Her Story: Dawn Richard Lets Us Inside the Making of Her Album BLACKHEART
BY DEV GILLESPIE
There isn’t one successful music artist you will meet that doesn’t have a story of trials and tribulations that they had to over come with perseverance in order to reach their full potential and make it to the top. Now a solo artist, Dawn Richard has experienced many faces of the music industry and she is having no problem becoming her own.
We were introduced to Miss Richard as a young woman fighting for her dreams to become a singer on MTV’s “Making the Band” presented by music mogul, P. Diddy. Earning her spot as a member of Danity Kane with four other young women, Dawn’s voyage as a memorable artist had just begun. After two albums Danity Kane went their separate ways and the girls pursued solo careers, but Dawn Richard has always appeared to be one of the last women standing.
Sticking it out with Diddy and Bad Boy Records the hip hop group “Dirty Money” was formed with super star P. Diddy, Dawn Richard, and singer-song writer Kalenna Harper shortly after Danity Kane’s break up. Dawn was proving to be an artist that could not only last in this game, but one of versatility and one that is up for a challenge. Making several chart topping hits with the Bad Boys Record trio, the three eventually parted ways, starting the solo career of Dawn Richard.
Dawn released her debut solo album, “Goldenheart”, as an independent artist and has since made it her business to continue to excel as a solo artist. Releasing a narrative music video for her song “86” and collaborating with rapper Eve for her track “Northern Lights”, Dawn Richard was setting up the foundation for her solo career and sophomore album, “Black Heart”, released January 15th of 2015.
I got the chance to speak with Dawn about her new music and what direction she plans on taking this time around. She explains to us how she went from a “golden heart” to a “black heart”, the recent Danity Kane meeting, how she feels about Diddy’s new network Revolt TV, and most importantly, what to expect from her next album, “Black Heart”. Dawn Richard’s current chapter of life is what she likes to call, “The Black Era” and of course we have all the details!
Dev Gillespie: Your first solo album is titled “Goldenheart”, your sophomore album is titled the opposite, “Black Heart”. What took place between the two albums that took your heart from Golden to Black?
Dawn Richard: That’s a great question. Here’s something I can relate it to: It’s kind of like that naïve stage or that naïve moment. You know when you’re going off to college or high school or going through life and your career and you’re like, “I’m going to concur the world. Every thing’s going to be great. I’m going to leave my mark!” And then you realize once you get in that situation that things aren’t quite what they’re cracked up to be. You’re not going to get that promotion that day or that week or that year, it’s going to take you longer. “Black Heart” is that falling moment. That moment when you realize you have to make the choice whether or not to play the game to get further in your career while not loosing a piece of yourself, so it’s kind of that falling and that breaking point. You go from “golden” to “black” because of that realization that you have to fall in order to rise.
Dev Gillespie: What did you learn about yourself as a person and as an artist during that period of time?
Dawn Richard: I learned that everything doesn’t come on time. Everything is a process and the process is the best part. With this album I want to celebrate the idea that it’s okay to have mistakes, it’s okay to fall. “Black Heart” isn’t a negative thing, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s that moment where you realize there’s a rawness, a blatant honesty about you. It’s a self realization of knowing yourself. I think I want people to celebrate the fact that they don’t know it all and be prideful in that. Sometimes when you fight your battles you fight it in the beginning and what you thought you were fighting for turns out to be another reason why you were actually fighting. This album will describe that and “Black Heart” is a beautiful moment. When you strip yourself of everything and there’s this dark place where you have to realize there comes a time for yourself. “Black Heart” isn’t a negative, it’s more of a positive of you finding out who you really are.
Dawn on how she chose features for her album…
Dawn Richard:I want to sort of surprise people. I want to use people that people wouldn’t necessarily expect and the people I’m using don’t sound like how they normally would on a record people would think they’d do. I want to push the envelope and I want to do a lot of women features and the reason why is we’re short handed in the women world of music. I want to push the idea that you can love your other artists and support them and be just as successful. It doesn’t have to be “my fav is better than your fav”, rather all of us are dope. It’s one of those things I want to put into this project because it’s hard and because it’s hard I want to use a lot of softness to show there is beauty in the rough.
Dev Gillespie: The Danity Kane lunch made headlines last year and your fans were so excited. Did you expect to have such a huge reaction to the group possibly getting together just from that lunch?
Dawn Richard: Hell no. (laughs) We didn’t even realize the power of our name until after we walked out of that lunch and everyone around us was saying it’s trending. [on Twitter] We were so busy just trying to say ‘hey’ again and it took us 5 hours to say ‘hey’. We had so many things to talk about, you know. I think we never realized it because we were so busy trying to be on a TV show and survive Puff and all these different things, but I don’t think we ever knew how much everyone loved us. After 7 years of being away from each other, it took 7 years for us to decide to have lunch and see that. It was a cool thing and we’re very honored by it. I think it’s one of those things and that’s why we’ve been relevant as solo artists for so long ; it’s because of what we did with Danity Kane.
Dev Gillespie: Did being with them & seeing the fans reaction give you girls more motivation to make music together?
Dawn Richard: Well, I think us just talking had nothing to do with music or anything like that. I think it was just one of those girl friend moments or that “Sex in the City” moment where we’re just sitting in a circle like, “Damn, girl. This is what happened, girl.” It was more about us as women and really trying to catch up with what happened in the past. We didn’t really care about all the wrong things that were said. We touched on that for maybe 10 seconds. Most of it was girl moments. Music wasn’t the fore front of it. What motivated us afterwards was just seeing the people. Music will always be in our hearts whether we do it together or separately. The people will determine whether we do it again because the people have been so great to us. We had never seen something so across the board like that. It was black, white, spanish, young, old and we were like this is dope. We were happy that people still cared. We had so many calls. We were like “we just ate some macaroni” (laughs). The first thing when a group breaks up, people like the remember the horrible because that what they love to do. What I thought was beautiful about this whole situation is that it was positive, which is something you haven’t seen in social media for a long time.
Dev Gillespie: With the lack of TV networks that actually play music, I’m sure you’re here for Diddy’s much needed new music network, Revolt TV?
Dawn Richard: Oh yeah! He was already getting that started when we were with Dirty Money. When Puff tells you he’s going to do something, it’s done. If he says the sky is purple, it’s probably not purple, but we’ll believe it’s purple. He markets so well. I’m very proud of him and what I love is he’s thinking about the artist. Revolt TV is an acquired taste for the people who want music for the people. I think it’s brilliant that he’s doing that because independent artist are thriving right now and they’re winning. It’s getting bigger and popular and more in demand. I think it’s genius that he’s putting it in the hands of the people to pick what they want. That’s what it’s about. Music is a free for all not something that is just for a certain amount of people.
Dev Gillespie: You made an announcement that you had a change in teams. How is the transition going for you?
Dawn Richard: It’s fantastic. People don’t realize in this business artist have the opportunity to work with a lot of great people. You’ll see an artist do an album with one team and then the next time they do another album with a whole different team. It’s one of those things if you get to work with multiple people and develop a sound and it’s a beautiful thing. I love the transition and I’m very happy with the sound of it. My sound will always evolve and I try to push myself as an artist in new territory. I’m always going to try to find someone that’s going to take me to the next level. I was lucky enough to work with a lot of great people starting with Danity Kane, to Dirty Money, all the way to my solo projects. That’s what great artist do. If they’re lucky they work with all the choreographers, all the producers, they work with everybody. If they’re brilliant they work with everybody.
Dev Gillespie: So what is your Love & Hip Hop scene looking like, girl? Are you involved or just focusing on this music?
Dawn Richard: Girl, I’m in a drought. I can’t stay in a drought for too long. I can’t live like that. I need it to rain every so often. (laughs) A girl can’t do that. Every time I get to my albums I get in my shell and I kind of come out when I can. I always remember this one thing Puff use to say and I hated him for it, I wanted to shoot him every time he said it, but now it makes so much sense. When we were doing our projects he said when you leave the studio you should smell like dirt,your teeth shouldn’t be brushed, your hair shouldn’t be combed, because you’re so busy and involved in your project that you don’t have time to be cute. I thought that was genius. So, we’re in the drought right now, but there’ll be a thunderstorm soon. It has to be or I will be upset, so we’ll make that work.
Dev Gillespie: If you had to describe “Black Heart” album in three words, what would the three words be?
Dawn Richard: Hmmm. I can’t do it in three words. I’ll tell you what I told people it sounds like. It sounds like a panther in a forest in 2075