We had the good fortune of connecting with Dawn McGhee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dawn, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
When I was growing up, I was always told to never give up on my dreams and that though it may not seem that some of my dreams were not coming true, the effort it takes to make them come true were valuable. This lesson became my mantra. From a young age, I wanted to pursue a life long career in the entertainment industry and make a huge dent. I have put many hours into the musical, dramatic and business lines of the entertainment industry. I’ve had many ups and downs. I’ve lost money as well; but, I did not give up. In fact today, after a serious 30+ year pursuit, I am still trying to make that dent. I am still trying to attain the level of success that I am comfortable with. To some, I have achieved success; while others, say I have a ways to go. The most important take away is to keep going with the pursuit until I am comfortable with my level of achievement. After an analysis of my efforts, an assessment will be made whether or not the pursuit should require more effort and continue or to appreciate the journey of the dream and decide to manifest another dream. No one should “give up” on their dream. Dreams are those things that can be manifested.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
One of the most popular neo-soul albums released is my compilation album, “Ten of Diamonds”. It features an array of vocal talent, produced by the Gifted League Of Writers, better known by the acronym GLOW. “GLOW” is an artist, just not the normal artist. I’d been thinking of ways to present song material to the world without using my name as a soloist, since most songs are a team effort. The concept of GLOW is not a new idea but I did modernize the marketing aspects of what “an artist” means. GLOW is similar to Motown’s in-house production team, The Corporation, during the sixties and seventies. The Corporation, like GLOW, were a group of producers, songwriters and composers joining forces to write hits. They, like GLOW, were not a touring band but a production team. GLOW is a production artist. Where The Corporation and GLOW differ, of course, is that The Corporation had the backing of a seriously wealthy Berry Gordy Jr., a luxury not afforded to the GLOW team. Getting physical product on retailers’ shelves is beyond most indie labels. Major companies rarely take chances and do deals with indie labels and give them financial support, and consumers are accustomed to streaming, all of which makes running an indie label very challenging. Archive Records does not have the luxury of megabucks. It took three years of savings and other challenges to bring “Ten of Diamonds” to the market. Most consumers are not buying physical CDs anymore; they are content with three to four songs from an artist instead of an entire LP record. They’ve grown accustomed to listening to the records on streaming platforms, which does not pay the label or publishing company enough royalties to produce a sophomore record. Most indie labels only have enough financial resources to produce an EP because of the shorter shelf life. The highly versatile GLOW musicians were able to craft an album of different musical styles perfectly suited to the needs of each individual performer. Although most of the set has neo-soul at its heart there are many diverse influences from jazz to Caribbean, from r&b to psychedelic funk-rock with a pinch of eighties funk and gospel thrown in. I’m told by everyone who works with me that they walk away learning more about music by my production style and work ethic. It is a good thing for untapped artists to feel that they too can bring the heat. Conversely, the seasoned artists still feel the hunger. I don’t choose an artist to work with based on any factors other than PASSION and FIRE. Without passion, the song dies. I describe “Ten of Diamonds” as a multi-layered, multi-genre stew of soul. Most of the material on the album is organic in structure, being worked out in the studio. Each artist brought their “A” game to the table and performed with heart and passion. Each piece of music is made with an artist in mind initially but we can’t always know what will manifest by the end of production. My upbringing gave me the knowledge and the tools to fuel my love of the performing arts while simultaneously giving me an entrepreneurial spirit. Their encouragement in a dynamic home gave me the motivation to earn my masters degree and own a production label by my mid twenties while performing and writing in differing performing arts platforms. In 2001, I made noise on the rap scene, under the moniker, Rysque, as well as being involved in other areas of the entertainment industry, both before and afterwards. My flair for the dramatics opened doors for me to write and produce three films: “Peep Show” (an adult comedy, now out of production), “Behind The Life” (a documentary now showing on You Tube) and the unreleased “New York 21” (a docu-drama film about the New York Chapter of the Black Panther Party). In high school through to college, I loved hip-hop and rap music. I would beat box and write my own rhymes when the bible-belt South didn’t offer a wide range of opportunities to make it as a female in the rap world. After college, I worked at Short Stop Records where Lil’ Troy, the label’s owner, had just rolled out his “Wanna Be A Baller” campaign. Upon Troy’s gaining multi-platinum status, he was given a distribution deal via Universal Records. Troy began signing co-distribution deals for indie labels. It was during that time that the window of opportunity opened for me as the rapper Rysque. I began to meet and network with hip hop big guns like Sean Combs, Too Short and Snoop Dogg while working with Houston-based talent like Pimp-C, DJ DMD and The Screwed Up Click. My film work led to hooking up with producers like Cle Sloan and Shelia Nevins and my appearances at events such as Billboard conferences put me in touch with huge names like Narada Michael Walden, Bootsy Collins, D’Angelo, Gerald Levert and James Poyser. It seemed set for me to become one of the 21st century’s rising stars. Unfortunately after I began climbing the ramp, my family was dealt some untimingly blows and I put my career on hold. During the filming of the “Peep Show” my father became gravely ill with cancer. I had to take a break to care for him until his death in 2007. My mother became afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. I’ve been tested to see if I were talented enough to re-enter the world of entertainment once I’d been absent. Honestly, I thought I failed the test, until 2017. It wasn’t until then that I began to pick up enough stamina to pursue working in the music industry again. It has made me even stronger today. My parents poured love into me and I never hesitated to give them the same love and care when they needed me. I may have missed out during my time off but “Ten of Diamonds” has assured me that talent is in my blood and does not waver. My writings are deeper because I have experienced a lifetime of various worlds. My parents guided me into a good work ethic and they taught me to be patient and keep the ball rolling while pursuing my passions. Now that “Ten of Diamonds” has hit the ground running, I have plenty of plans for the future, both on further GLOW projects and my own personal ambitions. A return to acting and film production work are possibilities while a gig in print ads are high on my bucket list. I’m in the process of releasing, “Ten of Diamonds: the Remixes Vol. 1”. I’m working hard to see that “Ten of Diamonds” becomes mainstream across the globe. If expenses are recouped, there will be another full record featuring ten more different songs and styles of production. Musically there are so many artists I’d like to work with and produce. I could not name them all but certainly D’Angelo is always first on my list. I’ve known “D” for so many years, as a person. I really want to work with him in his artistry and with Dwele, Trina Broussard, Ksenona, Lynn Davis, and perhaps my daughter, “Belladonna.tt”. I am on pins and needles hoping I’ll have the chance to cut records with them!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m mostly a recluse… always in the studio or at home listening to|studying|researching music. If anyone were to visit me, I could be versatile in entertaining. However, I would be happy to take them to a spot playing live music and introduce my guests to the place that brings me so much joy. I love to eat. I would welcome my visitors to a home cooked southern meal or just take them to Sweet Georgia Brown’s. If my guests wanted to drink, they would have to know that I enjoy par-taying at home. It’s just more economical to have spirits in the house… but of course, any guest of mine could enjoy a highball at a bar in the Deep Elum district of Dallas. I enjoy that spot…
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to give thanks to my parents for instilling a strong work ethic and professional business acumen in me. I’d like to give thanks to my family, who are the biggest supporters of my talents. I’d like to give thanks to my mentors in my life. While there are too many to list, they know my heart will always have special place for them.
Kohlana Turner, Dawn McGhee