If you’re not familiar with Denise Marsa, then you should be. A strong force for women in the music business, she’s been making hits both as a solo artist and in collaboration for as long as many of us can remember…and then some. Her new single ‘FLOAT (The Cowgirl & The Alien)’, crossed our path earlier this month, and we were struck by the timing of it in June, which is of course, Pride Month. Denise very graciously agreed to answer some of our questions, and we hope you enjoy her responses as much as we did, and that they’ll send you off looking for more of her music!
Hi Denise, thank you for speaking to us!
Your song ‘FLOAT (The Cowgirl & The Alien)’ is a very interesting one, and the video showed that the family of the cowgirl Celeste were very much against her relationship with the alien Luna, despite the pair being very happy together. We quite liked that it came to us during Pride Month, as it’s about a queer relationship. Was that your intention, or is it a happy coincidence?
Most definitely a happy coincidence and timing. I was hoping to release the video soon after it was completed. Once it was done in May, we looked at late May, however we did not want to release during Memorial Day. A slot opened to premiere the video on Music-News.com, a UK platform and Andy Gesner, owner of HIP video promo and I spoke and decided, let’s do it. That was June 1 and it premiered on June 3. I am so grateful that it turned out this way because it’s truly more relevant than ever in this moment not only regarding pride but also regarding all types of love and relationships. Couples holding on tightly and bringing their best self to the relationship during tough times.
You’ve been in the professional music business for close on 50 years – what’s been the biggest change you’ve noticed in that time, industry-wise, and has it been a good one?
Female artists have more power, which is more control over their own careers. There are also more producers, engineers, musicians, all around females have a greater role in making music. Business wise, it feels like there is some catching up to do, still it is much more populated with women making decisions regarding artists, production, creative direction, than when I started and that is stupendous! Also, artists have so many more tools at their fingertips, with the Internet, and the distribution of music. There are many ways to enhance a career and build a fan base these days, social media, YouTube, press release portals, it takes more time for one to do it themselves, however it is worth the effort when the rewards come in. Hard work pays off, yes!
What’s your take on the music business as it is now? What can, and should be changed, and how can it be done?
These days there are big investors partnering with publishing deals for many of the big name established catalogues. The money is crazy, and it’s been in the news. I’d like to see bigger companies invest once again in new talent. Giving “baby acts” better access to the big machine, better deals so that an artist can evolve under the guidance of the experienced professionals. If every major label had a budget and a team to break new artists, and not wait for the artists to do it themselves, we could have an influx of rich original material. That’s how the music business started, labels and managers invested in talent and records were made, distributed, and sold. As far as getting it done, I have some experience managing and producing a handful of very talented artists in several genres and they have a home with those recordings through my label, KeyMedia Music Group. Perhaps other established artists (there are many that do this already) could do the same?
Outside of music you are a strong voice for older women in music. Do you feel there’s enough representation of women over the age of 30, or does there need to be more, and what can we do to make that difference?
Funny I started a record label in 2005 called WO30 Records (Women Over 30) and it started as a non-profit. I had just moved back from Los Angeles to NYC and was also starting my own public relations company, KeyMedia Public Relations, a for profit, and I could not do both– so the non-profit, fell to the curb. As far as age, it has always been difficult to be a mature woman in pop music, only because the business end focused on promoting and exploiting young female artists. However, artists like myself & Kate Bush (amazing what’s now happening with her music as of this article & always one of my favorites) make music through the years, as it is who we are and what we do. We stay relevant by staying true to ourselves and there are many other mature female artists doing the same. Women in music do not have an expiration date!
What’s been your greatest experience so far as a musical artist?
Writing and creating the video for FLOAT (The Cowgirl & The Alien) music video and the response it is getting. It’s very strange, I wanted it, kind of expected it and now am blown away with it. I have never experienced so many people in such a short period time, (three weeks) hearing and seeing my own original work. From start to finish, my creativity has its full expression without any barriers or compromises or second thoughts. It is beyond exhilarating especially for this to be happening for me, at this time. And it reinforces, do not give up. You never know what is around the corner…
What advice do you have for anyone – male, female, or alien – who is trying to make a living as a musical artist?
So, cool you added in alien in your question! Do not give up, be yourself, stay relevant, and surround yourself with people who support your art, your work.
What’s next after ‘FLOAT’? What can fans expect?
My co production team in Germany, Lautstumm Studios and I are working on a new EP. Also, on a FLOAT remix and we are getting requests to continue the story and adventures of Celeste & Luna, professionally known as The Cowgirl & The Alien. There will be more of those two…so stay tuned.
And finally, I ask this question of everyone I speak to. What question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does? And what’s the answer to that question?
Question: What would you have done differently when you had your first success as a vocalist in 1978 with Dean Friedman’s LUCKY STARS?
Answer (it’s in 3 parts): I would have embraced it more, been more grateful (I was too concerned with having my songwriting recognized and I had just started writing a few years prior). I might have said “yes” to every opportunity I was offered, and then find a successful and trustworthy business partner to help me navigate the options and the business. I had no one in my corner, when my big success hit and that was hard, I did not know which decisions to make and so I made none. However, this taught me, early on, I must be my own best “self-advocate.
For various reason, which I share in my show THE PASS Musical, personal stuff was also tangled in my head, and I was looking to work everything out all at once. It was a tornado of sorts; a time filled with so much that I had to deal with all at once. I wanted success and, in some ways, I wanted it my way, and that, at that time, was impossible. So, I walked away from deals. However, I was not mentally prepared for any of it. And being unsure of whom to trust and worried about any type of long-term commitment without knowing how the business was played, was challenging for me. I like to be in my word and in integrity as much as possible, if not always.
In a way, my not having success in my 20’s and fighting against some of the injustices I experienced as a young woman in the music business, has helped to fuel the change we are now seeing. I believe all energy and inertia that every one of us puts out there, helps to create the change we wish for. Or in some cases can create the stagnant non-change – we are still experiencing in various areas today.
Thank you for asking me these great questions and for your interest in my work and career. I have truly enjoyed reading them and answering them!