Dawn Richard Finds New Life Outside of Diddy's Pop Machine
Dawn Richard's Goldenheart album is the sound of freedom, of a singer-songwriter unfettered by the binds of the pop music machine. Released in January, Goldenheart quickly topped the iTunes R&B chart and opened up a wide new fan base for the New Orleans-born singer best known for being one-fifth of Danity Kane, the platinum-selling female pop group assembled by Diddy over two seasons of his MTV reality show Making The Band in 2005. A songwriter with an established independent career and a unique low vocal tone, she immediately stood out in the field when she auditioned during the second season.
Courtesy of Our Dawn Entertainment Dawn Richard shines on her own.
Diddy was unable to assemble a group he could stand behind in the first, but once he saw and heard Richard, he knew he was right to wait, and Richard was a clear favorite of his. Once selected, the name Danity Kane was taken from a comic heroine Richard had drawn that Diddy noticed (a real Danity Kane comic would later emerge). And after firing the other four members on television in 2009, he held on to Richard, put her in his one-off group Diddy-Dirty Money, and charged her with the task of writing hit records.
Though Diddy has a notorious reputation for holding on to artists and not letting them record elsewhere, he was enough of a fan to release Richard from further obligations at Bad Boy Records after he abandoned Dirty Money following the lukewarm reception of the group's album Last Train to Paris. Her next move was to form her own company, Our Dawn Entertainment, where she'd go on to release songs and mixtapes leading up to Goldenheart.
Ahead of her show at Amoeba SF tonight (March 19, 6 p.m.) and Yoshi's SF tomorrow, March 20, Richard spoke with All Shook Down about flying solo against the odds, reality television, and being a comic nerd.
Do you get requests to do more reality television? Is it something you'd explore again?
I'll explore all things in a different context. I just think that now people know me, nobody has really come up to me about it quite yet but they know it has to be something that I wouldn't consider damaging to the brand. We work so hard to make people understand that what we're doing is real and organic and groundbreaking. And I wouldn't want to lose that by channeling things in a whole different direction.
There are so many pitfalls in that genre, but there are some shows that have a real positive spin. So if it was something that really revealed your craft and not your relationship, like what happened on Making The Band, would you consider it?
With personal things now, you have to be careful because things have changed drastically and once you get labeled in that chapter it's a long road back to be taken seriously. I know, because I drove down that road and it took people a very long time to take us seriously coming from reality TV and Danity Kane. To take us seriously as artists and not cute little girls.
I'm going to assume your live show doesn't have lots of costume changes and a fog machine like Dirty Money did?
No, it's really focused on me as a vocalist and I think it's great that people can see me with a different dynamic.
It'll be great to be able to see you without Auto-Tune or those other kinds of pop music distractions.
When you put your band together, was it interesting to be on the flip side of assembling a group, since you went through that experience?
Yes, and I'm not hard -- I just want great people. The music is so ahead of its time and has such a vibe, I just wanted people who could rock to that.
Are you still pursuing your interest in comics?
I'll always be reading someone's comic, I'll always be at a Comic-Con, but it's so difficult for me right now. People say, "Well, why did you stop?" It's a full time job being the boss and really running my own ship as a comic coordinator and illustrator and doing all the things I want to do with that. But I always draw, I always paint, and it will always be with me as a hobby. I'll always love it.
You have such diverse interests!
That was me as a kid. I was a kid who loved Green Day and was in love with Gavin Rossdale from Bush who had green hair and played softball and then went on the rowing team and decided I wanted to be a marine biologist. And then wound up standing in a line for Making The Band.
If you had to distill down the biggest lessons you learned from being in these two big groups and apply them to your career now, what would they be?
To believe in yourself and take everything into your own hands. I had to learn the hard way. We all wanted to do it in Danity Kane, and with Dirty Money it was kind of difficult because Puff was running the show. But what I did learn from him, and I'm so grateful for it, is if you're given the opportunity, it's up to you to take it as far as you wanna go. And for me, I always just wanted the opportunity. That is what I prayed for. I just wanted the crack in the window, and then I would take it from there.