Interview with singer Antoine Dunn

By Melody Charles

Thanks to being raised in the church, discovered in the choir and able to craft his debut with a legendary producer while  touring with established hit makers, success seems practically guaranteed for singer, songwriter and  Cleveland native Antoine Dunn

By Melody Charles

Thanks to being raised in the church, discovered in the choir and able to craft his debut with a legendary producer while  touring with established hit makers, success seems practically guaranteed for singer, songwriter and  Cleveland native Antoine Dunn

A former choir director with an opera-singing older brother and a gospel-singing aunt (Adrian Dunn and Veronica Dunn, respectively) and enviable vocalist/songwriter credentials (he penned lyrics for American Idol’s LaKisha Jones and supplied compositions on-demand to the “Love Songs For Sale” company ), Mr. Dunn has packed decades of experience into his not-quite-30 years, touring in Thailand with the likes of Avant and Musiq Soulchild and already repsonsible for two Urban Adult Contemporary charting singles (“Can’t Forget” and “Miss My Love”) ahead of his opening slot as part of Anthonony Hamilton’s Back To Love Tour (also featuring Estelle).  With just weeks before the release of his highly-anticipated debut, Truth Of The Matter (dropping Oct. 16), Mr. Dunn was eager to discuss his artistry, his ambitions and what it’s like to grow up listening to---then working with---legendary musicians.

MELODY CHARLES- Since we’re both from Cleveland, it’s hard to escape the examples of soul royalty like The O’Jays and the late Gerald Levert. What was it like for you to get in the studio with Gerald’s long-time collaborator, Edwin “Tony” Nicholas?

ANTOINE DUNN-“I actually met Tony throught a mentor of mine:  I was playing music during a prayer and he suggested that I meet him (Tony Nicolas). My visions are very specific as to where I want to take my music, but to have avoice of experience like Tony’s is irreplaceable. To have someone who’s been there and who’s had a bunch of hits under his belt, that’s just great to have. He just breathes life, experience and wisdom into my work, so I feel really blessed to have that.

MC- How long did it take to craft the music together?

AD- “We started working on it while I was on the road for the ‘Woo Tour,’ so it was took about…hmm, six months.”

MC- From the music I’ve already heard, you don’t seem to be one of those singers who came from church and did a complete 180 as far as subject matter. Was that deliberate or just the way you are?

AD- “(chuckles) I attribute that to how I was brought up; my dad has been a deacon for many, many years, and my mother was a deaconess. My parents wouldn’t play music in front of me that had profanity or super-sexually-suggestive lyrics, but they did play a lot of love songs, so I heard a lot from The Dramatics, Stylistics, Chi-Lites, The Emotions...I was always out here believing in love, so I always wrote love songs and always looked for what I saw mirrored at home with my mom and dad .”

 

MC-Oh, you took it WAAAY back with those names. Your style is going to reflect what you heard and experienced, so to speak?

AD- “Every song on this CD is a true story. A lot of relationships are trial and error because with each one, you learn about yourself and other people. On “Miss My Love,” I really had to choose between the ups and downs of the relationship or a career in music, and the music was the better of the two. Timing is everything, and sticking to the music is what worked in this case. A lot of great writing can come from the pain and the heartache that you have to go through---growing pains, so to speak.”

MC-Sounds like it’s going to be deep. Is there a favorite song or one that really resonates with you right now?

AD- “My favorite song is the most personal one---it’s called ‘I Am.’ I lost my mother last September to breast cancer: I wrote it while in the midst of travelling and getting music together, and when someone calls you saying that your mother has one month to live, you feel like you’re up against a clock and in a fight that you’re going to inevitably lose. I’m just asking God and the powers that be to remove that pressure so it wouldn’t hurt as much.”

MC-Our condolences Antoine, sorry to hear that. Does it make things more hectic for you that the CD is getting released while you’ll be a part of the tour?

AD-“ I’m enjoying the the ride and watching the fruits of my labor, everything is everything. For the album to come out when I’m out on the road, it’s wonderful, because like I said before, timing is everything and I give it all to God.”

MC-What’s it been like to tour with Anthony Hamilton for a second time?

AD-“ He is a great guy---I would listen to his songs a lot over the years and I really looked up to him, but I never thought I would meet him, much less tour with him or see my name on the same music chart as his. That experience is nothing short of amazing and it’s great to be with Anthony, his band and the whole crew again.”

MC- Is there a chance that you two will eventually record together?

AD- “I certainly would love to: this path that we’re on now and with him taking me under his wing, it’s not too far-fetched to see that happening one day.”

MC-I know that you’re just getting started Antoine, but what do you hope fans take away from your time on stage or your debut CD?

AD-“ There are a lot of people who will tell what path to take, what type of songs to write or the sound that you should go for, and that can take away from your standing out as an original. I did a lot of open mics before I got a deal,so I love performing, the musical instruments, talking to people in the crowd and connecting with them. I would like listeners to identify with me and know who I am when they hear the words, the emotions behind them and the stories I tell in my songs.  When it’s live, I just want us to feed off of one another’s energy and have a lot of fun.”

MC-One last question to wrap it up Antoine: a couple of months ago, I spoke to Syleena Johnson and she was saying that she feels R&B needs to return to where it once was. Where do you see soul music going?

AD-“ I agree with what Ms. Johnson said, but at the same time, there are pockets of musicians who’ve always stayed true to the roots of R&B----it’s just that from an industry standpoint, it gets to be a battle between artistic purity and artistic popularity, and back in the day, those were one and the same.  I feel like we’re getting back to that right now and my whole goal is to inspire people to do music and share what God has given me with the world. Pretty soon, getting back to basics will be what’s popular again across the board, I think that time is coming.”

MC-Well, thanks for making the time for us Antoine, I look forward to seeing you on-stage and hearing more from you with the new CD.

AD-“ This was a great interview, I had a great time: you gave me the chance to really tell my story without asking off-the-wall questions. I appreciate that. You seem to see exactly what I’m trying to put out in the universe, so thank you.”

 

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