One-On-One with Desta Dawn

Fresh out of California, Desta Dawn is a rising RnB singer you gotta get a load of right her, right now.

Since kindergarten, you could find Dawn teaching herself how to read by singing the words and trying to find every opportunity to sing whether it be at a wedding, funeral, party or talent competitions.

Growing up she buried herself into the brilliance of India Arie, Musiq Soulchild, Erykah Badu, Eric Bennet, Jill Scott and Floetry plus many more.

Her Ethiopian heritage plays a role in adding another facet to her generous musical style.

At 18, she made the transition to LA to pursue a career in singing while attending a performing arts university.

Here, she began to dig deep into her sound and writing style, writing songs that ultimately reflect her personal experiences ranging from heartbreaks, embracing femininity to finding strength.

Just recently, Dawn featured in Red Bull’s, ‘The Cut’ hosted by platinum record producer, OJ Parker which just proves her calibre and quality as an admirable musician with a talent well beyond her years.

Embodying these abundant experiences through her tone echoing an unguarded yet soothing strength that gives you a real perspective into her soul, have allowed her to really grow as an artist in a relatively short period of time.

She recently caught up with us to chat all things music and her experience at Red Bull’s, ‘The Cut’. Let’s get to it!

How did you develop your passion for music?

I mean it’s just always been there, since birth. I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t singing or that it wasn’t a huge part of my identity. So, I just kept it up. Singing at events, talent competitions, family gatherings, my bedroom. I never really had to work hard at it, it just came so naturally. It felt good, like something I was meant to do all along. 

Did you ever take on any formal music lessons?

Haha well, when I was a kid I was recommenced to this voice coach that claimed to have worked with “all the big names” so I went for one lesson and he definitely tried to play my mom because she was a foreigner. But my mama wasn’t having it, so we bounced after the first lesson and never went back. Fast forward to my college years and I went to a conservatory where I majored in musical theatre. 

Who were your biggest musical influences growing up and why?

India Arie, because she made me feel light, beautiful and worthy. Erykah Badu, because she made me feel like a badass who shouldn’t give a f*** what people thought about me. Jill Scott, because she made me feel sexy and whole when the world told me I wasn’t. I also loved the men of that era, like Musiq Soulchild, Anthony Hamilton, Eric Bennet.  

Describe your creative process as a singer/songwriter?

Haha oh… Well I usually start by creating the melody first. If the producer has already made the beat then I can follow along with that, but if not then I just go off of what I’m feeling at that moment.

 Then depending on the feel of it, I decide if I’m going to write a sexy/sensual song, a heartbreak song, or more of a female empowerment song. But also, let’s say if I’m currently seeing someone or in a relationship, then that’s probably all I’ll want to write about lol. And if I’m newly single, then you’re definitely going to get some “All That I Need” vibes. 

Describe the process of how you got onto Red Bull’s ‘The Cut’?

Well, a guy I was seeing at the time told me about it and sent me their way. Then I received an email saying they liked what they saw so far, and to send more music and videos clips of me. About a month later I received a call from the casting director Asjai saying that they wanted me on the show, and by the following week I had quit my job and was filming the first episode. 

What was it like working alongside Ramii?

He’s great! I definitely could tell I was bugging him at times, but like a younger sister almost, so I would say I got comfortable with him pretty quickly.  

We absolutely loved your track ‘All That I Need’ – can you describe some of the challenges you faced creating the tune?

Yay!! Thanks! Well to be honest, “All That I Need” came much easier to create in comparison to “Make You Mine”. Especially since I was in such a mental state of “f*** these men” at the time (sorry mom). So, the lyrics came easy but arranging and creating the melody took a bit longer. Which is crazy because it’s usually the other way around for me. 

What was the biggest thing you took away from your experience on the ‘The Cut’?

Be kind to every single person on set. From the other contestants and producers of the show, to the hair and makeup team. Don’t ever treat one better than the other. This is something I’ve always practiced, but I did peep some other folks not doing the same… and that shit will not get you anywhere boo.  

If you could collaborate with any artist in the world, what would be your dream collaboration?

Ooo that’s hard. There are too many to name. But I gotta say Mereba. She’s a fellow Ethiopian woman in the game that I feel like speaks with so much grace and truth into her work. I’d learn so much from her.  

Finally, what’s your biggest piece of advice for other young creatives who may be fearful of showcasing their talents to the world?

F*** FEAR! Don’t allow that shit to hold you back. You can’t. If you do, you’ll regret not fully going after what you truly want for the rest of your life. Work hard yes, but more importantly work SMART (thanks mommy). 

Stay up to date with all things Desta Dawn by checking out her Instagram and Facebook.

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