Dawn Richard lives by country singer, Dolly Parton’s famous quote, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” Dawn is at the prime of her life as a solo artist and living it truly on purpose. A true lion just like her zodiac sign, the former member of Danity Kane, is ambitious, strong, enthusiastic, magnetic, and a lover of the center of the stage. After leaving Bad Boy Records, Richard really challenged herself by going solo. And her first efforts, her 2013 album GoldenHeart, debuted at No. 2 on Billboard’s Heatseekers char and No. 8 on iTunes UK’s R&B chart.
She then rejoined her former group members of Danity Kane. The group recorded their second album together, DK3, before suffering their second disbandment. Leaving the songstress to focus on herself and work on pushing out the last two installments of her Heart trilogy.
Richard recently released her second album and second installment of her Heart series, BlackHeart, exactly two years after her solo debut, on January 15th. And already the buzz is off the charts. Reaching in at #1 on the Electronics iTunes charts, the music on this album is “darker” and more personal. Richard again stretched herself artistically, this time by co-producing most of the tracks on BlackHeart with Noisecastle III.
VIBE Vixen was interested in seeing just what makes this young singer, songwriter, and producer tick and what life is like after Danity Kane. So we sat down with the talented songstress to have a true heart-to-heart and a very personal and honest interview.
Read the interview after the jump.
Photo Credit: Instagram, Dawn Richard’s Provided
VIBE Vixen: Many of us know you from either Danity Kane or Dirty Money alongside Diddy. Who is solo Dawn Richard? What is she like?
Dawn Richard: For me, as a solo artist, I can be a bit more creative and a bit more free with my vision. There’s way more risk taking and less care on structure. I can be a little messy and wild and care free with my creativity as a solo artist. In a group, there’s a certain structure and everyone has a part to play and being a solo artist, I can do as I please. This is me as my most freest!
We absolutely love your new album BlackHeart. Describe the vision for this album and the project as a whole.
The entire series is about me and my love/hate relationship with the music industry and this sort of back and forth fight I have with it. In GoldenHeart you can visualize this naive little girl, having this us against the world mentality where I can come in and do all things. Whereas BlackHeart is the realization where everything wont be how I see it, but in it all, I find my freedom, my reality, and my vulnerability. Between those two sounds, GoldenHeart was vocally and sonically risky but not too much. Whereas BlackHeart we [the music industry] have fallen in love yet had an extreme falling out. I discovered if I can make it, who I really am in the relationship and what my role is. I’ve grown so much in the music industry. From GoldenHeart, it was just about me and the music and me in this dream. With BlackHeart its more about me and who I am and what role I play in my own life and in the business.
“Billie Jean,” an amazing song with an historic name, describe your version of this song to us.
Yeah man…there are a lot of “Billie Jeans” in the world. I was captivated by the way Michael Jackson’s version was so ahead of its time. It was interesting the way he described the groupie and I wanted to take a feminist approach to writing the record. What I came up with was this kind of conversation I have with Billie Jean; Billie Jean the entity not an actual person. I gained this respect for her, as she explains to me, who she is. We almost left the song off the album and now it seems to be everyone’s favorite.
Let’s talk Instagram. Many artists seem to stray away from social media to promote, but you use it as a platform. How important is social media to you and connecting with your fans?
Instagram is just something I like to do. I feel it’s the best way to portray who you are. I’ll look online and see a story on myself and people in the media pick the worst photos of me; where my weave and my makeup look a hot a** mess. Then the people who don’t know you and are seeing you for the first time, that’s now their idea of you. So I’m taking full advantage of showing who I am. I don’t take myself too seriously. I like to post what feels good but then I’ll also make fun of myself. Man, about a month ago, I deleted all but five pictures from my Instagram and started from scratch. Now I try to keep it light and use it to market what I have going on. Food that I’m eating and anyone I’m dating won’t be on my Instagram.
VV: Via Instagram we see you and Coco and Breezy have collaborated on a new eyewear collection. Can you tell us a little more about that and how much will you branch off into fashion?
DR: Yes! I love fashion and I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time and envisioned my own line. I’ve worked with Coco and Breezy prior to the GoldenHeart era. We collaborated on some shades and they sold out within a month so we wanted to do it again. I’m super excited about it. The two new models are so sheik. For the females we have the mirror shades, where they can take the glasses off and look at themselves or to touch up their make-up. For the guys we took away the mirror image and kept with the basic sunglass. For both we wanted something sheik and something that embodied this BlackHeart era. Again BlackHeart is my most personal and I wanted to create shades that emulated that. We wanted to offer something simple and clean.
And you have a shoe line as well, correct?
Yes, I have a capsule collection that has been actually five years in the making. The collection consist of three shoes; a thigh high, a booty and a stiletto. Black and gold is the theme in keeping with the new album. The collection is available in smaller boutiques like BDonnas, LolaShoeBoutique and Fly Jane. We focused on the smaller boutiques because then we know that people really, really want to buy this product.
VV: Dawn Richard’s vision board; tell me what that looks like. What pictures, quotes, dreams and aspirations is it made up of?
DR: I actually created a vision board, a manifestation board and a fruition box. They’re all kind of all over the place. I love housing decor, so the type of house that I want is definitely on there. I like vintage sports cars like the ’57 Chevy and I’m a motorcycle girl so those are definitely on there. My father’s health is definitely a concern for me. I want him to be cancer free so that’s definitely on there. The possibilities of how far my sunglass line goes and maybe even having my own fashion line are on there. Musically, definitely receiving a few Grammys. I actually have a picture of me holding a few Grammys that I had wrapped up and folded since I was a little girl, just waiting for that to happen. [Laughs] And of course the guy that I want.
What’s next for you? Anything up your sleeve that you want your fans to be informed of?
I’m independent. My team consists of two people, including myself. We’re breaking down barriers by just releasing this album and having an eyewear and shoe line to accompany it. So I’m just so proud of this all right now. It’s big that I put out this album and I survived. What’s next is putting this album out in live form and touring. I also want to see how far we can take this fashion line. This is all new grounds for us. Five years ago, you couldn’t bet on an Independent artist having a shoe line or an eyewear line and we’ve been taking chances using our own money. We are realizing that the sky is the limit and whatever is to come, everyone will find out with us.
1/22 Webster Hall – New York, NY
2/5 The Viper Room – Los Angeles, CA
2/7 Slim’s – San Francisco, CA
2/17 Howard Theatre – Washington D.C.
2/18 World Cafe Live – Philadelphia, PA