Dawn Richard shields herself with Armor and is ready to break new ground as a solo artist. Come behind the scenes with us on the set of a magazine photo shoot with Dawn, there she opens up to us about what is next for her music career.
Dawn Richard is not moved by any disparaging comments or negativity in fact she’s equipped with a gold shield of armor. This helps explain the title of Richard’s edgy EP, Armor On. The New Orleans native independently released Armor On on March 27th, the same day she appeared on BET’s 106 & Park to debut the music video for her latest single Bombs. The video couples singing with kick-ass choreography that Richard is so proud of “when people see the video and see that I’m dancing they are like ‘oh my gosh!’, she gushes.
Now an ex-Bad Boy recording artist, Richard is continuing to prosper in spite of the obvious myth that once an artist signs with Bad Boy the chances of survival afterwards are minimal. It’s worth noting these pertinent points: without a major label, support or features, Richard managed to top the R&B/Soul Charts at #1 in less than 24 hours. She’s an earnest performer and the excitement still beams off her when I arrive on the set of her Hype Hair Magazine photo shoot.
The midtown Manhattan studio is simple, the shoot is at it’s beginning stages, no flashing lights or provocative poses just yet, just preparation. A plasma television that is housed on a wall that we all face randomly screens some of singer Beyonce’s live performances, which helps shape the mood of the shoot. We all love Beyonce! Dawn is sitting draped in a black salon apron as she gets her face beat by a focused make-up artist. While everyone is watching Beyonce prance around the stage and adoring her signature dance moves, Dawn admires other things “look at the way she holds her microphone.” Observations like these corroborate Richard’s compassion for the art of performing.
When Richard finds out I’m here to interview her, she moves with urgency. After tearing off her salon apron she gives me a hug. She plops down in a chair beside mine and braces herself for our lengthy conversation. Dawn opens up about her relationship with P. Diddy, moving on from Diddy Dirty Money and remaining a stanch believer in being able to break new ground as a solo artist.
You are keeping busy! You have a photo shoot today, 106 & Park yesterday (which airs tonight) and a listening session later on, does it ever feel like too much?
No way. This is perfect. It’s just enough. When you’re not working you feel like you’re dying. The grind is what I love, if I could do more, I would!
What happened to Diddy Dirty Money, everyone was just getting into it?
Puff just decided he was done. I think people could understand that. Puff has been in this game a very long time, he’s doing Ciroc and now a network [Revolt] and then to be an artist? It takes a lot to be an artist, you have to give 100%. So, it wouldn’t be fair doing all of that with two other girls, I think he just decided it was time. And you know me I just can’t wait and sit around.
Did you know it was coming that he would dismantle the group so soon?
We didn’t know we thought it would be longer, we knew we wouldn’t be together forever we were separate artists that came together and it was great, I thought it would be longer, but I don’t have time to dwell on it. I always prepared for when he would change his mind, so instead of just sitting there, I just prepared for whatever.
Do you guys have a healthy relationship now?
We fight like any other brother or sister, boss or employee would. We have different opinions but that’s what makes for a great business relationship. But I always knew my place, he was a group member and my boss but a label first. I always knew what it was, I don’t understand why people are surprised with Puff — they are like, he’s this and he’s that and then when you get that, it’s like I can’t believe it! Why would you expect him to be anything else than the man from Harlem? The man that he has been. When a person is the person you expected them to be then it’s not a surprise and I will always appreciate him for being him.
You always shared the stage with people now you are all alone, were you ever afraid, did you have any fears?
No, you’re never afraid when the music comes on. The stage is home. The group was great because you got to share energy, but with people or not, stage is home. Anything is easy when you’re doing what you love, when people are on stage with you, its great because you’re sharing a dream. When you’re on stage by yourself it doesn’t change the dream.
So you’ve been shopping around your music to different labels, have any of them pressured you yet to compromise your creativity or change up?
No, I’ve always been apart of something before, even though I’m a new artist, I know what I want because I’ve already developed a sound for myself being in two other groups, so it’s hard [for labels to do that] with me because I already established a sound and fan base. I don’t think they would ask me to compromise because what I was doing before was working so I don’t think they would want to tame that in anyway.
Would you do reality TV again?
I would do a documentary about my experience but as an artist, I’ve moved on from that. I always believe in progression, even sonically, I never put out something that is reminiscent of something I’ve already done. I’m always pushing forward. Very few times I trickle backwards. We did that reality TV thing a long time ago and its just now getting hot. Puff has always been ahead of his game. That’s why I can consider him a mentor. We were the ones that were technically the first.
Were you always this confident?
Yeah – but people never saw it because I was always in a group. I think its harder to let everyone shine in the midst of your star, then to just be a star and shine over everyone else. It’s so much harder to make everyone feel like they still deserve their shine as well. That was my challenge that I wanted to do for myself. Every time I was in a group, I always played my position, because its harder to do that, its so much easier to say ‘fuck everybody else, Imma do me’ but its so much harder to blend especially with a tone that was like mine and the way I looked I didn’t look like everyone else. People thought I was a shy person but I was just respectful of everyone else in the group.
How have you grown since your Danity Kane days?
I’ve grown like any other person would, I know what I want I know who my audience is and my demographic, so I can push boundaries now.
What is your ultimate goal as an artist?
I want to change the way people thought about music when they think of me. I know this is pushy but I want to be the modern day Joan of Arch in music, I really want to lead a crusade of something different and I want for when people think of me, they say ‘oh that was a whole different genre, a whole different look.’ People are listening to the EP saying I don’t even know where to classify this. I want to be one of the few to take swag with a vocal of a soul song, push it sonically and put a visual and dance to it. It’s really new ground.
Who inspires you?
I love brandy because she is the vocal bible for me. There will never be anyone that can sing like her. To me, she’s there. No one will ever touch her. She’s it. She’s the bomb. I love her.
Dawn Richard “Bombs”
Lathleen is a freelance writer in New York City. You can follow her on Twitter for her music commentary and journalistic journey @Lathleen