Image © Dawn Richard via Facebook

Interview with singer-songwriter Dawn Richard

Laura Stevens

Dawn Richard, an American singer-songwriter, is making waves with her second solo album Blackheart that was released in January this year. Richard spoke to London Calling about not fitting in, creating a new sound and how the album is more than a feminist statement.

London Calling: Where about in the States am I speaking to you today?

Dawn Richard: I’m in Miami. It’s great – it’s warm, amazing and we’re having a sound check right now!

LC: Are you excited to play in London?

DR: I’m all for it, I can’t wait. I love London so much. I haven’t been to London a lot but enough to appreciate its beauty.

LC: Can you talk about your creative process behind Blackheart?

DR: I spent a lot of time trying to build a new sound, and something that people could hold onto and admire and appreciate because it’s so next level and different. I wasn’t sure people would even understand how far I was going or anything, but I had the feeling I really wanted to tell the story that hadn’t been told before musically, sonically and visually.

LC: How different was it to record from Goldenheart (the first part of the trilogy)?

DR: Completely different. Coming from such an album that was critically acclaimed, it was very different and difficult to make sure that I wasn’t creating something that could be compared to Goldenheart. But that also could equal the level of status that Goldenheart had reached.

But everything was different, the recording, where I recorded, the sounds I used, the producers were different.

LC: Where do you see these two different albums fitting into the contemporary music landscape?

DR: I don’t see myself fitting in with it, I just see myself doing the music I want to do! I don’t even consider fitting in with anything, that wasn’t the plan. The plan was to make something that I felt was worth giving to the fans, something that was next level and something that I felt could change or even create a new wave of sound.

LC: Was part of “not fitting in” helped by being independent and operating without a record label?

DR: We were independent before it was cool, when it was just being broke! It’s now cool not to have a label and be independent, but two years ago that wasn’t the thing.

Two years ago we were broke and we had a different sound and no one was listening to us screaming at the top of our lungs to listen to how dope this is.

LC: You’ve said creating the album was a feminist act. Why?

DR: When I was asked 'Is this a feminist album?' I said this is not a feminist album because it's way larger than just the ideas of the woman and what she’s doing. What we’re doing is strengthening the woman on a whole other level, and not just the music, it’s bigger than the music. What we’re creating is not just feminism, it’s humanism, it’s telling people there’s no genre, there’s no gender, this can be done on a whole new level. It can be a whole completely different look.

Being a black woman in this music industry and doing the genre I’m doing – it’s a big statement, it’s bold statement and it’s hard to make sometimes when people are not trying to listen or it’s not formatted the way people are used to seeing it.

LC: What do you think of the critical response to the album?

DR: When I watch these critics try to describe this album it’s so beautiful. And what’s beautiful is it’s so different for each one, they never say its influences, just remnants. They’re excited about it.

It’s just Dawn, it’s just me and hopefully by the next four five years critics will just be this is the sound of Dawn.

LC: What will the rest of 2015 hold for you?

DR: Honestly I want to take this for a ride!

My plan is to work with some really great people and talk to some really great souls and meet some really great artists! I just want to make great music.

Dawn Richard is playing at London Jazz Café on 2 June. Tickets are now on sale here.

Your inbox deserves a little culture! Get our monthly newsletter