Inspired by New Orleans, DAWN rebuilds the beauty of ruin: NPR



"In the middle of the worst moments, we found a way to dance," says DAWN from his hometown, New Orleans. The artist used New Orleans as inspiration for his latest album, new race.

Robert Arnold / Courtesy of the artist


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Robert Arnold / Courtesy of the artist

"In the middle of the worst moments, we found a way to dance," says DAWN from his hometown, New Orleans. The artist used New Orleans as inspiration for his latest album, new race.

Robert Arnold / Courtesy of the artist

DAWN is a survivor. You can listen to him when he tells his story and you can listen to it when he sings his songs.

The singer-songwriter and producer, f.k.a. DΔWN or Dawn Richard, rose to notoriety as a member of Diddy's R & B group, Danity Kane. The group released their debut album in August 2006, a year after Hurricane Katrina hit DAWN's hometown of New Orleans. She still remembers being stuck on a highway with her family when Katrina hit her.

"We left on Sunday, [it] it happened on Monday, "explains DAWN." My dad had a wedding to sing. He did it, then we got in the car. It usually takes, six or seven hours to get to Dallas? It took us 15 hours. We arrived in Texas and there were no rooms available. Then they told us to go to Biloxi. We went to Biloxi – they sold out. I drove to Houston for a whole day, all exhausted. So finally, my dad said: & # 39; We will stay here & # 39; "

3 views on a tragedy: reporters remember the first days after Katrina

DAWN says that she and her family stayed in that car for about a month until her brother finally got them and took them to Baltimore, Md.

Years later, he would return to New Orleans and use it as his source of inspiration after feeling exasperated by the music industry. DAWN says his last album, new race, Now, he is inspired by the resistance of the people of his hometown.

"It's such a beautiful city, it's something so different," she says. "I took it for granted because I thought I would always be there, and then when I got home, I said: You know what, I'm going to make an album that tells people why I'm the way I am and why we We are the way we are, and maybe I could connect with those other races that are like us. In the midst of the worst moments, we found a way to dance. "

In & # 39; New Breed & # 39 ;, DAWN occupies, and redefines, its own path

DAWN joined Noel King of NPR to discuss the process of doing new race, the magic of the women of New Orleans and how all their difficulties have strengthened their music. Listen to the radio version of your conversation on the audio link and read the interview in its entirety.

This interview has been edited for its length and clarity..

Noel King: What did you want to do with this album, new race?

DAWN: new race is special. I have released another three albums, I made a trilogy before this. And once I finished, I was exhausted because I did not have a label or administration team, and they rejected me a lot because they simply did not have the vision. So, I went home for the first time in a very long time and it was the first time I could breathe and feel like I was in the same place I was in Jonlee Drive and I realized at that moment that I had to tell this story.

One of the most striking songs on this album is the first song. It's called "the nine". It is named after the Ninth District of New Orleans where it grew, which, of course, was devastated by the hurricane. I could not say if this song is about going back to a place that can no longer be accessed because it's gone or if it's about going home and seeing that, although a lot of it has been dragged, the place itself, in its essence, it is still there.

Are both. It's a feeling that you may never feel it again, but it was so great that it can never really go away.

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What is the feeling that comes with that?

When it happened it was sad, but now it's a bit of a bitter sweetness. I am proud of my city because even though we have lost everything, we keep moving, we keep on dancing. It is not different from the celebration of a funeral. So, although we have a funeral, we dance in the streets because we know that the person we love is going to a better place. What are we? That's what we are as a city.

It is so interesting to think that if you were from a different city, you would be a very different artist. You would be someone who can not find joy in ruin.

Yes, that is real. And because of that, I've handled every experience I've dealt with, whether it's badual abuse, whether it's my boss in the music industries who have treated me in a certain way, whether I do not have a label. I have handled that same situation with everything.

You have references to New Orleans throughout the album, as you say. "Jealousy" is a song in which you are talking to a woman that we badume is the ex of your boyfriend. Is there New Orleans in that?

Then people mock and say: "You know about them, the New Orleans girls." Because there is a level of strength in us, that is, I would not say arrogant, it is trusting.

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No matter where we come from, we do not need money. We stay at a level and we expect something. The women I knew from New Orleans, the women who walked and talked like 'I'm on fire', you know? This is how I want to walk in my relationship and I know many people who understand it. I know many women who relate to the idea of ​​not feeling sorry when they say: "No, I'm not accepting anything more than this, because I'm worth it." I wanted to make an album that talked about those things.


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