R&B Singer-songwriter DONDRIA returns with her new single "Take You There" from her upcoming EP Perspective. I caught up with the songstress who shares her earliest musical beginning and how that led to getting discovered and signed by Hip Hop mogul and legendary music producer Jermaine Dupri.
Dondria also share her thoughts on women in music, R&B today and much more...
Dondria also share her thoughts on women in music, R&B today and much more...
TERRANCE: Briefly tell us about your earliest musical beginning and when did it all start.
DONDRIA: Of course. So I started on YouTube doing covers in 2006 because I just wanted to get an unbiased opinion of what people thought. Because you got your family and friends gassing you up and I just wanted to hear from strangers because I feel my friends and family are supposed to cheer me on because they love me. So I chose YouTube to get that unbiased opinion and brutally honest opinion and I've got so much from that. I kept making videos and doing covers and my thing was, I would eat and talk for two minutes before doing every cover. Some people would like it and some wouldn't.
TERRANCE: How did you get discovered?
DONDRIA: I reached a million views on multiple videos on YouTube and got discovered by Jermaine Dupri. So he discovered me and it kind of happened super fast. He hit me up and I went to him in Atlanta with my mom. We just talked about his plans and what he was trying to do and next thing I know, I'm signed and moving to Atlanta.
TERRANCE: This year marks the 10th anniversary of your debut album, Dondria vs. Phatfffat. What do you remember the most about the process?
DONDRIA: I mean, I've just always written music. I used to write music in middle and high school. When I got discovered, I think I had just gotten into the studio to record this music I was writing for the first time, so I was pretty new and pretty fresh on how this thing go. My story was not the artist that was in the studio with all of these songs and trying to send them to labels. I knew nothing about none of this. I literally was just going off of the people who I was blessed to meet and work with like Jermaine Dupri, Bryan Michael Cox and Johnta Austin. I just was going with the flow, you know? They have made such an impact in this game, why wouldn't I? They knew what they were talking about. So I was like, whatever you guys think and such, I'll just do it.
TERRANCE: Were there any challenges going into it?
DONDRIA: My first challenge, I guess I would say is that Jermaine Dupri gave me a beat and he was like, write to this and that was it. I was like, wait... what? You want me to write to it for an album? He was like, yeah. So I wrote to it and it made the album and that was like my push into songwriting, because he honestly didn't know if I could write or not. Maybe he was testing me out as well, but I guess I past the test, because after that I just started to write more and more. The album came out and it did fairly well. I toured all over the country and went on 106 & Park and just did everything that I guess you would think an artist is supposed to do when they come out with new music.
TERRANCE: Were you all satisfied with the end result?
DONDRIA: I guess it didn't go how we all thought it would. I'm sure JD thought we would have made millions by this point, but it didn't quite go that way and there were different factors as to why. When he first signed me, we were with Def Jam. It's so funny looking back at it now, because everybody that's out, ten times out of ten, were discovered from the internet, but when I got discovered, that wasn't happening, so the label was like, you found her where? On the internet? Please. They were so far behind that they looked at both JD and I as if we were crazy. We didn't really get that much support to push the music because they just didn't really think it would work and because of that, I kind of had to figure out, okay what am I going to do? The most successful people have all had a moment where they were just like that. Where they had to kind of ask themselves, alright now am I gonna kind of just lay down or am I going to figure out my purpose? Because obviously I'm here for a reason. I stepped away from music publicly. I was always writing, recording and creating, but I didn't put anything out and so during that time I guess I kind of was trying to figure out how to live a normal life. It was a weird time and I was very lost and didn't know who I was.
TERRANCE: What inspired you to step back into it?
DONDRIA: I don't know if you're familiar, but there was always a guy who used to sing with me on YouTube and his name is Broadway and we pretty much grew up together and so we were kind of like sharpening each other's pen in the studio. Just writing and writing for other people and really honing our crafts, because initially I was thrown in it. Between that and just life experiences with my love life and things I'm watching my family and friends go through. I was just writing about it. I would write poems and I would write songs. I was able to put all of those feelings and emotions into a journal. There were times when I was depressed and I would put it into the music and I think that's one of the best things because it comes off authentic.
TERRANCE: So bring us to date with your new single "Take You There" and the concept behind it.
DONDRIA: "Take You There" is the new single off of my upcoming EP called Perspective. "Take You There" on the surface is very seductive and very sexual. It's inviting you with me to a place of ecstasy on the surface. It's a song that ask the listener to allow me to take them to a place where we can be our natural and authentic selves. Our highest and best selves. We can not have anxiety or worry or we don't have to be intimidated by what people are posting on Instagram. I want people to allow to take them to that place.
TERRANCE: What inspired the title Perspective for your upcoming EP?
DONDRIA: The reason I'm titling it Perspective is because everybody have a different life. Things happen that one hundred percent of the population on Earth can't all agree on. Everybody have a different perspective because we are all looking at it from a place where we are in life.
TERRANCE: Sonically what can we expect?
DONDRIA: I would say the sound is very inviting. There aren't any high tempo songs on the EP which I'm not really that girl anyway. (Laughs). It's very midtempo. You can ride to it. If you wanna lay in your bed and smoke a blunt, you can. If you want to cuddle up with boo thang, you can. It's that type of vibe.
TERRANCE: What's your perspective on women in particular pitted against in the music industry?
DONDRIA: That really annoys me because we all have whatever talents we have, our personalities, all of that is different for a reason and we're supposed to be able to join those thoughts together, especially in the industry because we're not blessed with these platforms just to have them. We're blessed with platforms to spread a message and to share messages of love which is what I'm in. Some people message is to help our community be better with money. I really love that we're buying more homes and getting our credit together and start businesses. Everybody has their message and so when we're pitted against each other, it's almost like religion because there are so many. That alone pits us together, because you're Christian, I'm Catholic and he's Buddhist and I can't even keep up with all of the bickering because at the end of the day whether you call it the universe or God or whatever you call it, it's the same thing. So going back to music and women in the industry, I love Megan Thee Stallion. I feel she's doing a real good job of showing women how things are supposed to be done. So shouts out to her.
TERRANCE: Are you happy with the way R&B music is going today?
DONDRIA: I guess I am happy with the way it's going. Now a couple years ago, my answer probably would've been no, but I feel like I've seen a lot of progress. I am definitely the 90's R&B lover and so when this new sound started to happen, don't get me wrong I like it and I'm a fan, but I know that's not my lane. I think it's okay. I mean, we can't let things be the same forever. That's the one thing that's constant... change. I feel like you just gotta figure out how to flow with the change and that doesn't mean to sell yourself out. It doesn't mean to not be authentic to who you are, but do a little work. Do a little work and figure out how you fit into this, because if you're really trying to be a household name that stand the test of time and always be respected for your craft, that's kind of your job to figure out how to fit in no matter what the climate is. It took me a while to realize that, to be honest. I was like, what is this? What is this sound? I blame it on Drake for the singing because everybody just jumped on this sound and ran with it, you know? But it's what it's supposed to be. I'm cool with it, because I'm comfortable with who I am and what my role is.
TERRANCE: You mentioned being a 90's R&B lover and so with that said, can we expect a follow-up mixtape to last year's Dondria Duets 5: The 90's Edition II?
DONDRIA: I think so. To be honest, that's why I went back to the 90's because there hasn't been in my opinion, good enough male R&B music which I try to focus on when I do those duets, that I felt needed or deserved to be on a mixtape, because I think it slipped away for a second, but I'm definitely planning and it will be coming.
TERRANCE: Are there any artists you hope to collaborate with in the near future?
DONDRIA: Yes. I'm such a big fan of Tori Kelly. Jazmine Sullivan is my girl. I also love J. Cole, Mali Music and I think Jon Bellion is so amazing.
TERRANCE: What are your favorite things to do when you're not working on music?
DONDRIA: I love to eat. I know people be thinking I'm playing, but my nickname was not "Phatfffat" for no reason. I love to eat. (Laughs). It's so different with friends, but whether we're at the house cooking or whether we're going out to eat, I love to do that. I also love to be really active. I love bowling, skating, laser tag, that kind of stuff and travel. I love to travel to new places and learn about culture and music. Anything and everything that I haven't tried once I would love to.
TERRANCE: Can we expect any upcoming shows or tour in support of your project?
DONDRIA: Yes. I'm actually in the process of getting together a tour for Perspective. So stay tuned for that. I have some amazing music on this EP and I have some amazing artists who will be on the tour with me, so I'm really excited about it.
TERRANCE: What are your thoughts on the idea of The Millennium Tour: Female Edition?
DONDRIA: I think that would be a great idea, especially that time. Y'all don't forget now, I was putting out music too. I think that it should happen. It would be amazing if we could all be in one. So, hopefully there will be a female version.
TERRANCE: Any final words you would like to share with the readers, fans and followers?
DONDRIA: I just want to say thank you for believing in me, especially for the pre-existing listeners and followers, because up until 2017, it had been since my debut album that I had put any music out, but somehow, some way, people were still there rocking with me and asking me when is new music coming and all I was saying, it's coming, it's coming and it never came, but when it finally did, they were there to receive it. So just a thank you and even for the new listeners, welcome to my perspective. This is going to be an amazing ride. I think that I definitely am a creator of good authentic R&B music.
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