Interview recorded on March 26, 2012
R&B newcomer/Cleveland native Antoine Dunn has captivated the ears of soul music lovers with his debut single, "Can't Forget," and he shows no signs of slowing down. Akim Bryant spoke with Dunn recently, to discuss his debut album, TRUTH OF THE MATTER, set for release this summer of 2012.
Akim: SoulMusic.com, once again, Akim Bryant here, and our special guest for this installment released his debut single “Can’t Forget” on the Elite music group imprint, which then lead him to opening for Anthony Hamilton during his Woo Tour toward the end of last year, and I’m speaking of none other than R&B newcomer, Antoine Dunn. How are you, sir?
Antoine: I’m doing well, man. Thank you for having me, brother.
Akim: Definitely. Welcome to SoulMusic.com. So I want to definitely talk about the music, and “Can’t Forget” is your debut to the world--music video is out there now; the song is being played on multiple radio stations Tell me about that particular single.
Antoine: Yeah, “Can’t Forget”--it’s really one of those singles--we couldn’t have picked a better single for me to come out with. “Can’t Forget” is one of those songs that it really hits on a very universal type of topic or subject matter which is—everybody, if they haven’t been in love with that person they can’t forget, they want to be in love with a person that they can’t forget. You know, “Can’t Forget,” essentially, just talks about that, and it really drives that point home. So, between myself and Grammy award winning producer Edwin Tony Nicholas and Jerry Lang, that’s what we came up with. A song that was unforgettable.
Akim: Awesome. So this is the lead single for your debut album, which is supposed to come out in May, right? TRUTH OF THE MATTER?
Antoine: Well, we were originally slated for the end, the latter part of May, but now we’re going to actually be looking to release further down the line. Probably around the summer … around the summer, so if everybody can just hang tight with us, and always check out the website, AntoineDunn.com, and all that information will be out really, really soon.
Akim: Yeah, in checking out your website, I actually saw that you’re going to be coming out with the next single soon, right?
Antoine: Yes, sir. We got a new one cooking, and we’re ready to take it out the oven and share it with the world. That single’s called “Miss My Love.”
Akim: What’s that song about?
Antoine: Well, “Miss My Love” talks about a situation that I was in; a lot of the songs that I write are based on true stories and things that I’ve lived through. “Miss My Love” is a song where I was in a situation where I had to really choose, pretty much, between a love that I had with a very special young lady at the time, and my career. In the song, I’m relating my career to a train and basically saying, “Hey, here I am; I’m at this train station. I have to either hop on this train and go to the next stop or, basically, be willing to deal with the consequences of not doing that. And, basically, I took that train and here I am. My career’s popping and everybody’s happy, so I think I did the right thing.
Akim: Well, I guess everybody’s happy except for that lady that you left behind?
Antoine: Well, she’s cool man, because I wish I could be somewhere and turn on the radio and say, “Hey, that song’s about me.” I can’t do that yet, but she can, so she’ll get her check in the mail.
Akim: I like that. So talk to me about the album. Is there a particular theme behind it? What’s the overall message that you want to get across when it comes to the TRUTH OF THE MATTER debut album?
Antoine: Well, there are a lot of different things that I hit on, in terms of, like I said, the different topics and things that I talk about, but the main thing that this album is about--it’s about love. And it’s about understanding and, furthermore, it’s about kind of just understanding what it is that’s enough for us as human beings, as it relates to love and life.
And one of those things is just that you give it your all, and when really thinking about the title, TRUTH OF THE MATTER, the title song, it’s truth of the matter and it talks about just giving it your all and, no matter what, no matter what the outcome is, no matter the circumstance, the truth of the matter in life is that you try, and no matter the outcome or anything, all you can do is walk away from situations and say, “I tried,” and that’s the truth of the matter.
Akim: That is the truth of the matter. How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?
Antoine: I knew it was coming. I’m 23. I’m 23 years young.
Akim: Yes, 23 years young, and here at SoulMusic.com, we have a strong emphasis on classic Soul Music, as well, so what can you say to that particular audience, who really loves the classic Soul Music, and who wants to dig into some of the contemporary stuff like yours now-a-days … the fact that you’re carrying through that message of love that’s missing in so much of R&B and Soul music today--what do you have to say to those listeners?
Antoine: Well, the first thing that I would say to those listeners is this project that’s coming out--it’s bridging that gap. Because, though I am 23 years old, I have a very mature approach to the way that I write, and the way that I produce and arrange. And I grew up listening to a lot of classic Soul, so for those people who really have an appreciation for that, there’s definitely more than enough of that that’s going to be on this album. So I think that all those people should really be on the edge of their seats, and ready to receive this record that’s coming out this summer.
Akim: I agree, and just listening to some of the material I’ve already heard so far, you do definitely have an old soul, and that definitely comes across in the music, while still being fresh enough for your own peers … something for them to listen to as well too. So, but who are some of the people that you grew up listening to?
Antoine: I listened to a lot of Donny Hathaway, Ray Charles, Stylistics, Dramatics, Chi-lites … so, so many different groups growing up. My mom was from North Carolina; my dad was from Cleveland. I grew up in Cleveland, but we would always go to North Carolina on vacations, and they would always play these old songs on the way, you know, down to see my mom’s folks. So all that stuff really became a part of me. And it’s very apparent in the music, so we’re all really, really excited about the album coming this summer. We really are.
Akim: That’s awesome. And you said it’s going to be co-produced by Edwin Tony Nicholas, who did a lot of production for Gerald Levert back in the day, right?
Antoine: Absolutely. Tony and I, when we first started working on this project, we really hit it off. We really agree, musically, on what’s important, and that allowed us to really have a great working relationship, and for us to really craft the best songs that we could craft, and I think that everybody will see that.
Akim: Great. So what do you think, personally, sets you apart from other contemporary R&B singers out there, who could be put on the same stage or platform as you?
Antoine: Well, I think the main thing that sets me apart is my voice, and it’s the originality behind my voice, but still, it’s still yet familiar. Someone may say, “Hey, he’s reminiscent of a, or he sounds like a, but at the same time, there’s still an obvious hint of pure originality,” and I think the biggest thing is the purity. The purity versus artistic popularity. I have a lot of respect for a lot of the contemporary artists that are out and the music that they produce. With that being said, I just really look forward to bringing what my idea of what artistic purity is to the table.
Akim: And you grew up in the church, right?
Antoine: Well, yes. Yes, I was raised in the church. I didn’t sing in the choir though, believe it or not. I was on the usher board, which is kind of funny, but when I got older, and I actually left my home church, which was here in Cleveland, Ohio, I got a chance to be a director, a music director at a church that was started here in the city. And at that point, was when I started being a worship leader and being upfront and directing the choir and the band and things like that. So I didn’t start out really, really young.
I always knew I could sing, but I wasn’t like my brother, where I could just get up and just not care. I had to get to the point where I gained that confidence, and that didn’t happen until I was in High School.
Akim: So what happened that made that change for you … made you decide that you wanted to pursue the singing thing professionally?
Antoine: Well, I think, for everybody, sometimes something just clicks, man. And I can remember being in 9th grade and I was a wrestler, at the time, and I can remember cutting class, and I’m not encouraging anyone out here to cut class at school, because that’s not really a good thing.
Akim: It happens.
Antoine: Yeah, for me, in the long run, it turned out to help me, but I would always cut class to go to the auditorium at Cleveland Heights High School to play the grand piano, because I had a keyboard at home that my parents had bought me, but there’s nothing like playing a grand piano, to me. And, I think, within that whole first year of high school, and cutting class to play the piano, and my grades slipped and everything, it was like something in me was just like, this is for me, to the point where I wasn’t really concerned with school, as I should have been. Shame on me, but something definitely did click with me when I started high school, and I knew that there was nothing else that I could really do.
Akim: Yeah, so you play the keys, play the piano, what other instruments do you play, and are you self taught?
Antoine: Yes, I am self taught, and I play, my primary instrument is piano, but, because I am a music producer, I tend to play anything I can really put my hands on. I play a little bass, I play a little guitar, I play drums, a little bit of drums. So I play a little bit of everything. I’m one of those producers who believes that … how can I know what this element of the song really should be if I don’t know what it’s like to be behind the driver’s seat of that instrument?
Akim: That’s true.
Antoine: So, I tend to dibble around a little bit of everything.
Akim: And you mentioned that you are also into producing, as well as song writing and singing, and you actually produced some material for American Idol contestant LaKisha Jones, right? For her debut album?
Antoine: Yes, yes, I did get a chance to work on her record with Tony Nicholas, as well.
Akim: Okay, how was that?
Antoine: It was a great experience. One of the biggest things that I learned from that experience was that sometimes, as an artist, you need another voice, or another opinion--not necessarily for you to do exactly what they said, but just for them to open you to more possibilities of what can happen on a song. And for me, to be able to be that guy on the song that I did work on was really cool--to be able to come in and say, “Hey, you know, what about this? Why don’t you try it this way? Or try it that way?” And I think that’s a good thing for artists to experience.
Akim: Definitely. And what are some other major lessons that you’ve learned, so far, in this journey of breaking into the mainstream, basically?
Antoine: Well, the biggest thing that I learned is that you just have to be consistent.
I look back, and I’m not old by any stretch of the imagination, but I can still look back and say to myself, if I had been a little bit more consistent, there’s no telling when I might have been able to make it to where I am now. So, for anybody aspiring to get to the commercial level, it’s really all about consistency.
Even when it’s hard: you don’t want to get up early and go work out, or you don’t want to go to the studio, or you’re out of money, or whatever it is … all the things that artists go through, stay consistent by any means necessary, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Because people will believe in you and they just want to know how bad you want it.
Akim: But I also think that the mistakes that you make along that journey also help to contribute to the end goal.
Antoine: Absolutely. You have to learn those lessons. I’ve made so many mistakes man, and it’s been a good thing because I’m the type of guy where I want to learn the lesson. I want to be able to go back and get it right the second time, so I’ve fallen on my face plenty of times, brother, and I’m just blessed to be here right now. And just to be recognized for what it is that you love to do and to be able to reach people and touch lives … it’s amazing.
Akim: Yeah, it is amazing, definitely. Especially if you can do it just with the stuff that you create, that’s amazing. So do you have any hobbies outside of music?
Antoine: Absolutely. I love to bowl, I love to go to the movies; I do love to go to the movies. Lately, I haven’t really seen anything that I’ve really been on like that. I love to play basketball; actually every morning, I get up when I’m in town … I get up and I go out to the park--to the park that’s actually in the neighborhood I grew up in, and then I go and I shoot hoops every morning.
Akim: Do people recognize you yet?
Antoine: Well, you know, it’s kind of cool to be at home, and your record may not be on mainstream radio here, so it’s kind of cool that you can still go around and just do whatever it is that you want to do, and be a good citizen. Nobody really cares, man, it’s like, yeah, I’ll hold the door for you; I’m the guy to hold the door. That’s cool, but I do run into friends and old school teachers and old pastors and people like that that I’ve worked with in the past, and for them to see me where I am … it brings great joy to them to know that they had a contribution to where I am right now, and it’s great.
Akim: I think you’re definitely on a great journey to accomplishing some great things, and, like you said, as long as you remain consistent, which I think you have been so far, you’ll continue to do well, and, yeah, then you won’t be able to play ball in the park anymore.
Antoine: I’ll have to build my own park in the backyard.
Antoine: That wouldn’t be a bad thing, so, hopefully, that’s coming soon.
Akim: Yes, indeed. So how can your fans keep up to date with you, and what’s going on in your world?
Antoine: Well, first and foremost, any fans out there who have not downloaded “Can’t Forget,” make sure you go on iTunes right now, download “Can’t Forget”; we would love your support. Make sure you get on Youtube, type “Can’t Forget,” check out the video, support us on MTVu.com, support us on BET and VH1Soul. Check us out and always, always, always go back to www.AntoineDunn.com. When all else fails, you know, AntoineDunn.com, and if it fails, even worse than that, go to Google and just type in Antoine Dunn.
But I really want everybody to stay tuned and stick with us through this thing. We have this album coming, TRUTH OF THE MATTER, this summer and I don’t think that people will be disappointed.
Akim: Awesome, looking forward to it, man. And good luck with everything that you have going on, and looking forward to that album.
Antoine: Thank you so much, man. Thank you guys over there at SoulMusic.com. I really appreciate you guys support. And thank you for taking the time out to do this interview, man. It’s been great.
Akim: Yes, definitely. Good talking to you, Antoine.
Antoine: Likewise, brother.
Akim: Take care.
Antoine: You too.
About the Writer
With nearly a decade of experience in programming content for Music Choice (24/7 music channels, cable-on-demand shows, website and cell), Akim Bryant has just begun to scratch the surface of journalism having already written for GIANT and The Source magazines as well as a number of start-up publications. This self-professed R&B junkie also has a strong knack for the art of interviewing. Be on the lookout for his semi-autobiographical debut novel coming out in 2012.