By Michael Andronico
After rising to fame as part of Danity Kane on MTV’s Making the Band in 2005 and returning to the spotlight as a member of Diddy Dirty Money, Dawn Richard decided to do things her own way. Not content to ride the waves of modern pop, the 28-year-old artist/writer/performer just self-released Armor On, a self-released EP featuring a fresh take on pop and R&B. It’s only the beginning of Richards’ solo journey, as her upcoming album Goldenheart is just the first of a trilogy of intertwining concept albums. We spoke with Richards about her road thus far, and how she’s much more concerned with being a “musical author” than just another artist.
YRB: Armor On has been out for a month now. How has the reception been?
Dawn: It’s been great! Getting to number 1 in 3 hours is a trip for me. I’m only 7 months out of Bad Boy’s contract. The Billboard charting in 5 categories was really great, the reception’s been phenomenal.
YRB: The EP is self-released, correct?
Dawn: EP is self-released. Independent. Just 3 writers, and Druski produced it. It’s exciting because there are no features. There’s no one to push the record to make people want to get it. No paid producers.
YRB: What was the recording process for Armor On like?
Dawn: It was so much more intimate. We had literally 1000 people on Diddy Dirty Money. To go from having Grace Jones to having no features, it’s a nervous feeling that people wont receive you, especially in a time where collaborations will get you the win. We’re kinda the underdog.
YRB: What’s your favorite song on the record?
Dawn: Well the entire EP is like one song. An EP is usually 6 songs, we delivered 10. One of my favorites is “Black Lipstick,” because of its description of the music industry. I didn’t write it down. I literally played the track, got on the mic and went off the dome. It was the most honest record in the most beautiful way I could put it.
YRB: You have the Goldenheart record coming this Fall, what can you say about it?
Dawn: It’s funny, I played some of the records for labels, and they said it’s even better than Armor. We actually recorded the album long before the EP. I didn’t know if people would understand it. Armor On is the preparation for the storm. Goldenheart is more commercial, the sound is more relatable. I wanted to do the EP so much farther out so they realized how far I could go. I wanted the EP to push people, because it’s not on the books. To be on the radio we have to make a few changes. I’m definitely still true to the sound of the heart movement.
YRB: Goldenheart is part of a trilogy of concept records. What inspired that idea?
Dawn: I’m a junkie for literature. I love Twilight and the Hunger Games. I’m a graphic novel junkie. I grew up on comics, I grew up on that era of actually having a story. And today we don’t have that. I don’t wanna be different, I just am who i am. We kinda become these misfits, these rebels to the cause. So Green Day and Bush and No Doubt, those were movies, Insomniac was a movie. They were conceptual. It was all this muddy music that just made sense. Now we kinda just throw records together. Which is fine, but I wouldn’t be me if i didn’t love that world. Thats why I said yes when Diddy asked me to do Dirty Money, because it was a story. I was like, “you dream how i dream.” It was only right. And hell, if we’re the first few to start it why not? Usually the first get overlooked, but I’d rather be epic than mediocre.