Dawn Richard has been making abundant waves and moves on her independent hustle for the better part of 4 years. And June 2nd 2015 is the day where Dawn will finally bring her electrifying show and artistry to the UK at London’s prestigious Jazz Café. Two months ahead of what is sure to be a great London debut, we caught up with Dawn to discuss her latest album ‘Blackheart’ and much more. Check out the conversation below:
Sope: What can your British fans expect from your London show in June?
Dawn: A party and a full on experience. I’m really excited as it’s the first time I’m gonna pop my solo cherry over there. It’ll be one of those big experiences which we’ll share together. I’m really excited to bring this era over there – It’s been a long time coming.
Sope: Can fans expect you to perform songs from all your solo projects or is this just a ‘Blackheart’ affair?
Dawn: It’s the Black era, so it will just be ‘Blackheart’. Then in the next tour, it will be everything – that will be about a 3 hour show. That will be for the summer, it’ll be a huge thing. We’ll be in London again for a while.
Sope: In celebration of the London announcement, you recently dropped ‘New Or Lean’ tell us about how that song came together?
Dawn: I’m born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana so I wanted to do an anthem. Do something straight for home and something big. It’s been a while since I did something for the city, so that was the one. It was an introduction into the next era and I got to represent for the place where it all started.
Sope: So was the song a teaser of what ‘Redemption Heart’ will sound like?
Dawn: Hmm maybe we will see. I wanted to see how people would receive the sound and see if they would like it. That was kinda the test to see if that’s something I would want to play with. I always do that, I kinda put something out and see people’s reactions then decide it is something I can move with it. And obviously people liked it!
Sope: How does it feel to finally have ‘Blackheart’ out and what are the plans for the Blackheart era long term? Are there going to be more music videos than ‘Goldenheart’?
Dawn: More visuals, there will be more visuals. We’re gonna stretch out this one out a bit. I really love what this album embodies and what I’ve gone through with it, so we’re definitely gonna play with this one a little bit more. A lot more touring, we’re gonna stay overseas and really get reacquainted with you guys, hug you guys and touch you guys. I’ve been giving so much attention to my American movement, so I want to get an affinity for what you guys like and what you want. So Blackheart is going to stretch for a while.
Sope: What are your personal favourite songs on the album and why?
Dawn: ‘The Deep’ is my favourite. It has sentimental value and I wrote that with my father, the meaning behind it is so beautiful and so real.
Sope: Can you outline the inspiration and creative process behind ‘Billie Jean’ and ‘Adderal Sold’ because the transition and production between those two songs and production especially on ‘Adderal Sold’ is outstanding?
Dawn: Billie Jean was inspired by Michael Jackson’s idea of Billie Jean but I didn’t want to take on that big monster. I wasn’t trying to make another ‘Billie Jean’; I just respected the idea of Billie Jean and who she was. I wanted to do a modern day feminist take on who she was. So it’s this cool idea of meeting a Billie Jean and what it embodies. It’s like me having this conversation with her in the 3rd person and the idea of how she got around. Then by the end of it, there was an appreciation for her. Leading into ‘Adderal Sold’, I wanted that story to continue, so you almost feel the respect of her and I and this blend between us and its melancholy. So the drums slow down, then you see this shift of my idea of Billie Jean turn into this ethereal and whimsical situation, so it’s this ride I watch this girl through. I wanted to do that production wise as well as lyrically so you see this transformation of me observing this girl and almost going into her world, seeing what this music industry creates with women and what we become. So that’s why those two records are so special because it’s me outside of myself, watching someone else then me becoming that person because I’m along for the ride. It’s a gnarly experience, almost 3D like.
Sope: You’ve had a proven successful track record with Druski musically, so what was it like departing from him and going steam ahead with Noisecastle?
Dawn: Noisecastle is amazing; I think you can appreciate people for their talents you know. Just like how Druski was dope with what he did, Noisecastle is incredibly insane with what he does. I’m lucky enough to be able co-produce with these people and still find this friendship and this balance with all different types of producers. That was the point of trying to show the diversity between being able to work with multiple producers and still create something great. Noisecastle is no different, he’s the same alien as me, we dream the same, he’s on a different planet and there are no boundaries or restrictions with him. That’s what I can appreciate the most about him. I love the way his mind works, together we form this kind of Voltron which is fucking awesome.
Sope: So will you be doing ‘Redemption Heart’ with him or go with a different producer again?
Dawn: If it works organically, absolutely. I’m not disappointed thus far and you don’t mess with magic so if it feels good, you keep going. I love him; he’s stuck with me so I don’t think we’ll stop collaborating, so yeah probably. Sope: Are you currently in discussions with any major labels? Dawn: Yeah I would love to be in works with them, we’ll look at our offers and see which ones work because that’s definitely something I want. I love being independent, however I’m open to all things especially if it’s a good business move and it gets the brand out there.
Sope: What were your thoughts on how the media and the other girls portrayed and represented you in the wake of the 2nd Danity Kane break-up drama?
Dawn: That’s how they felt so I don’t dwell, it is what is. People are always going to have their idea of who you are. I can sit here all day and tell people who I really am, and they will still believe what they want to believe so I’m gonna let them have that. Those who fuck with me, fuck with me and those who don’t, don’t. I’m not going to consistently revert back to having to try and tell people or comment on how people feel about me. I did what I did for the fans, it didn’t work out and now I’m on to the next thing which makes me feel great and that’s give the fans some great music. That’s it – whatever everybody else feels or thinks, they’re gonna assume that shit anyway so they can have it.
Sope: What are your overall feelings towards the final album and can you tell us the two songs you wrote ‘Tell Me’ and ‘Two Sides’?
Dawn: I wasn’t really gonna be on the album, I told them they could take me off the album. I didn’t want to be a part of something they didn’t want me to be a part of but the label didn’t want to take me off. Legally the label wouldn’t have moved forward if I wasn’t on it they stated that. I was happy to at least give the fans what they wanted, I think the album is cool; it needed to be there, people needed something to get closure. As far as the two records I wrote, I think they’re great records, I love the way they go into eachother. To have ‘Tell Me’ go into ‘Two Sides’ was such a brilliant idea, I think people could immediately peg that’s one of my signatures. I think those records especially ‘Two Sides’ reign true to the situation at hand, it wasn’t supposed to but it’s ironic how it fits so perfectly now.
Sope: You have a very distinctive tone so I wanted to know who your vocal influences are and what is your thought process when laying down your vocals in terms of runs and harmonies?
Dawn: I grew up loving Imogen Heap and Bjork. And one of my favourite female voices to this day is Alanis Morissette. Those voices really did something for me, growing up to me they sounded like cognac and cigar smoke, they had these cool tones that worked well with rock and alternative music. As far as what I do organically, I just go in and whatever feels good, feels good I don’t force it. Leads and adlibs are cool but my favourite thing to do when I’m in the studio is backgrounds. I can go on and on for days, there’s this sense of peace and chanting. Like an army of bad motherfuckers always behind me, like a 1000 people in believing me and 1000 people behind me every time doing these counter chants which are so African, so Creole and so New Orleans.
Sope: Are you a Brandy fan? I hear some Brandy-isms in your voice?
Dawn: People want so badly for there to be Brandy-isms. I didn’t know about Brandy until college, I didn’t grow up on Brandy, I grew up on Bjork and Imogen Heap. So there was no influence but I respect her. I think she’s one of the dopest singers we’ve ever had in our time. When I found out about her through my brother, I was like this girls voice is on a whole other level so the respect of Brandy is definitely there. She to me is the vocal bible, but I don’t necessarily take her style or influence into my music. I don’t think of Brandy when I think of the formatting of my music and I think it’s funny that only black people think that.
Sope: Any dream collaborations?
Dawn: I would love to work with Sango and Sohn and women such as Azealia Banks, Solange and Janelle Monae.
Sope: Anything to say to your fans?
Dawn: Let’s change the world one heart at a time.
Check out the video for Dawn’s latest single ‘Projection’ below:
Purchase tickets for Dawn’s London show in June here.
Interview by Sope Soetan (@SopeSoetan)