It’s been a long road for New Orleans native Dawn Richard, but her spirit remains in-tact. When I sat down with Richard she remained a positive light throughout. Richard debuted out on the scene in Sean “Diddy” Combs’ reality singing competition show Making the Band 3 in 2004. Pop/R&B group Danity Kane was the end product. The group released 2006’s self-titled project Danity Kane, and then 2008’s Welcome to the Dollhouse, then disbanded due to rising tensions in the group. Their hit single “Damaged” featured on Dollhouse was a mainstay on pop radio and reached number ten on the Billboard Hot 100.
Following that she performed in Diddy Dirty Money, a project featuring Sean “Puffy” Combs, singer/songwriter Kalenna Harper, and herself. Together they released the album Last Train To Paris, which spawned the hit single “Coming Home”. Diddy Dirty Money called it quits in 2012.
Up next, Richard went out on her own as a solo artist. Her electronic R&B sound is a departure from her other work in Danity Kane and Diddy Dirty Money. She decided to take the indie path and release a trilogy of albums: Goldenheart, Blackheart, and Redemption. Her current release is called New Breed. “My journey is the way it should have been. I would haven’t been as successful if I began underground then went mainstream. New Orleans wasn’t hot at the time. I always felt like I could never be stifled in anything I do. I felt like if I received the opportunity I would utilize it and be a chameleon. Then move to the next thing. I always loved music anyway.”
Ladygunn’s Robert Frezza sat down and talked to Richard about the ups and downs of her career, her versatility, and how she remained positive throughout.
IS IT MORE DIFFICULT BEING A SOLO PERFORMER THAN BEING IN A GROUP?
It’s just different. I love being in a group because you feed off energy and there’s someone always there to catch you. When you are on the stage on your own, it’s a different ballgame. There can’t be bad notes or off days. There’s a different type of discipline. I appreciate the idea of having a crutch or having someone on the stage that could hold you.
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO BE AN AFRICAN AMERICAN AND A WOMAN IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY IN 2019? THE METOO MOVEMENT HAS BEEN ON A RISE IN THE MOVIE INDUSTRY, BUT NOT VISIBLE IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY.
Women have taken in charge in the film industry with the MeToo movement. I think I find it appalling that we, as a music industry, haven’t taken the same strides. I don’t think there’s enough of women in power in music. I don’t understand why we don’t make platforms for ourselves to be seen. We have a severe problem with women telling their truth in this business. We are not seeing or hearing the same things in music. I’m so disappointed in us. I could do so much with my platform and being an indie artist. If we could have more people in color and women in the industry would be amazing.
As a black woman in this industry it is extremely difficult. A black woman in pop music is severely hard. We are just now receiving a Lizzo and a Normani. Even in those spaces it’s so sparse compared to our other counterparts. I would love for you to give me a name of a black electronic, rock or alternative female artist. That’s why it’s been an interesting journey for me because I thought it wouldn’t be that difficult. I looked at my counterparts like Grace Jones, Janet, Missy and thought I could do my lane and it would be good. Anytime a black person who has done something different it’s called R&B. Most of my albums came out Electronic. Someone like myself who is trying to break the mold in that. It’s been an interesting ride to say that we are in 2020 and we still don’t see people of color in an electronic space on large platforms.
WHO DO YOU LOOK UP TO IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?
Baryshnikov, Gustav Klimt, Gregory Hines, Grace Jones, Edgar Allen Poe. I always wanted to tell a story of the other—the person who haven’t shared their stories, who haven’t been recognized, or the voiceless.
Each of my albums gravitate towards that. I read an article about speaking about Bjork and how she produces most of her albums. They wouldn’t give credit to her as a producer. I appreciate women and artists that broke ceilings. I felt like was at war with the trilogies that I put out. I had no support system after I left Bad Boy. I refused to be stifled. I speak through my music. I wouldn’t have never survived had I not been from the place I was from. It felt like honesty.
WHAT LESSONS DID YOU LEARN FROM DANITY KANE AND DIDDY DIRTY MONEY?
From Danity Kane, you cannot work unless everyone is on the same page. You cannot build castles in sand. We tried building a foundation that wasn’t sturdy to begin with. We came from different walks of life and try to make something feel authentic. I think we did a hell of a job with what we were given.
With Dirty Money, never trust your dreams with someone else’s hands. Puff gave opportunity to me. I had my dreams, but Puff had his own dreams and different expectations. He had his own dreams and I had my own. But nothing in life is easy though.
YOU ARE AN INDIE ARTIST. DO YOU EVER WANT TO GO MAINSTREAM?
I want to touch enough people in my lifetime as I possibly can. I want to make people dance and change some lives in the process. I never cared about the titles. Do I want to touch the masses? Sure what artist doesn’t. I’m not afraid to fail. I don’t have a regret or fear if people like my music or not. I continue to try.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE?
Whatever moves me. I think New Orleans has a lot to do with my style. I grew up with Mardi Gras and carnival culture. David Bowie in couture. I loved Alexander McQueen growing up. I loved fashion designer Daphne Guinness. I wear things that people don’t wear.
WHERE DO YOU THINK R&B IS HEADED?
I think it’s in a beautiful place right now. We got soul, alternative soul, H.E.R., PJ Morton, we have a beautiful mixture right now. It’s a beautiful plethora of culture of R&B right now. It’s only gonna get better.
WHAT ELSE ARE YOU WORKING ON?
I have a business called Papa Ted’s that’s an all eco-friendly sensory experience. All vegan food and fashion. I wanted to start it in my hometown of New Orleans first.
CONNECT WITH DAWN RICHARD
photo 1 / Tyler Arbi
photo 2 / Monty Marsh
photo 3 / Arantes Stephen
words / Robert Frezza