Q & A with singer-songwriter, novelist, journalist and all-round media whore, Dennis Hensley.
You recently wrote a novel, "Misadventures in the (213)" Why on earth did you want to make a CD?
I had been writing and demoing songs with my producer, Norman Arnold, since '91 so when I got the book deal, I went to him and said, 'I might get a little heat off this book, why don't we take everything we've been doing to the next level and make a CD.' Of course, when I said that, I had no idea what I was in for.
Where did you meet your producer?
Backstage at a Gloria Estefan concert in 1991. He went to school in Miami so he new half of Gloria's band. Actually, one of the guys who was playing with the Miami Sound Machine at that time, John Defaria, plays guitar on most of the songs on my record. We would go into his studio to record the guitar parts and there's all these gold records on the wall and I'd stand there wondering if he'd miss one of them.
What's the hardest thing about putting out a CD that you weren't aware of going into it?
I guess I learned that everything costs more and takes longer than you think it's going to. And I was lucky, in terms of having collaborators who are just crazy-talented.
What would you call the musical stylings of "The Water's Fine..."?
Hopefully they're pretty, catchy songs with smart, heartfelt words. Lillith with nuts. One writer friend of mine said that it made Wilson Phillips sound like Hole. I liked that.
How long did it take from start to finish?
Over two years, but some of the songs were already written. One song, "Doesn't Seem Like Christmas" I wrote when I was 17, like George Michael and "Careless Whisper," though I won't refuse if people want me to sing it.
Who are your musical heroes?
I have incredibly tacky bubble-gummy taste in music. As a teenager I was all about Olivia Newton-John and Pat Benatar and Barry Manilow. If I ever went on VH-1's The List and told the truth, I would get boo-ed off the stage.
Who's groovier, Nine Inch Nails or 98 Degrees?
Oh please, 98 Degrees. I told you, I have extremely radio-friendly, catchy taste in music. What I wonder is what the non-buff Anthony Edwards-resembling Degree does while the other three are at the gym. Is he working on a novel?
If you could go on tour with any one artist, who'd it be and what would you two do in the tour bus together after the shows?
Jann Arden, who's best known for the song "Insensitive." I love her music and she seems like good people and she's stand-up comic funny in concert. In the tour bus, we'd play Mystery Date by Milton Bradley and I'd lose.
If you could only do one, and become extremely famous for it, which would you choose: writing or singing?
Writing. I think I'm better at it. I don't have one of those God-given voices that just blows people away. But I worked hard on my vocals for the record and I'm proud of them.
Who is the song "Afterthoughts" written about?
Nobody specifically although there are people I think about when I sing it. None of them really deserve a song though. (Laughs)
The Titanic's sinking. Celine Dion, Cher and Britney Spears are on board. You can only save one of them. Who do you pull into your lifeboat?
Probably Celine because I got to interview her for Cosmo and she smiled and said, "Thank you," when I bestowed one of my demo tapes on her. Plus, Cher and Britney are probably going to float on her own.
What's the biggest difference between writing a celebrity interview and writing a song?
You don't have to deal with a publicist to write a song.
Do you have your own theme song (a la Ally McBeal)?
The Brand New Heavies called "You Are the Universe." It's very empowering without being too cosmic and fun to dance to, too.
What's your best groupie story?
I don't know if this counts but one day I went into Book Soup and the clerk told me that Elton John was just in and that he had bought three copies of my novel. I was so thrilled because his Greatest Hits was the first album I ever bought. In my fantasy he kept one copy and gave the other two to George Michael and Donatella Versace, because at the time, they could both use a few laughs.
The song "Shotgun" was inspired by your novel, "Misadventures in the (213)". What's it about exactly?
It's about having a person in your life who drags you into adventures you wouldn't have the nerve to tackle on your own. They drive and you ride shotgun.
If you were Whitney Houston in "The BodyGuard", who'd you want guarding your body?
James Dale, that gay Boy Scout activist guy. He's totally hot, has integrity and he doesn't take any crap from anyone.
When's the first music video coming out?
A month or so after my triumphant appearance on "Who Wants to Be a Milionaire." Unless, someone out there wants to mail in a six-figure check.
You've written a book, made a record, interviewed every damn celebrity on the face of the planet. What can't you do?
Operate a VCR. Every time I promise someone I'm going to tape something for them, I botch it up somehow.