by Kenny Kerner

In the Entertainment Industry, a "hyphenate" is a person whose career includes many different specialties, and in the case of New Yorker Queen Esther, that hyphen would include expertise as a singer-actress-songwriter--with success in all fields, I might add.

Interestingly enough, this month's TAXI Passenger Profile subject had always aspired to be an actress rather than a successful musician. "I always wanted to be an actor. Singing was something I did on the side. I wasn't really interested in getting signed, having a record deal or doing any of those things, " she revealed candidly, "I guess I just did so well that I took it for granted; It was something extra."

Esther moved to the Big Apple in 1992 and then, realizing that "to make her mark or get ahead and stand out", she'd have to create material for herself. With that in mind, the talented artist began writing and co-writing songs as well as material for her acting career: "Creatively speaking, it's all about work; It's all coming from the same place. The idea is the impetus, that urge to create and letting that out. How that gets out is really inconsequential to me, as long as it gets out. Whether it's singing or acting or writing, as long as that urge can free itself, that's the point."

i i
Name: Queen Esther
Residence: New York City
Occupation: Singer/Actress/
Songwriter
Joined TAXI: 1996
Songs Forwarded:  Ten
Deals Made: Three Contacts
Esther took her new material, joined the Black Rock Coalition, and performed all over New York as a solo artist with a backing band. This time, her aim was to land a deal; to get signed. The problem, as she explains, is one that most new artists share--a lack of industry connections: "I didn't really have any connections to shop the tapes. I didn't know how to make any connections. I didn't know anyone personally that could help me. And also, I didn't really understand the mechanics of how the business worked. There didn't seem to be just one way of doing it. Any one of a myriad of roads could lead you to Rome. Somebody could show up at a gig and love you or someone could hear you on a compilation CD or you can drop a package off and it just so happens that they listen to it. I didn't realize that. I thought there was a way to do it because there is a way to do almost everything else. With the music business, you just do it and you have to love it."

Having just concluded a one-person show that she wrote and performed live at the French Festival (called "Queen Esther--Unemployed Superstar"), Esther received rave reviews, but is quick to acknowledge that the rewards in the Biz aren't as forthcoming as they are in theatre. "I can play out from now until the next ten years," she points out, "and never get a write-up in the New York Times. But here, with my acting, I did a show in the Second Annual French Festival and got mentioned in the Times."

Wanting to seriously hone her craft and seeking the advice and criticism of professionals, Queen Esther turned to TAXI. "A friend told me about them. I saw their website and thought they sounded really cool. I liked the idea of someone listening to this stuff and giving me an honest opinion, because the people around me weren't doing that. The people around me didn't like what I was doing at all. Everyone was extremely critical and not very objective. So I was very surprised when the first songs I worked on were submitted to TAXI were forwarded to labels. That was a shock to me."

Esther continued to explain the value she placed on the TAXI A&R Screeners: "I was hoping that the people who listened to tapes at TAXI were all in the industry. I'm from the South. I'm blues-based as a singer. My way of listening to music is a little more polyrhythmical. So the things I come up with, they might think were pretty antiquated and not very modern. But I'm trying not to sound like anybody else. But at TAXI, everyone seemed to like that I didn't sound like everyone else. I sent them my tapes and they got it."

Delighted to have found people who understand what she has worked for over many years, Esther also feels that the TAXI staff zeroed in on her strong points and weaknesses as a writer: "What they told me was that I needed to work on my songwriting--and they're right. I write hooks, but they can be stronger. I took their critiques very, very seriously. First of all, I'm paying for this so I want to get as much out of it as I can. And blowing them off isn't going to help--especially if they're supposed to be professionals."

Michael Leshay, a former screener who now heads William Morris' record label Ultimatium Records, was one of the first to contact Esther about the possibility of an artist development deal. S.L. Feldman & Associates, a Canadian post-production company, heard some of Esther's material and is considering placing the tunes in a movie. And as of this writing, other calls are still coming in--including one that presents the possibility of having her song used in a video game. Cool!

"This has been very encouraging for me, the artist concludes. "There was a moment where I could actually see the light at the end of the tunnel. It gave me a lot of hope. This wouldn't have happened without TAXI. To have several professionals giving you their expertise--just look at what you're purchasing. It's a bargain!"









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