Dawn Richard: Fighting A Battle For Our Hearts
Interview by Norman Mayers
Dawn Richard has had an incredible journey in the music industry thus far having been a part of Making The Band and finding success with Bad Boy group Danity Kane. After that group disbanded she continued to work with Bad Boy for the Diddy Dirty Money project. But now Dawn has stepped out onto her own as an independent artist with a brand new sound and outlook. Creating a lane all her own Dawn has released a well received mixtape, 2 impeccable EPs (Armor On, Whiteout) and a critically well-received debut LP titled Goldenheart. What sets Dawn apart is the incredible quality of the music, a fully fleshed out sound that contains elements of forward thinking electronic sounds, pop melodies, medieval references and retro soul presented through a contemporary R&B perspective. It is so new and bold that her staggering success has been a welcome surprise. Nu-Soul was lucky enough to catch up with this new force on the indie music scene just in time for her run of shows in LA.
Nu-Soul: How difficult was the decision to go independent? Was that a big moment for you?
Dawn: Yeah it was a big moment for me definitely. It wasn’t a hard decidion for me to make though. I was with bad Boy and the timeline which they had for me we all agreed it was too long for me to wait for them to put me out as a solo artist. It was an easy decision because I felt it was the right direction for me and my career.
Nu-Soul: How has going indie changed your career and your outlook so far?
Dawn: It’s interesting. You find that people don’t knock down doors for you as much as you would like. Especially coming from a label where everything is kind of hands off and set up for you and there are a lot more opportunities as far as performances in television and radio. Being independent its not as easy to open those doors and you find you get a lot of doors slammed in your face and a lot of people I worked with in the past I don’t get to work with this time around. But the cool thing about that is you learn other ways to promote yourself and put yourself out there. It makes your brand bigger and you become more clever. It’s made me way more creative with my music as well as my business.
Nu-Soul: Are there any indie artists who you look towards for ideas or inspiration or do you feel you are breaking new ground?
Dawn: In other genres I’m probably not breaking new ground but for a female R&B artist there is definitely no blueprint. We’re learning as we go. If anyone knows one please tell me. When we go out there people are telling us that this in new ground we are laying out.
Nu-Soul: How did you first connect with your producer Druski?
Dawn: I met him through a mutual friend and we went into the studio and we connected immediately. He wanted me to come back the next day. At first I think he had a specific sound he thought I might be and then after he realized that wasn’t it and that I wanted to go further and beyond, I think he realized that he met someone who dreamed as big as he did. Its a great collaboration.
Nu-Soul: How often are you guys in the studio?
Nu-Soul: I was about to say. I feel like you guys are putting out new music all the time.
Dawn: Actually we’re not always putting out new music. A lot of it is things that didn’t make the album and are just unreleased tracks.
Nu-Soul: Let’s talk about Goldenheart. What was the concept of the album lyrically, sonically as well as thematically?
Dawn: It’s the story of a fight for love, for passion. Getting back to that place where things matter to you so much that you would put yourself out there for it. Its the story of a knight going out to battle and seeing that things aren’t exactly as they seem. You see a lot of these connections to Joan of Arc, medieval battles, slaying dragons because in metaphor it feels like you are actually going out to battle everyday in life.
Nu-Soul: So is there a deeper mythology behind the album? Is there a story you have written?
Dawn: Oh yes definitely. Goldenheart is the story. There is a story behind the story. It comes from the Odyssey and the Iliad and those stories of long adventures. But its done in a musical way and its no different from writing a novel but we are doing it to R&B music which is delving into new ground.
Nu-Soul: So who are some of the artists that have had the biggest influence on your sound and your writing style?
Dawn: I don’t think I have that many influences on my style because we’re in a whole new territory but there have been some artists that I really admire. Prince, Queen, Bjork, and The Cranberries transcended their own lane. They kept pushing boundaries and I’m a fan of people like that.
Nu-Soul: How does it feel to go out on the road to support your own project without any label?
Dawn: It’s insane. It’s hard work. It’s crazy. It’s bananas. It’s the best. It’s all those things. It’s incredible. Never in my life have I put so much work into something to make it great. But also to see that everyone is coming to see no one else but you and singing your lyrics. For me to do an hour show is incredible because I feel that I’m still a new artist. But to be able to headline a show with everyone singing your record is really incredible. It’s exciting. A lot of shows are getting rescheduled and I’m learning about routing and all those things. But it’s a great experience.
Nu-Soul: How would you describe your fans? Your Hearts as you call them.
Dawn: They are my lifeline. I am really appreciative. A lot of them have been rocking with me for 6 years since Danity Kane. They are family and it’s a friendship.
Nu-Soul: I wanted to touch on the visuals. Do you have another video you are working on?
Dawn: The next video is “Riot”. It’s quite different from the rest of them. There is a lot of time between each video because there is a lot of prepping and creative process. I want the dance to tell the same story of the song. So that’s what we’re doing now.
Nu-Soul: What do you have for the rest of the year?
Dawn: We have the tour and that’s going to go on all year. We’re already working on Blackheart. We’ve already recorded like 4 or 5 songs that are incredible. On top of that we have the video coming out. The app just came out called the GoldenHeart experience. We have a live performance that you can stream this Monday. As we progress we’re going to do more online performances. It’s a great way to get the sound out there if we’re not coming to your city. It’s just taking social media to a whole new level!
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