Tia Fuller at the Strathmore Mansion (November 2012)


Tia Fuller and her Angelic Warriors rocked the Strathmore Mansion.

What is an angelic warrior and how does it come to be?  That’s what Thursday night’s audience at the Strathmore Mansion was tasked with exploring as the Tia Fuller Quartet performed in celebration of the angelic warriors we encounter in our lives and that exist within us all.  Described as the duality of the peaceful and loving angel juxtaposed with the determined, fighter warrior, the angelic warrior—though not confined by gender—represents yet another phase in the life of women who have to be everything for everybody.   This seems to be a trend Fuller intends to continue (this time consciously) when selecting album titles for her recordings.   As a female musician working to carve out her place in the male dominated world of jazz while also honoring her feminine spirit, I’d argue that the angelic warrior being celebrated Thursday night was Fuller herself.

Joined onstage by Mimi Jones (bass), EJ Strickland (drums), and her sister Shamie Royston (piano), Fuller began her set with a pre-recorded angelic warrior intro that opened the door for Strickland to unleash a fiery lead-off drum solo.  Following Strickland’s solo, Fuller emerged from the back of the room outfitted in a sparkly, sequined top, shiny leggings, even sparklier, six-inch stilettos, and her trademark, megawatt smile—the armor of choice for the girliest of the angelic warrior ilk.  With each measured step toward the bandstand, Fuller’s sound grew in power and intensity.  Show time!

Beginning the set with “Royston Rumble” Fuller stepped out of the spotlight for a moment to afford her sister the musical space to shine.  And, in one part unspoken expression of gratitude and two parts she can’t help that she’s astonishingly talented, Royston took care to sound as though she invented the rumble.  She attacked the piano with such soul, grandness and exactitude that you almost didn’t care what anyone else was playing.  Strickland, taking his part in the rumble, was able to handle everything that Royston dished out sounding as though he’d taken some notes from Royston’s husband Rudy who filled the drum chair on the recording. 

On “Little Les,” a song written for a friend’s unborn baby girl, Fuller and Jones were the ones to do the heavy lifting performing the lullaby with sweet, delicate touches that surely touched the heart of the new father who just so happened to be in the audience.  Speaking of family and friends, Fuller got some help performing a completely revamped version of “Body and Soul” from her cousin Baiye, a local spoken word (poetry) artist.  On “Cherokee” Fuller stepped back into the spotlight opening the song with a beautiful solo that seemed to convey the no need for words sentiment of her longtime friend and colleague, Sean Jones.  During her solo, you could hear expressions of appreciation, confidence, strength, vulnerability, hunger, and affirmation.  Being an angelic warrior is no easy feat.  When you’ve given everything you can to bring happiness and security to others, what’s left for you and what are you prepared to do about it?  That’s what Fuller’s solo expressed and the audience allowed her to have that moment.  When the other musicians joined in to perform the standard, the audience danced along in their seats and tapped their toes—Strickland, Fuller and Royston played off one another while Jones was the glue that held it all together.  

It’s always a delight to hear what Fuller and her quartet come up with musically.  Her desire to celebrate the angelic warriors in her life is an opportunity for jazz audiences to celebrate what she’s been able to bring to the music.  On behalf of everyone who’s ever heard her play, thank you, Ms. Fuller, for being an angelic warrior for jazz.   The art world is lucky to have you.

Major props to everyone at the Strathmore Mansion for making this show happen.     

Writer’s note: photos were not allowed during the performance, but be sure to look at some of the candid shots I was able to get after the show.



Jon Batiste: Ertegun Jazz Series (November 2012)


One purpose of a jazz review, at least from this writer’s perspective, is to invite readers into a musical experience that is so extraordinary that audiences will want to see it or hear it for themselves.  The use of flowery or peppery adjectives, depending on the tone and flavor of the experience, help bring the music to life, adding splashes of color to a black and white dictation.  Even though the writer has already identified the music as extraordinary, he/she has to, at least, appear to be unbiased, adding a few shortcomings to balance out the review.  Every now and then; however, a musician moves beyond extraordinary and leaves a writer speechless.  Pianist Jonathan Batiste is one such musician. 

He and his Stay Human Band performed two shows last night at Bohemian Caverns before capacity crowds, turning us upside down and shaking us free of our preconceptions about how this music should be played, what the music should sound like, what it should be called, whether it’s alive or dead, and how we should listen to it.  By the time he turned us all loose, we only wanted to hear more.  And, for the record, it was jazz.  Pure, soul-to-soul, straight from New Orleans to New York and back to New Orleans again, jazz; and it was fantastic. 

There weren’t any pop or hip hop licks added (at least not during the part of the show I was able to attend), but that didn’t stop people from getting up out of their seats and dancing to the music.  During the minute or two that Batiste transitioned into classical music, the room didn’t become “museum” level stuffy.  When he spoke and sang, his words did not float over heads or isolate (except for maybe the two brave souls who cheered wildly when Batiste asked if anyone was from Indiana, Pennsylvania).  When he made his way from the piano to the drum kit during the encore to play along with his drummer, he was well aware of his bandmates and only seemed to do what enhanced what they were already playing.  

All that said, there’s not a word in the dictionary that will fully prepare you for the musical experience that Jonathan Batiste will give you, so go see it for yourself.  There are still tickets available to tonight’s 10:30pm show (the 8:30pm show is sold out), so don’t hesitate.  Get down there now and be prepared to have the time of your life!

Show time 10:30pm (Saturday, November 17, 2012); Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh Street N.W (on the corner of 11th and U St), Washington, DC;  tickets: $25 in advance ($30 at the door, but don’t chance it).  For online purchases, go to: http://www.instantseats.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=buy.event&eventID=B15F9305-B266-72F3-7060DCBBE4F79EEF

For Jonathan Batiste’s tour schedule, look for him on Facebook or Twitter.   .        

Dawn Richard (August 2013)


August 2013

This past February, when I first had the bright idea to launch my blog, there were only two artists that I considered interviewing for the feature: Wynton Marsalis and Dawn Richard.  Though it may have made  more sense to pursue the interview with the jazz artist, particularly since I always credit Marsalis with single-handedly influencing my interest in jazz, the interview with Richard (pronounced rish-ard) was far more interesting a proposition.

First, I’m a fan.  In my mind, she’s someone the pop world should be paying a lot more attention to.  She’s everything that’s intriguing about Rihanna with the passion and drive that has propelled superstars like Beyonce and Michael Jackson to the top.  As a member of the jazz journalists’ community, I’ve had an opportunity to vote for “Bests.”  I’m no fool—best sometimes equals most popular or most aggressive label support.  If, however, we’re judging based on actual talent, Richard stands as one of the best among her peers. 

Second, I find the plight of the female entertainer extremely fascinating.  Women in the industry seem to be targeted and dismissed based on superficiality masked as insight about looks, body type/shape, age, popularity, style, skin color and/or race, with very little regard for or consideration of actual talent.  I wanted to try to share another perspective.  Third, and just as interesting, examining how women exist within that experience known as celebrity was something that resonated with me considering my role as a female writer and photographer in the male dominated jazz world. 

But, at the root of it all: I really just wanted to tell a woman’s story.  I wanted my blog to reflect who I am, what I am, and I wanted there to be a female voice besides my own to convey a message of doing the best with what we’re given and knowing that the power is in our hands to make our realities as big or as little as we want.  Sure, there are female entertainers who are more popular than Richard.  There are probably even female jazz musicians who may have been easier to promote within my jazz circles.  I hope that I’ll be able to tell some of their stories in the near future.  But what would be the point of this blog if I chose what was easy?  So I present to you, Ms. Dawn Richard.   


“And trust even if you cannot see.  That’s how faith must be.” – Dawn Richard “Wild and Faith”

Dawn Richard is the living, breathing embodiment of carpe diem.  She occupies her space in the universe as a woman who knows her purpose but who also has the misfortune of knowing it in an industry that has tried to convince her that she needs to be something different in order to achieve it.  Scrutinized from the top of her head to the inner depths of her soul, Richard has no interest in entertaining any of it.  She thinks sounds and hears dreams, leaving detractors to deal with the weightlessness of their opinions.

She’s that rare combination of talent, humility, and go-get-it that is rivaled only by the mogul smart enough to take a chance on her.  Beginning her career as a dancer for the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) and as a fledgling solo artist who went by the name Dawn Angelique, Richard credits her friends with encouraging her to audition for the reality show that would change her life, MTV’s “Making the Band.” 

It was there that Richard first caught the eye of hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs (aka Puffy or Puff Daddy for his old-school fans), and the rest is living history.  Not only did she make the band, beating out thousands of girls in the process, but she also named the band and lent her songwriting talents to the band’s musical efforts.  Danity Kane was on track to be one of the top musical acts of its generation, but, almost as quickly as it began, it was over leaving Richard and the group’s other members to wonder what’s next.   

I spoke with Dawn by phone back in February 2013 (yes, 2013) about auditioning for MTV’s “Making the Band,” making an impact on Diddy, her life as an independent artist, and being an acquired taste (I’ve always described myself as an acquired taste so it was interesting to hear another person describe themselves in that way) .  Since the interview, the internet’s been buzzing with news of a Danity Kane reunion (which this fan happens to think is a TERRIBLE idea), hater fueled rumblings about skin-lightening and a nose job (obviously unfounded stories, because you can see the make-up going down the base of her nose and the brighter lights in her pictures.  All tricks that seasoned artists and models use), and she’s broken ties with the producer who coordinated this interview (I don’t know what happened, but I offer my sincerest thanks to Andrew Scott). 

Here’s what she had to say:


Bridget Arnwine:    When you earned a spot in Danity Kane, was that process what you expected when you decided to audition?  Were you looking to be a star?  What was your expectation and did the group fulfill that for you?

Dawn Richard:  It’s a little bit different, because it was nothing like I expected it to be.  I didn’t audition expecting to be a star; I kinda didn’t know what I was getting myself into.  People weren’t coming to New Orleans for things like this.  You had to leave New Orleans to audition. 

I had no idea what to expect.  I knew that there was a possibility that things could have gone great, but I was not prepared for cameras and all of the things that came with it.  It was a bit of a shock for me; because I had no clue as far as reality tv was concerned.

 BA:  Had you seen any of the other “Making the Band” episodes? 

DR:  No, I hadn’t.  When I was dancing in the NBA, a few girls on my team knew that I sang and danced, and I think they watched the show.  They were like, “you should audition for this show; we think you would do well with it.”  I decided to watch an episode and I thought, “ok…”  In my mind, it seemed so far-fetched that a girl from New Orleans would even get an opportunity to do it.  But, because my girlfriends believed in me, I decided to just try it. 

BA:  I remember when you auditioned.  The one thing that stuck out to me, and I don’t know if you remember this, was watching Diddy during the auditions.  I remember the one word he used to describe your audition was, “exquisite.”  I remember thinking right away that I wanted to pay attention to you, because I’d never heard that from him before [on the other season of the show].

DR:  That is incredible. 

You know, what’s crazy is that I had no clue that he even liked me.  It’s funny looking back on it, because I only auditioned once and a lot of the other girls that were around were asked to do multiple takes.   I assumed that he overlooked me or that he didn’t like me because the other girls, who were pretty good as well, were asked to dance again or sing again…  I only did everything once, so I really just thought that he overlooked me.   So when I had an opportunity to sit back and watch the show again it was quite a surprise. 

It’s funny how you see things one way.  I was so nervous and thought that I clearly wasn’t going to make it past that first audition.  

 BA:  I guess I could see how you would think that, because it didn’t show that way on tv.

DR:  Right.  So, it’s probably like you said, he already had his mind made up and I didn’t know it because I only auditioned once.  I guess that was all that he needed.

 BA:  Do you keep in touch with any of the girls that you auditioned with or any of the girls that didn’t make it into the final group?

DR:  No.  It’s kinda difficult to do that, because everything was so abrupt.  There are some times where we may run into each other on Twitter, but it’s really hard to keep in touch.  Everything was so scattered.  There were so many girls in one house. 

BA:  What did you think when you first realized that you’d have the opportunity to work with Diddy and what is something that you feel you’ve learned from him?

DR:  Well, I think the first real moment that I feel like we connected and that he appreciated my artistry is when we did Welcome to the Dollhouse [Danity Kane’s sophomore recording].  We were very manufactured.  They didn’t have any idea about our talent and we really, really wanted to fight through that, because we felt we had a lot more to bring to the table than just being the girls from “Making the Band.” 

I approached Puff about writing.  I really wanted him to see us as more than singers.  I told him, “Puff, I’d really love to write,” and he told us “write something and we’ll see what happens.”   It was kinda like that challenge of “ok, you want to do this, then show me,” kinda stuff.  So I rose to that challenge and we all wrote records and we gave it to him on a cd.  We sat down in his office to have a meeting with him and, out of all the records we played for him, Puff picked my record, which was “Lights Out.”  I think that was the first time that he realized that there was so much more to me—and not just me, but all of us.  That’s when he realized that there was so much more to us than being just singers or just the girls that competed against each other.  We had way more depth. 

I think what I learned from him is exactly what I just said, he kinda pushes you… he plays that Jedi mind trick on you.  “oh, you can’t be great,” or “you won’t be great,” and he knows that you’ll push yourself to be great.  So, it’s one of those things where I’ve learned to stay focused.  I’ve gotta push myself and challenge myself to say, “you couldn’t possibly top yourself,” and then that’s when I push myself that much harder.   

BA:  I think honestly, I believe that that’s what he liked about you.  You hear about the Bad Boy curse a lot and I think, and I mean no disrespect to any artist who was ever signed to the label, part of that is what we talked about before: he’s looking for someone who’s willing to rise to greatness.   Not just artists who were talented and looking for label support to move forward, but he was looking for artists who were willing to be great. 

I was thinking when Dirty Money first broke up that I hoped you’d ride it out with him.  I saw you and him as having a 2012 Puffy and Biggie or Puffy and Mary kind of relationship.  I thought he could see that in you.       

DR:  I think he did see the tenacity in me and I think he did see how hungry I was.  I think that what we had in common was that hunger.  He always knew that I was never good with “no” and that I was never ok with just being good.  I think he understood that about me and I think that was what our similarities were.  We didn’t disagree on a lot of things, and I think that was our common denominator.  We were both… we had the same work ethic.      

BA:  I saw that too.  I remember when you went solo and people were saying “well, it’s a good thing that she broke free, because he wouldn’t support her.”  I remember thinking, nah… they’re wrong about this one.   This is something different.   Whether you stayed or went, I thought he would’ve supported you.

DR:  I think so too and I always look at it that way.  I’ve never looked at Puff… when people say, “the Bad Boy curse,” I tell people that I never looked at it like that, because I appreciate Puff for always being exactly what he’s always been.  He’s never surprised me; he’s exactly what he is and he’s never tried to be anything else but that.  So, I’ve never thought of it as anything other than an opportunity to crack a window open.  It was up to me to go through it, and to make it larger and to make other opportunities for myself.  He’ll only give you an inch and it’s up to you to do something with that.  I think he does that on purpose. 

BA:  Well, I’d think after all these years in the business, he’d almost have to do it that way just to see what happens.   So many artists are coming in and out of the doors looking to be stars. 

DR:  Yes, exactly. 

BA:  Backtracking a bit, when he first approached you about the whole Dirty Money idea, what did you think?  How did you feel about working in a group with him fresh off what happened with Danity Kane?   

DR:  After Danity Kane broke up, I was writing.  I was hustling.  I was taking the train from Baltimore to New York and I was writing between four to five songs a day.  I wanted to let him know that I hadn’t disappeared and that—just because Danity Kane was over and he was fed up with us—I was still on the label and I didn’t want to be shelved.  I went really, really hard for about seven months to really keep myself on his radar.  He eventually brought me in and told me about Project 27. 

He said that he really wanted me to write on it, because he knew that I’d been writing so much.  I said ok, and he sent me some of the tracks.  They were some of the most innovative tracks that I’d heard in a long time.  That moved me.  I told him, “You dream like I dream.”  That was kinda the music (and sound) that I always wanted to do; not talking necessarily about the tracks, but the sound.  That was all I needed. 

Music has always been at the forefront for me, but to have an opportunity to be a part of something innovative and positive—that’s a no brainer. 

I told him that I’d write on the record and we’d see what happens.  Over the course of five or six months, that’s all I did.  He had a couple other artists doing the same thing, but I think his, and Kaleena’s and my sound was so great when we would come together as far as the writing was concerned that he couldn’t find anyone better.  It’s the approach.  There are far better singers, there are other celebrities, bigger artists, and other moguls, but I think he saw how organic it was and how effortless it was with us.  I think that that was the turning point. 

He approached us and said that he’d like us to be in his group.  That was the beginning of Dirty Money. 

BA:  I’ve heard Last Train to Paris described as a commercial failure.  Do you think of that experience, that record, as a failure?

DR:  That’s such a harsh word to say, because I feel like it wasn’t a commercial failure.  Especially not in this time.  Comparing it to the other records that Puff sold, he was a solo artist.  He’s working with girls that no one’s ever heard of and I came from a pop group.  That was such a different aesthetic and I think that it was extremely successful.  

I think it kinda opened doors for people sonically and production-wise that people weren’t touching before.  I think it was incredibly innovative and I think it started a trend that other artists later followed.  Bigger artists were collab-ing with each other and creating a whole new sound to hip-hop.  

BA:  I enjoyed the record very much.

DR:  I think a lot of our peers did too.  When Jay-z opened up at the Barclays Center, the intro for his show was “Angels.”  I think contrary to what people may feel, we had a lot of support from a lot of our peers and I think that’s because it was just great music.  I think people wanted more from Puff, but he tried something new and with two new girls.  It was a whole new look.  For someone who’s already established to test the waters like that I think it made people uncomfortable.  I think they’re so used to seeing him do things one way and I applaud him for trying something new, because he honestly didn’t have to. 

BA:  Back to you and the disbanding of Dirty Money, did you ever consider staying?  When he said that he was done and that it might take a few years for your solo record to come out, did you ever consider—especially considering the success that you had with him—that maybe a new opportunity would come along if you stuck it out?  Were you sure from the beginning that you wanted to go?

DR:  There was nowhere to stay.  Jimmy Iovine didn’t have us in mind as solo artists.  We were Dirty Money.  It was one of those things where Puff would have had to shop me as a solo artist at Interscope. We’d just moved from Atlantic.  It would have taken some time and I think Puff knew that I wouldn’t want to wait three or four years for someone to put me in a roster.  At that point, I already knew what I wanted, so it was my choice.  I knew what I wanted to do. 

I also knew that what I was trying to do would either be extremely accepted or shunned, because it was so different.  I knew that if I asked Puff and he wasn’t going to take me then I’d have to make a choice.  So, I chose to leave.  I knew that I’d been loyal and that he’d let me go.

BA:  So we’ve seen you transition from Danity Kane to Dirty Money, who are you as a solo artist?

DR:  I think I’m the most honest as a solo artist, because there is no third party perspective.  There’s no second party perspective.  I think me as a solo artist is me at my most creative, and I think people are seeing that more and more through my projects. 

There’s so much more of me creatively as a songwriter and as an artist, and I think people are really just now getting to know me because it’s not me as a part of something.  I think people only had a perspective of who they thought I was.  I’m not who people thought I was.  I think with my two projects [Armor On and Goldenheart] I’ve really opened people’s eyes to who I am as a person.  I think I’ve really opened people’s eyes to my journey. 

BAGoldenheart was released on January 15, 2013, and it’s the first installment of your Hearts trilogy.  What inspired the trilogy and what inspired Goldenheart?

DR:  Well, everything happens in three parts for me. 

There’s the naïve stage where you really want to go out into the world and conquer it.  It’s the beginning where you’re young and where you think that people are going to be grateful for your talent and that it’s going to take you a year to be successful and you’ll be a boss by two years and you’ll just run the world.  That’s your first thought.  Then there’s the fall. When you get there, you’re the one who has to get the coffee and you have to actually put in ten to twelve years of work; the people don’t take you seriously and you have to work that much harder for people to understand you.  The redemption moment is when you realize that everything you’ve gone through has made you the person that you are.  I felt that my entire six-year journey in the industry is not one that could fit into one album.  It needed to be split up into a beginning, middle, and an end—similar to writing a novel or a short story.  Goldenheart is the beginning chapter.  It’s the first installment of that which is my naïve moment.  You can hear Goldenheart being aggressive, super ambitious, and assertive.  That’s because, in the beginning, you want this really bad and you forget that it’s a marathon and not a sprint.  Your beginning can be really erratic and I feel that Goldenheart has that underlying theme.   

BA:  There are lots of references to fighting for something.  Why was that important for you to communicate on this record?  

DR:  Because my life is a battle and I think I’m not the only one getting up every day and fighting, dragging and slaying all those monsters that tend to come at you.  I just shared it in a more metaphorical way.  That’s how I see the world.  I see the world in a different light. The lines of my dreams and reality are a little blurred. 

There are monsters every day trying to doubt me and slay me, monsters that try to strip me of all the things that I knew and started with.  I wanted to do it (the music) in a way where people could see it the way I saw it.  It’s a fight everyday.  I think people can relate to that, and that’s why I feel so strongly about being in a battle and fighting or losing your armor or putting it on.  I really think that people fight for what they believe in.  I really do. 

BA:  A lot of the reviews that I’ve read about the record have used word like “eccentric,” and “futuristic” to describe the music [on Goldenheart].  How would you describe it? 

DR:  It’s new age and world music.  I did it for the people.  This isn’t something that’s manufactured or that’s forced so that you could like it.  It’s music for people who are definitely going through something.  I have to put a genre on it, because people always want you to but for me it’s world music. 

BA:  I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to Frank Ocean’s and Janelle Monae’s records, that Goldenheart is a mix of the two.  People are comparing you vocally to Brandy.  Do you think your music is like anyone else’s? 

DR:  I don’t think it is and I think that’s why people are comparing it to three or four different artists.  I don’t think people can put a peg on it… people have to compare it to something, because it makes us relate to it a little bit more.  I think it’s interesting to compare it to four or five different people to say, “it’s like these things.”  I don’t think it’s comparable to anything.   You can’t put it into one category.  It sits on its own.

BA:  Ok, I have a couple of non-music related questions.  The first one is kinda silly.  I watched the video for the dance mix of your song “Wild and Faith.”  How in the world are you dancing in those shoes?

DR:  Oh gosh, I dance in shoes like that in rehearsal.  I prefer it.  I’m a tiny girl.  I’m a dancer and I love lines.  I grew up dancing before I could do anything else and lines are really important.  Heels help create that for me.  I love to take risks and I love to push the envelope for what you think an artist should do.  I’d do (dance in those shoes) in my sleep if I could.  I love my stilettos. 

BA:  I love the video for that reason.  Nobody dances in shoes like that.  When Ciara dances, she’s in flats.  Not to compare you to Ciara, but that’s the kind of shoe that you think someone who’s dancing that hard is wearing.  Boxing shoes, boots, sneakers, that’s what you think is required…  Beyonce dances in heels.  That’s impressive, but it’s a modest, theater heel.

DR:  Well, Beyonce’s tall so she can get those lines from [a heel that is] 3 ¾”.   For me, I’m looking at like a 6 ½ or 7” easy... 

BA:  But not to dance in.

DR:  Yeah, the more outrageous the better, because it challenges me. 

A lot of the other videos that I was dancing in prior to that, I was dancing in stilettos too but I didn’t show my feet.  In “Automatic” I was dancing in 7 ½” heels and I never showed my feet.  I never cared if people saw my feet or not.  It was a challenge for me.  That’s the kind of person that I am; I just love to do it.

That makes me happy to hear you say that.  We’re doing things that most aren’t and we’re doing it with ease.  That’s the kind of artist that I want to be.  I want to make it look like it’s easy when it’s really not. 

BA:  Well, you need to start showing your feet more.  People need to know what you’re doing, because I think people need to get a real appreciation for what it is that you‘re bringing.  You’re doing what Ciara is doing in 6 ½” or 7” shoes.  People need to see that.   Women will get it.  We wear those shoes.

DR:  They do, but sometimes they don’t get it.  People will see what they want to see.  They’ll always compare you.  They’ll say that you’re not this or that.  People can be fickle.  I hear you, though.    I’m just getting started; there’s so much more to do.

I do it live, so people will see it.

BA:  This kinda brings me to my next question… Esperanza Spalding was quoted as saying that we as a society have become more obsessed with the way an entertainer looks than with their music or their artistry.  As an artist who’s been judged about the way that you look and all the other things that may have been said about you, how do you navigate that in the industry? 

DR:  Esperanza has a point and it’s interesting to know that she said that, because she’s a really beautiful girl.  I think for her to say that, she must really see it in that light. 

For me, I’ve come to a place where I could really give a shit if they like me or not.  It’s one of those things where I’ve become so comfortable with who I am.  I understand that I’m an acquired taste, and I like that about myself.   In the beginning, I did see people care more about what I looked like and less about the music.  If I don’t look good to you so you won’t listen to my music, then, shit, you just missed out.  You just keep moving.  

It’s one of those things where I got tired of wanting people to appreciate my talent and not say, “oh my God, she’s not pretty or she doesn’t have the ‘it’ factor, because she doesn’t look good in some of those pictures.”  I don’t have time for that.  The message in the music is so profound; I’m going to make you uncomfortable regardless.  If I was their idea of beautiful and my music still was what it was, it still would be uncomfortable because the music would make them move a different way.  It would always be something.  

My answer now to all of those people who feel that way is, if they don’t like it then they shouldn’t listen to it.  Fuck it.  That’s how I feel.  You miss out on the great shit if that’s where you’re at. 

It’s sad, but true, that we are in a place where people would just prefer to be pretty, because if you’re pretty and sing off key they’ll rock with you.  You just have to keep rebelling and keep going hard until they get it. 

BA:  Kudos to you for being able to get to that mental space.  People are tough on celebrities.

DR:   They are, but I’m not here to date you.  I’m here to change your life musically.  If you’re in that place where you feel like if I’m not someone you’d date and you can’t listen to my music, then my music’s not for you and that’s ok. 

BA:  That’s fantastic. 

Moving on, you’re from New Orleans.

DR:  Born and raised.

BA:  I’m a jazz writer so I have to ask, do you listen to jazz music?

DR:  Yes, ma’am.  I grew up knowing about Ellis Marsalis and the Batiste brothers.  My father’s a musician and he’s played with some of the best musicians around.  I watched that.  That’s something that was always part of our culture.  If you didn’t know, then shame on you. 

BA:  What’s up next for you?

DR:  Well I’m on a promo tour right now.  We’re going to all the FYE stores and other small venues.  I want to touch my hearts, my fan base, one by one.  I’m doing it the old-school way.  I’m literally going to places where people don’t go.  I’m going places where people stopped going.  I’m doing the grind.  I’m going from city to city promoting the album and then I’ll go on tour in the summer.  After that we’ll be getting ready for the next album in the trilogy which is Blackheart

BA:  That’s all I have for you.  Thank you for your time.

DR:  Thank you for talking to me.

BA:  As I mentioned, I’m a jazz writer traditionally, but I listen to all kinds of music.  I’m grateful to you for being open to talking to me as I open myself up to writing about other genres of music.

DR:  Aw, thank you.