good at it and I didn’t want to be a bad actress. I wanted to be a good actress but I didn’t know how yet, so I started studying. In the beginning, the studying was a little frustrating because, like anything else, there is a learning curve. Acting is the same way. You might have some natural abilities or a way about you that works but you still have to learn certain technical things. That is a fun thing if you can relax and enjoy the process.
Pee-Wee Herman will return later this year with a brand new project for Netflix. I know you aren’t involved but I know the fans truly love Dottie. Where do you think Dottie might be in her life 30 years later?
Where would Dottie be 30 years later? Hmm. She would probably be doing what I am doing. Instead of working on bikes, she is working on being a good person and making an impact by doing things for other people and trying to make the world better. I think Dottie was about making the bike awesome for Pee-Wee and building it gave her a lot of joy. I think that is where I am at. I want to make the world better and it gives me a lot of joy to see people learning to do things I have learned to figure out, whether it is how to make your life better or have more joy in your day. It is about real stuff now.
You are just as well known for the work you do in the world of voiceover. How did you start to make that transition?
I had gotten a role in a musical called “Candy” and in the play I had to do all these different voices. In the play I was a female wrestler and in each round of wrestling I aged up, so I aged for a baby up to an adult. Somebody heard me and they handed me their card. He was a voiceover agent and he said, “You should go on this audition for this little boy character on an animated series. They are looking for someone.” I was really open to it. I thought, “Wow. That is weird. I have always been a singer and an actor, now someone is asking me to be a cartoon. That is kind of fun!” I was really open to it and went on the audition and I booked it. This cartoon audition, which happened to be my first one ever, just happened to be Tommy Pickles on “Rugrats.” My career blew wide open from there! It was an easy transition to make! I was like, “You are kidding me! I can go in to work in my PJ’s and I don’t have to put makeup on? This is easy!” [laughs]
I also wanted to touch on the musical side of your career. Music has been such a big part of your life. What has had a big impact on you as an artist and what you do?
Music-wise I am a big fan of the James Taylor’s of the world and the original singer songwriting people like Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens and Tina Turner. I loved the qualities of those singers because I have the raspy kind of thing with my voice. I am a really big fan of the real songwriters and that is a big reason why I love country music. I love those songs about life lessons learned. All genres inspire me but I am also a big fan of soundtrack music. Sometimes I will just play instrumental soundtrack music and pretend like I am in a movie! [laughs] I will put my headset on and walk around to this amazing orchestra and think, “Wow! This is cool!” When it comes to music, everything moves me.
I see you have been recording quite a bit recently. What do you have in store for us when it comes to your life in the studio?
Yeah! I have been working on a whole new record with a bunch of dance tracks with a bunch of Swedish producers. It has been super fun to come up with some new dance music, in addition to songs for soundtracks, which I love doing. It has been a blast writing and working with Michael Jay, who I did “Mind Over Matter” with from the “Summer School” soundtrack. I am doing that but I also just released a voiceover seminar, EG Daily’s Up Close and Personal Voice-Over Acting Seminar, that I did in Los Angeles with an audience. Now, people can have this amazing tool if they are interested in voiceover and the journey of voiceover. It is really great! It has all these tips, tools and how-tos! I also just released a one-woman, autobiographical musical called “Listen Closely.” You can find all of that on Amazon as digital downloads.
Let’s talk about this new album a bit. What was your mindset going into it?
I really just wanted to enjoy myself. It was pretty low pressure because I didn’t have anything to compete with because I wasn’t trying to sell it or shop it. I was just focusing on making it. We are still working on it. I think the biggest challenge to me is how I am going to get it out for people to hear it. The process of making the record is really beautiful, fun and a joy.
We have all seen the music industry change so much in the past several decades. How have those changes impacted you in a positive way?
I just did a cover of a Lifehouse song called “Trying.” I love the song that Jason Wade, the lead singer of the band, wrote so I recut it and released it on iTunes. I also did a really cool little video out in the desert for it. That is what is so beautiful about the industry today. I can still make music and drop it on my computer and upload it to the world. That is a very powerful feeling to know I can get my music out to the world so easily. It is pretty awesome.
How has your songwriting process changed through the years, if at all?
When it comes to the subjects, I have a lot more understanding about a lot of things, so lyrically I can go a little deeper into things. I have always kind of been a little deeper into things and autobiographical with my songs. With more wisdom and more experiences, the songs are a little more poignant and sometimes simple. I guess I just have a lot more understanding of the world.
You said you are still working on the new album. When do you expect to release this new music?
Yeah, we are still working on it. I will be playing some new music at the show at the Whiskey a Go Go show but mostly the hits. I expect to start dropping some new songs and videos in the next couple of months. We have some interest in Europe with one of the dance tracks. If it blows up over there, I am sure we will drop it back over here as well. So, it is kind of hard to say exactly because it has its own little flow but I would say you will be hearing new stuff in the next couple of months or maybe in the new year.
Tell us more about “Listen Closely” and what went into bringing that to life?
The one-woman, autobiographical musical started when I was writing a book about the journey I had been on in my career because it has been so vast and spans decades. I started writing the book and then, one day, I started thinking about doing a one-woman show. I took the pages from that book, maybe 140 pages of raw, unedited writing, and laid all the pages on the floor with my friend Eliza Jane, who is a wonderful writer. We started to put these pages in order of what make sense as a one-woman, autobiographical show that was based on my life. Then I started taking songs I had written during those periods during my life and put them in the places of the scenes that things were happening. It was really pretty incredible. I did three six-week runs in LA. It was very popular and we filmed the shows with a 3 camera shoot, so we were able to put it up on Amazon for digital download. It is a beautiful message and the show is really powerful. It is very candid and very true. Everything that happens in it is true and it is pretty fascinating. I feel like that part of the story is done and I will focus on other things moving forward. I am headlining the Whisky a Go Go in November, which will be a blast. I played The Strip when I was 15 and now I am going back in my 50s! I can’t wait!
Looking back on your career, how have you most evolved as an artist through the years?
I think the journey about learning to enjoy the moment, the process and knowing that everything will work out has been important. Staying passionate is also key. If you are losing your passion for something it means you are becoming distracted or you are not tapped into what is really giving you that passion. Passion is like a light bulb that goes off in your body. I think it is important to people to look at their body and notice if they are feeling lit up, excited or turned on. If you are, you are on the right track! If you are not, you start to feel dull and not as excited about life everyday. I tell people to notice when you aren’t feeling as excited or enthusiastic, go back and find things that you love to do. That is what I did with NBC’s “The Voice.” I started reconnecting with my singing again because I hadn’t been doing it that much. I realized how much joy that singing gave me and I started doing it every day. All of a sudden, I got asked to audition for “The Voice.” I was like, “Wow! Who knew I was going to fall back into doing what I love and end up being on this dream show?” It is a show I have dreamed about being on for my entire life and now I was doing it at 50! It was crazy!
I know you lend your name to many worthy charities. What can we help shine a light on right now?
That’s great! I am an avid fan of Last Chance for Animals. My friend Chris Derose runs that and he is constantly doing rescues and fighting against people who are doing horrible stuff to animals. I am also singing for Putting for Pups. It is an event from the No To Dog Meat organization which focuses on the protection of dogs and cats in the world’s meat trade. I am going to be singing for them this weekend. I will do anything for animals! Definitely check out their websites to learn more about the amazing work they do.
Will do! Thanks again for you time today, EG. We wish you continued success and look forward to all you have in store for us in the months to come!
Thank you, Jason! Talk to you soon!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.