YouKnowIGotSoul caught up with up and coming So So Def singer Dondria to talk about her upcoming album “Dondria vs. Phatfffat,” advice she could offer to others looking to be discovered like she was, working with legends such as Jermaine Dupri and Bryan Michael Cox, her current tour with Monica and Trey Songz, and potential future collaborations outside of the r&b realm!
YouKnowIGotSoul: First of all let me say congratulations, I know you’ve got the album coming out in less than a week, and I just have to ask, how does it feel right now?
Dondria: It feels great! I mean I’ve been working for years since ’07 to finally produce something I could put out, so it’s like my little baby.
YKIGS: What can we expect to hear on this album in terms of writers, production, features, the whole thing?
Dondria: You’re definitely going to hear what I would say is real r&b, and real soul, that feeling that you used to get in the 80’s and 90’s. Where the talent is, it is showcased in not so much an image or a gimmick, so I’m really excited about that too because there is not really a lot of just pure talent on the radio right now.
YKIGS: Yea exactly, I agree with you.
YKIGS: A lot of the songs I’ve heard from you so far have been of a slower tempo, do you feel that is your strength and is that the direction you’re taking with this album?
Dondria: I wouldn’t say that it’s my strength, but that’s just what I love to do more. I just feel a certain way, like I feel like I can feel the music, and embrace it, and really listen to the words when it’s slow, or even mid tempo. It’s a mixture, I have a wide variety, I have some mid tempo stuff on there too.
YKIGS: From the track list I’ve seen, you only have one guest feature on the album, well actually two on one song, was that done by design?
Dondria: Yes it was. I really wanted to keep the focus on me, you know it’s my first album and although I have been gaining a lot of views and fans through radio and through Youtube, there are going to be some that….there are still going to be people that still haven’t heard from me. So I wanted to give them the best introduction to who I am, and not really be overshadowed or even competing with people on my own album.
YKIGS: Yea I agree with that.
YKIGS: Also congratulations on the success of your first single “You’re the One,” and I have to tell you I have a buddy of mine Kyle, he actually wants to use the song in his wedding he loves it so much!
YKIGS: How did this song come together for you, tell me about that?
Dondria: “You’re the One,” J.D. and Bryan Michael Cox wrote it, and they brought it to me and I immediately fell in love with it. I mean I think that it’s a classic song that everybody can relate to and it just…it’s just one of those songs. I’m getting the second single out, and radio stations are still playing the first single. I just knew that it would make the best first impression.
YKIGS: For your second single “Shawty Wus Up,” what made you choose this as your next single?
Dondria: I chose “Shawty Wus Up” just to give a different side, I wanted to show people that I can sing and give them a classic song, but I also want them to have fun. So I chose “Shawty Wus Up” which you can play it in the club, you know or maybe at a party or whatever and have fun and flirt. Still have fun, but appreciate music and still have fun, it’s important to still have fun.
YKIGS: So obviously by now everyone pretty much knows your story about how you were discovered on Youtube and everything, but what I was interested is, when you first started putting the videos up on Youtube, was it your intention to be discovered, or was that something you just did for fun?
Dondria: No not at all. I really just went on there to get an unbiased opinion from the public audience and I knew that it was one of the best ways to do it. I’m grateful for the response and the buzz and how much it grew and eventually me getting signed, but I definitely didn’t imagine that this would happen.
YKIGS: So tell what it was originally like when someone reached out to you, Jermaine reached out to you on Youtube, what was that experience like?
Dondria: It was crazy. I mean I didn’t believe that it was him when he first reached out to me and it took quite a few times before I finally believed that it was him. Once I realized that, I was just, I mean I was ecstatic. I mean he’s done all of these things, he’s worked with all of these artists and made great music and made history, and for him to be looking at me and even think that I could be on the same roster as his other people, it was an honor, but it was also like I had big shoes to fill, so it was mixed emotions.
YKIGS: What advice could you offer to other aspiring artists out there who are looking to get discovered just like you were?
Dondria: I would tell aspiring artists to definitely use the social media ways, and ride that train because it’s definitely successful, you know Youtube, Mysapce, Facebook, Twitter, anything online, definitely use that. But don’t forget to use the more traditional outlets too, like still do open mic nights, and karaoke, and talent shows and competitions and all of that stuff. Use everything, because that’s the only way you will really be able to achieve…you know if you are open to doing everything you possibly can and not just one way.
YKIGS: Tell me what is it like working with Jermaine Dupri, and what’s something you could say you’ve learned from him?
Dondria: Working with JD is definitely a challenge. He’s always pushing me to go above and beyond, he wants me to be my absolute best at all times. And I am doing well, and he acts like I’m not doing well, like “It was aiight,” but he does that to make sure I don’t get too comfortable and I’m always striving. Now I’m new, but when I get established, which I know that I will be, but when I get established, I’m sure that he will still be pushing me like I am new. I think the people that do that, that are perfectionists and everything, which leads me to the next question which is how he inspired me and what I’ve learned from him, the people that work all the time and act like it’s their first album or it’s their first interview or whatever, they are the ones that are going to remain at the top, and that is what he’s taught me.
YKIGS: You mentioned Bryan Michael Cox earlier, tell me about him because he’s one of my favorite producers, what’s it like working with him?
Dondria: Working with Bryan, it’s a little less stressful because he’s really nice and stuff, but he’s definitely talented. When we get into the studio together, it’s an immediate connection. It’s like I know exactly what he wants, and I just do it. His criticism is a little nicer, but he’s very sweet and his talent is inspiring.
YKIGS: I’ve had the opportunity to hear a snippet of a song I know is going to be on your album, “Still Be With Me,” and from the snippet of the song I’ve heard I love it already. Tell me a little bit about that song, “Still Be With Me.”
Dondria: That was probably one of the first songs that I ever recorded since I got signed. Basically it’s I’m in a relationship, well I’m not in a relationship anymore, I was in one. It’s just like ‘If I knew everything that I know right now, back then, then you’d probably still be with me.” It’s basically, I wouldn’t say regret because I don’t think that you should regret anything, it was like a lesson learned and if I was either wiser for whatever reason, we would probably still be together.
YKIGS: I know you recently just joined a tour with Trey Songz and Monica, how has that experience been so far?
Dondria: They have already done two dates, and I’m gonna join them on the 12th so I haven’t actually joined them yet. But I’m just excited because this is a big tour. Monica I’ve been watching…I mean I grew up watching, listening to her, and I think her first album was the first album I ever purchased. And Trey Songz, I mean he is really doing his thing right now, and I’m just honored to be a part of this tour.
YKIGS: I’m not trying to make you look ahead to your second album or anything like that, but in the future, do you see yourself collaborating, or are there any artists you’d like to collaborate with that maybe you are a fan of yourself?
Dondria: Yes, I would love to do something with Beyonce, I would love to do something with Tank. Anybody else, I mean…I guess I’ve always been pretty cultured I think and exposed to a lot of different music. So I wouldn’t even mind doing music with some of the likes of Lady Gaga, or Taylor Swift, or Paramore. I’ve listed to all of them and I appreciate their music as well.
YKIGS: That’s pretty much all I had prepared here, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Dondria: Just to remind everybody the album comes out August 17th, which is next Tuesday. And to thank everybody that has been riding with me so far!
Dondria’s debut album “Dondria vs. Phatfffat” will be in stores August 17th.