|Label:||So So Def|
|Next Project:||Dondria vs. Phatfffat ('09)|
|Twitter:||Dondria on Twitter|
The Internet has long shouldered more than its fair share of the blame for the less-than-ideal state of the music industry today. Its days as a scapegoat, however, look to be coming to an end, as the top dogs become more aware of its endless potential for the discovery and promotion of up-and-coming talent. A prime example of the web’s ability to bring a rising star into the consciousness of the masses, and ultimately to the attention of savvy label bosses is the YouTube success story of Dondria Nicole.
From her beginnings as a 19-year-old with a $15 webcam, a YouTube account and a metric ton of untapped potential, the singer has grown into a bona fide online phenomenon. By the time Island Urban Music executive Jermaine Dupri caught wind of her talent two years later, she had 25,000 subscribers to her channel and upwards of a million video views. Today, Dondria is making moves on the mainstream spotlight with the single “Can’t Stop,” and is preparing a debut album, Dondria vs. Phatfffat, for release in ‘09.
In an exclusive interview with our very own DJ “Z,” Dondria steps inside the DJ Booth to discuss her journey from bedroom recording to a major label deal, the secret to expanding one’s shoe collection on the cheap, and the food item she simply can’t do without.
Listen to the Interview
Dondria Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is an industry newcomer who recently traded in the confines of her bedroom studio for an upgrade over at Jermaine Dupri’s place. Please welcome a 21-year-old singer who “Can’t Stop,” and we hope she won’t, Dondria – how are you?
Dondria: I’m great; how are you?
DJ Booth: I’m wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time to join me inside the DJ Booth.
Dondria: No problem, I’m very excited. I love to do interviews, and making people know who I am, so it’s all good.
DJ Booth: Great. I can promise you, this interview’s gonna be like no other interview you’ve done.
Dondria: Cool, cool.
DJ Booth: For those who are unfamiliar with your rise, thus far, to semi-stardom, briefly explain how you turned a few YouTube videos into a recording contract.
Dondria: Somebody told me to go look at YouTube, and I looked, and I saw videos on the side column of people singing, and that just made me realize, you can sing on here. I hadn’t even heard of YouTube before. I took that as a green light, and I put my first few videos out, and I got a great, great, great response; I was getting views, and within a year’s time, I reached a million views – I think I had 25,000 subscribers at the time. I mean, it happened so fast. I just got a lot of attention from different people tryin’ to work with me, and the biggest name was Jermaine Dupri.
DJ Booth: That’s pretty big! [laughs]
Dondria: It happened so far; I’m still in awe right now.
DJ Booth: With good reason. I read that you invested $15 in an inexpensive webcam from Wal-Mart. Would you say that is the best investment you ever made?
Dondria: Yes, because… [laughs] for the webcam to be $15, like, it wasn’t even the greatest quality camera, but it did the job. And eventually, I upgraded, and now I’ve got top-notch stuff.
DJ Booth: You’ve got to upgrade, definitely. As I’m sure you are well aware, the music industry’s been in sort of a slump. Many artists blame the Internet, but in your case, if it weren’t for the Internet, you might not have ever been discovered. So is it fair for artists to point the finger at the Internet for their problems?
Dondria: No, I don’t think so, especially in my case; it’s gotten me so many views, and it’s gotten me so many fans. There’s always going to be somebody who’s gonna download your music, but in my case, I have one single on iTunes, which is “Can’t Stop,” and those sales have been increasing every week, in spite of the fact that there are still people on Limewire and everything downloading my stuff. I definitely don’t blame the Internet.
DJ Booth: Well, I agree with you wholeheartedly, and for all of the industry executives listening to this interview with Dondria, is everyone made better music I think we would problem – would you agree?
Dondria: I definitely agree.
DJ Booth: Well, speaking of better music, that leads us to your single, “Can’t Stop,” co-produced by J.D. and Bryan-Michael Cox. Other than “thinking about you,” let’s find out what you really can’t stop doing. Dondria, I’m gonna list a series of normal activities, and I want you to tell me if you can or cannot stop doing each of them – sounds good?
DJ Booth: First one: checking Email – can or can’t stop?
Dondria: Can… stop.
DJ Booth: You had to think about that for a second.
Dondria: Yeah, but Email I can stop.
DJ Booth: Okay, second, buying new shoes – can stop, can’t stop?
Dondria: Can’t stop.
DJ Booth: Uh-oh; I hope you’re takin’ care of those advance checks.
Dondria: Oh, I am. The good thing is, with the photo shoots, and all the styling that is about to come, most of the time you scuff up the shoes, and so you get to keep them.
DJ Booth: That’s a good secret to know. I should scuff up all my shoes from all my photo shoots; maybe I’ll get to keep them! Next one: can or can’t stop sending text messages?
Dondria: Can’t stop.
DJ Booth: Next one: can or can’t stop eating lunch?
Dondria: I can’t stop. I am a lunch person, I’m not a breakfast person.
DJ Booth: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, though!
Dondria: Yeah, I know, but I sleep…
DJ Booth: [laughs] Last one: can or can’t stop going out to the clubs?
Dondria: Can stop.
DJ Booth: Just not your lifestyle?
Dondria: It’s cool, I dunno – J.D. goes like every night; I don’t have the energy for that. Catch me like once or twice a week and I’m good.
DJ Booth: I agree with you there. The title of your debut, Dondria vs. Phatfffat, it’s a battle between you and yourself, so who wins, and why.
Dondria: I think Dondria wins, because, at the end of the day, the people are gonna buy the quality music, and that’s what’s gonna make me my money. [laughs]
DJ Booth: I want to expand on this title for a second. I read that “Phatfffat” was a nickname given to you by one of your college roommates, who said you were so skinny, but couldn’t stop eating. What is one food item that is your vice – you cannot stop eating it?
Dondria: Oh, wow… you know it’s bad when I know without even thinking: it’s the Burrito Bowl from Chipotle with Barbacoa, extra meat.
DJ Booth: I love Chipotle; I’m not addicted to it, but I can understand why you are. Dondria, I read that, after you signed your contract, you jumped right in the studio, and you banged out the entire album within a month’s time. We were told here at DJ Booth that the record would be released within six weeks. Obviously we don’t have our hands on it just yet; it’s aiming for an early ‘09 release, so what has changed that has forced you guys to slow things down a bit?
Dondria: Well, I think at first we were just really tryin’ to please the YouTube fans, ‘cause I had already established that fanbase before I even got signed, so I think at one point it was only, for the time being, focused on them, keeping them interested, keeping them involved, because they are the ones who started it all. We’ve been giving them what they want, and we feel like they’re not going to go anywhere as long as I keep being myself and putting myself out there for them, so we just wanna take our time. Plus, anticipation, that just makes people want it more.
DJ Booth: You’re absolutely right about that. Has it created any anxiety on your part, though?
Dondria: No, I don’t think so. I feel that we are making sure that everything is going to be as perfect as it can be. And we need time sometimes – nothing is overnight – so I don’t really have a problem with it. I’m hopeful, and I believe that it’s gonna be the greatest project.
DJ Booth: Well, I’ll tell you, you said nothing’s overnight, but if you could get something to be overnight, you’re about as close as it gets.
Dondria: [laughs] I know.
DJ Booth: Obviously during the recording process there’s a lot of pressure, there’s a lot of stresses, so reveal one moment, since you signed your record deal, where you felt overwhelmed from being a recording artist signed to a major record label.
Dondria: I think the only time so far is when I had to do a meet-and-greet with all the label heads, everybody that’s working on the label. I had to do a mini showcase and sing for them, and, I usually don’t get nervous, but their faces were all like “blah,” there was no joy in the room at all, so I was just like, “Okay, well, let me bring the joy.” It was a really hard crowd.
DJ Booth: Maybe if you wore a shirt that said, “I promise I’ll sell a million albums,” then there would’ve been smiles on their faces.
Dondria: [laughs] Yeah, I bet.
DJ Booth: Last question: if I start posting videos of myself doing interviews with artists like yourself, what are my chances of being discovered by one of the major TV networks, and possibly getting my own evening talk show slot – how do you feel about that?
Dondria: I feel like anything can happen. I would advise you to really, really make the show your own, and make sure you let your personality shine, because that’s how you win the people, and that’s how you win the fans. You have to bring something wild and crazy to the table.
DJ Booth: Okay, so, did my personality shine enough to win you over, that’s the question.
Dondria: Yes, I like your style. You’re not boring.
DJ Booth: Nice! I got a co-sign from Dondria. I might seriously get this TV contract after all. Dondria, go ahead, give everyone a website or a MySpace page, something so they can find out more, of course, about you, and your upcoming debut dropping early next year.
Dondria: Okay, well, most definitely my YouTube page is youtube.com/phatfffat, that’s where it all started. My MySpace page is myspace.com/dondrianicolemusic. I also talk to all of my fans on my Facebook and AIM, which is also phatfffat.
DJ Booth: Very nice. Well-connected on the Internet, which makes sense since that’s where you got your start. I wish you nothing but the best of luck, and thank you once again for joining me inside of our DJ Booth.
Dondria: Thank you for having me!