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Dawn Richard Continues To Take Risks

by BeBe Sweetbriar
Sunday Mar 17, 2013
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So many times we have seen individual members of music groups and bands branch out as a solo artist only to find out there is power in numbers. And then there is the exception, as with former Danity Kane and P. Diddy’s Dirty Money member Dawn Richard.

With her stellar independent debut release "GoldenHeart" (January 2013), Richard is taking the music world by storm with this 16-track packed project that contains part one of a three-part diary of what the singer/songwriter says tells the first stage of her three-part life.

A lyrically strong writer, Dawn sets to music a story of being a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed artist that is most times naïve to what is ahead for them. Her story which many will be able to relate to will become complete with the release of two planned subsequent albums entitled "BlackHeart" and "RedemptionHeart," respectively.


We have watched Dawn become somewhat of a Cinderella story started with her appearance on hip-hop mogul P. Diddy’s hit MTV show "Making of the Band" back in 2006. From that came the formation of mildly successful girl group Danity Kane, a pop group which often showcased Richard in lead vocals.

As the personal lives of some of the group’s members seem to disintegrate, Danity Kane was short-lived. However, Dawn stayed on with Diddy’s Bad Boy record label and became part of a distinctively different effort, joining Diddy and Kalenna in Diddy - Dirty Money, which took Richard into a hip-hop direction. Though critically acclaimed, Dirty Money’s lone album had lukewarm sales and Dawn Richard became an independent artist - "independent" in every sense of the word. Dawn Richard is doing it in a methodical planed and creative way that keeps her fans which she calls the Movement in touch with her music and message every step of the way.

I had an opportunity to speak to Dawn as she prepared for a West Coast tour with a San Francisco stop at Yoshi’s. I was blown away, but not surprised, of the young talent’s positive attitude and strong will to control and determine her destiny in the tough waters we call the music business. If a fairy tale is supposed to have a happy ending, the Dawn Richard trilogy is one for the books.


From ’Making of the Band’

BeBe: I am so privileged to finally get an opportunity to speak to you about the amazing things that are happening to you in your career. I think all of us out here in the public have been following you and your career since back 6 or 7 years ago when you were on P. Diddy’s ’Making of the Band’ reality show on MTV. And look where you are now. This new album ’GoldenHeart’ is slammin’!

There are critics and reviewers out there who are already, after only being released in mid-January 2013, calling this the album of the year. How does it feel to have ’GoldenHeart’ being the project by which future releases this year by other artists ill be measured by?

Dawn Richard: I feel humbled. You always want to be the best and you always want to be great. You always want to give quality music, but you never think that when you put your own story out there that people will not only relate to it, but appreciate it. We hope that people are on the same page with you, on the same wavelength. I’m just so grateful. This is far more than we expected. We dealt some cards, and a lot of people won’t take chances and risks on you. We knew we wanted to take a risk. We took it and dove and hoped for the best. What we got back was incredible. I’m just getting started. I have so much more that I want to do.

BeBe: It has been amazing! Through this process of making ’GoldenHeart,’ you have kept your fans update on what was going on with the project from day one. You have used your social media with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and putting out little personal message video clips. Do you think by having the fans involved with your happiness and joy behind this project was a part of why ’GoldenHeart’ has had so much success right out the gate? This album went #1 on iTunes R&B album chart within 7 hours of being released.

Dawn Richard: There is no question (that it would). My fan base is everywhere. I go so many places and meet people, and the first thing they say s that your fan base is out of this world. They are so adamant and so passionate. They are the fan base I’ve always wanted, you know, people like me. This is just the beginning. I always wanted to take my time with getting my fan base. I didn’t want to have a fan base that was fickle. I didn’t want to just say, ’oh, here’s my music now buy it.’ I felt as if I had to earn their trust. They are so much more than fans. That’s why I don’t like using the words fan base and call it instead a movement. They are like family. They have been knowing me for over six years. It’s a beautiful marriage.


The Bad Boy Curse

BeBe: I am so privileged to finally get an opportunity to speak to you about the amazing things that are happening to you in your career. I think all of us out here in the public have been following you and your career since back 6 or 7 years ago when you were on P. Diddy’s ’Making of the Band’ reality show on MTV. And look where you are now. This new album ’GoldenHeart’ is slammin’!

There are critics and reviewers out there who are already, after only being released in mid-January 2013, calling this the album of the year. How does it feel to have ’GoldenHeart’ being the project by which future releases this year by other artists ill be measured by?

Dawn Richard: I feel humbled. You always want to be the best and you always want to be great. You always want to give quality music, but you never think that when you put your own story out there that people will not only relate to it, but appreciate it. We hope that people are on the same page with you, on the same wavelength. I’m just so grateful. This is far more than we expected. We dealt some cards, and a lot of people won’t take chances and risks on you. We knew we wanted to take a risk. We took it and dove and hoped for the best. What we got back was incredible. I’m just getting started. I have so much more that I want to do.

BeBe: It has been amazing! Through this process of making ’GoldenHeart,’ you have kept your fans update on what was going on with the project from day one. You have used your social media with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and putting out little personal message video clips. Do you think by having the fans involved with your happiness and joy behind this project was a part of why ’GoldenHeart’ has had so much success right out the gate? This album went #1 on iTunes R&B album chart within 7 hours of being released.

Dawn Richard: There is no question (that it would). My fan base is everywhere. I go so many places and meet people, and the first thing they say s that your fan base is out of this world. They are so adamant and so passionate. They are the fan base I’ve always wanted, you know, people like me. This is just the beginning. I always wanted to take my time with getting my fan base. I didn’t want to have a fan base that was fickle. I didn’t want to just say, ’oh, here’s my music now buy it.’ I felt as if I had to earn their trust. They are so much more than fans. That’s why I don’t like using the words fan base and call it instead a movement. They are like family. They have been knowing me for over six years. It’s a beautiful marriage.

BeBe: What is also great and amazing about ’GoldenHeart’ is you have given us 16-tracks of just you. There are no feature artists on here. Nicki Minaj ain’t on here ( we both laugh). This is all you! Did you have any concern at any point that this might be too much of me on this project?

Dawn Richard: I would have had concern, but we had had success with our EP project ’Amor On.’ We were very successful with the EP which went #1 in 3-hours. And, that was just and EP of 5 or 6 songs. I think that was a key thing for us. I wasn’t worried this time around because I already know that they already appreciated ’Amor On.’

And on top of that, people have seen me in two different groups, not one, but two. And that’s a different kind of story which sets me apart from the average girl that comes from a girl group and becomes successful as a solo artist. It’s a bit different in my case because I’ve been in two very aesthetically different groups (Danity Kane and Dirty Money). So, I’ve done two different types of things. Usually people give up on you after that. There’s a lot of different music and a lot of different styles. So on this project, I wanted to make sure that people just heard me! Before this, I don’t think people knew who I was as an artist.

BeBe: You brought up the fact of being in two different types of groups with Danity Kane and Dirty Money, but there is also that whole Bad Boy Records curse that is supposedly out there where former artists on P. Diddy’s label have not had much success after leaving the label. You have definitely proven that not to be the case in this scenario.

Dawn Richard: I don’t even approach the ’Bad Boy Curse’ as they say. I don’t dwell on that. I don’t see that. I’ve never seen that. I don’t even think it exists. I come from New Orleans and our age-old term is ’don’t meddle or believe in things that you don’t want to take with you in life.’ So for me, it never existed. I knew I was going to set a path for myself and go full throttle at it. God had that decision, not the ’Bad Boy Curse.’ It’s up to me.


She’s the boss

BeBe: And you have been with a major label, Bad Boy Records, over the past 6 years, but now you are an independent artist. What are some of the obstacles that you face as an independent artist, and conversely, what are the advantages by being independent? You the head dog now. Everything falls on you.

Dawn Richard: Right, I’m the boss! It’s a bit different. I don’t look at it as challenges. They are just the walls that we have to knock down. They are the same things that labels have to do, but the artists don’t see them because the label just handles them. This time around, I’m seeing it. I have to handle it myself. It’s just (all about) getting to the masses. People don’t see he other side of it.

People say you should be putting this out or doing this type of video, but what people don’t understand that there are budgets that come into play. And as an independent, there is no budget. My pocket is the budget. It makes it difficult to create what you want to create . But what we have managed to do is that being in school and going to college and studying marketing, product placement and business management, I have gained respect for having little and doing a lot, and doing it the right way.

We have managed to break down walls in a way that all of it is great being independent, the struggle and all. It really creates a new way for me to find new ways to market myself. And we do figure that out it is a breakthrough because there is no blueprint for the independent. Everything is trial and error. It becomes very exciting for you to figure out how to make the world see you when you are a small fish in a shark-filled ocean. It’s crazy! All of it is great because it is challenging.


Part of trilogy

BeBe: This ’GoldenHeart’ project is actually a part of a trilogy of albums (including ’BlackHeart’ and ’RedemptionHeart’) that you are planning to put out. How do these individual projects all fit together?

Dawn Richard: I feel like my life has been broken down into three parts. I wanted to create a project that catered to that. ’GoldenHeart’ is the naivete of everything. It is the ’I’m going to go out an be fantastic’ and you have no idea what you are getting into. You are just excited about it and you want to take the risk.

’BlackHeart’ will be the realization that that is not life (laughs). You know, the silent fall. I think people can relate to that. You come out of college ready to change the world and do all these great things, and then they get that job and realize that you are not going to do these things because it’s going to take a lot of hard work. ’BlackHeart’ is the heaviness. It’s going to sound like you failed, but not in a corny way. The lyrical content will be something that you will have to digest.

And, ’RedemptionHeart’ is the comeback. There is always that Comeback Kid. Once you realize that world is what it is, you recover and find a place for yourself in the world. It will sound like liberation. It will sound like celebration. It will sound like where I’m from, New Orleans.

BeBe: They always say it’s not always that it’s not about the fall or how you fall, it’s about how you get up. That third part of your trilogy seems to be about how you respond to fall and not the fall itself.

Dawn Richard: Exactly!

BeBe: I’m excited! I don’t want to wait. I want the other two right now! Why I gotta wait?

Dawn Richard: That’s the point. (we laugh)

BeBe: Dawn, I know you know that you have a very devout LGBT community following, so much so, that you lent yourself to a series of commercials speaking out against Prop 8 and in support of marriage equality. Most of the artists that I speak to when addressing their gay fans say that they consider their gay following to be very loyal. How is that loyalty for you? How does it come across to you when you perform in front of a predominately gay audience?

Dawn Richard: It’s one of those things where there are no words to describe how thankful I am for them coming (to the shows) and singing every word. When people ask me why you doing these albums, why you doing these tours, why you doing this or that? When you step on stage and see people came out and singing every word and telling you that your music changed their lives when they were going through a rough time. That’s the moment you know why! Those moments on stage are the reason that keeps me going.

BeBe: In retrospect, Dawn, I have read and heard others put labels such as the ex-Danity Kane member, the ex-Dirty Money member, the former Bad Boy label artist put on you when describing or introducing you. But with this project, those descriptives will be no more. This is the star before your name which will no longer require such descriptives. We are dropping those exes right now!

Dawn Richard: Thank you. Thank you very much!

Dawn Richard will be performing selections from her new release ’GoldenHeart’ at San Francisco’s renown jazz nightclub Yoshi’s on Wednesday, March 20. For tickets and information go to visit yoshis.com.

Other upcoming performance dates:

March 26 - Roxy Theater, West Hollywood, CA
April 3 (with Ryan Leslie) - Yost Theater, Santa Ana, CA

Become apart of the Movement and follow Dawn at www.twitter.com/DawnRichard or www.facebook.com/DawnRichard

For updates on tours and new music releases go to www.dawnrichardblog.com


Based out of San Francisco, BEBE SWEETBRIAR is the Omni Present Drag Chanteuse. As an entertainer and hostess, BeBe can be scene every week hosting and performing at countless events and parties in the San Francisco. One of the few drag personalities to sing live while performing, BeBe has literally graced every notable stage in San Francisco, bridging many gay sub-community gaps. She has also been the opening act for Destiny’s Child Kelly Rowland, "Ugly Betty’s" Alec Mapa and Dance Diva Kristine W. Adding recording artist to her list of performance accomplishments in 2008 with the release of her first single "Save Me", Ms. Sweetbriar will soon release her fifth dance single in 2012 called "Show It Off"..
As an actress, BeBe was introduced to film with a lead role in the independent film "Under One Sun" with her character dealing with religious, racial and gender issues. Additionally, she appeared in the campy musical "Devious, Inc" (Australian Film Festival, San Francisco Short Film Fest) also adding additional vocals to the musical soundtrack. Both of these performances led to her selection for a lead role in Aisha Media’s next short film series, "Con-tin.u.um" to be released in 2012.

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