Slidin’ Thru: Dana Vaughns

July 9, 2019

Read the full interview on YoungCalifornia.com!

Dana Vaughns is a triple threat: singing, dancing, and acting his way through life. The Pittsburgh native first moved to Los Angeles 10 years ago for his dance career, linking with artists like Chris Brown and even the Jabbawockeez. In fact, he’s the first kid dancer to grace the city of Angels. Read more…

After splitting with his boy band IM5, Dana released his first solo record titled “Feelings,” which has surpassed over 1.5M views across streaming platforms. Fast forward to 2019, he’s living up to his name as R&B’s love child. His most recent single “Sweet Tea” is the perfect blend of pop and soul, reminding audiences of the beauty in love and relationships.

For those who don’t know, who is Dana Vaughns?
Dana Vaughns is a 21-year-old singer, songwriter, actor, dancer from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. I’m an only child. Favorite artist is Jill Scott. I like to tell people that because it makes sense when I say it. A lot of people don’t even really know her or can appreciate her stuff if you didn’t grow up in that time. I love people. I love God. I make good music.

Why should people fuck w/ you?
Because I’m giving them something they can actually get something from. With my music, you get out what you’re understanding is. You can listen to it on a surface level, somebody riding in their car can bump it. If you grew up like me and really appreciate R&B and writing, you can also find a lot of that in there. A lot of cool metaphors. You experience your own experience with what you know about music, life, love, whatever. You can get deep into it if you want, it’s both.

How would you describe your sound?
Pop/soul has been this quotation in my head I’ve been using. I dance, so everything’s very rhythmic still. I love a lot of bass sounds but a lot of the things I’m talking about are still very soul-oriented. Different situations — I don’t really use a lot of profanity. Not doing anything crazy, not popping 14 bottles in the club tonight.

Talk about the love captured in your music.
I have this new record “Rough Rider,” it’s going to be on my EP. You need that ride or die person through the ups and/or the downs. The song “Sweet Tea” is talking about me being in the South, and my new situation. You can be in a new country and you meet this type of girl or guy, whichever way you swing. You find that new person gives you something new and it’s so good, you know it’s bad. This project comes out later this year, I don’t wanna say nothing too early but you’ll definitely get a full-painted picture.

You’re from Pittsburgh, how does that play into your life and career?
It plays into my life a little more than my career. I moved away when I was younger nothing necessarily from the sound has affected my music, but more my motivation to be successful. Just with my family being back there, to be able to visit them. I lot of them have never been on a plane. To be able to do what I can do to get them out of Pittsburgh, show them there’s other things, and also bring what I have going here with me back home. My family’s my motivator.

Greatest memory dancing with Chris Brown?
Dancing with him. I did a music video with him, he had an artist named Jawan Harris back in the day. But the best dancing experience was 2 years ago, I got called to do a Michael Jackson tribute on Lip Sync Battle. We’re in rehearsal for two weeks. Even the Jackson estate had to approve all the things, all the moves we were doing. Just to be a part of that. We got to do the Michael Jackson lean — you’re not even allowed to do that. I got to see the mechanics of how it was made, that was a really big deal.

What was your encounter with Kanye?
I never had any one on ones with him, it was a creative encounter really. He’d come and see what we’re doing dance-wise, clothes-wise. Their team overall takes the time to hear out suggestions. Kanye being who he is, they’re so aware of the feelings. That different vibration type shit, they’re very open to it. If you’re going to make the show better, then bring it up — which is really cool to be a part of. There were 70 dancers, I was part of the 30 main ones who lead the whole thing. It’s good to know that if there was a scenario we had an idea, it was welcomed. Even though he’s at that level.

You were part of a boy band, IM5. When did you realize this music thing was for real?
I really realized shortly after that group ended. We had some member changes and we were still going strong. Shout out to the fivers, our fans go hard. They were still supporting us with 3 members, but we decided back in 2016 that it was best to split. After that, I really dove into creating, writing, playing the piano. Always been a fan of both, but I strictly listened to James Fauntleroy and Frank Ocean for those few months of me getting out the group. Really jumpstarted my writing process. I just love entertainment. I love the act of putting on a show in any avenue really. I dance, I do this, I act.

You act, do music, dance. Is music #1?
I do everything but music’s definitely my main focus. Acting’s something I did when I was younger and I do enjoy it. That’s the one that I’ve acted on the least, I’m working on it. You also really need time a lot to really get into acting. Same with music, you need time to fill up the time. Acting takes a little longer.

Hardest part of transitioning to solo artistry?
To be honest, I don’t like the word ‘challenge’ because I don’t feel any specific challenge. What’s good for me is to take those fans we had and show them what I didnt even know I had in me. It hasn’t been a challenge to do that because you don’t necessarily see when it fails. The goal is to continuously do that each record I put out. Even if you follow me now or you haven’t been following my page, you saw it pop up today and say “okay, this is what Dana’s doing now.”

What was the inspiration behind keeping your real name?
I stay genuine to myself through and through. There was a time before I started releasing music, I went with this alter name, The One, because I was an only child. It was getting through whatever I was doing. I’d put on The One hat and go to the studio, get what I was doing done. Kind of like my Sasha Fierce. With acting too when you hear my name, it’s not too confusing.

What is your acting career?
I’m currently on a TV show on BET called American Soul. Season 1 finished, Season 2 got approved. Waiting on a filming schedule. I was filming in Atlanta for 3 months at the end of last year, it was a lot of fun. It’s about the Soul Train, Don Cornelius breaking into the music industry as a black-owned company/TV show.

Do you think that doing all these things take away from your music?
I don’t let it take away from it. I’m at the point in my career that I can do both. If some movie role or Netflix or Hulu series came up, I’d definitely jump on it. Because I was in Atlanta filming this show and still able to record. I try not to shut down any opportunities, but it definitely takes a little more deliberation when it’s gonna be a long project.

You just released the visual for “Sweet Tea.” What was your mindstate creating this one?
I was in Atlanta on break from American Soul, going to the studio with EpikhPro. He did Bryson Tiller’s “Don’t,” a lot of stuff with Tamar Braxton. It was our first session. I was drinking a sweet tea the night prior, on the phone like “I’m gonna write a song called ‘Sweet Tea’.” It’s funny ‘cause I never think about what I’m gonna write about before, I get in there and go with what I’m feeling. But I was stuck on the title. I love the drink. There’s so many ways you can flip it, so many metaphors you could finagle. Once I heard the beat — he came in with that bassline also in his head which is one of them moments. He doesn’t pre-plan either. He’s like “I was thinking about this.” I’m like “bro you’re thinking about that, I’m thinking about this, it’s gotta work.” Thinking about how there’s some girls down there, a little more grease in the food, a little thicker, ya feel me? Tried to tap into that and explain it.

What is it you want fans to get from your story?
That you have to be ready and willing. Whether you’re in entertainment or not, look at yourself as a brand. What are you putting out there, what do you believe in? Where do you have to make adjustments to sell your product the best? Even you’re trying to be a marine biologist, you can’t just be doing it for the animals. What you gon’ do with your money? It’s all that. Realizing you can do it. You don’t know what you can do until it comes upon you. Even if it’s not your path, at least entertain the idea for a few weeks.

What’re some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
Currently I’m still on the come up, still on the grind. It’s about expanding my name. Getting my music to be heard by as many people as I can, that’s a daily thing. Overall, my biggest dream is to perform the Super Bowl. Of course, a Grammy. I also want to be a respected writer. I really like my writing, I write for a lot of people. I’ve collabed with people even in LA. I want to be mainstream with Dana Vaughns, but also Dana Vaughns has hundreds of more credits. It’s like a Babyface, literally be well-respected.

How important is social media for your career?
It’s very important for my career, for any career. I try to look at it like it really is a tool. I don’t spend all my time on social media. Personally, I may be out of touch with what’s the best way to reach these new audiences so I have to stay on it. Use it to your benefit, don’t get lost in it. At the end of the day, if your shit’s meant to be seen or heard, it’s going to find its way through whatever algorithm. Keep putting out good shit.

Fav person to follow on IG?
Any musician. Greg Edwards is a great musician. It’s great to see some inspiration, I never know what’s going to pop on. Shout out @sincerelyjuju, she’s fine. She’s got a man though.

What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
Wake up, usually turn on some music. Open my computer to whatever I was working on the night before, literally let it loop. Get my day started, coffee. I finally got my gym membership back up so I’ll go to the gym. Come home, I’ll go through emails. Check things socially, any promo that day. That’s usually 2pm to 4pm. After that, I try to kick back. I try to have dinner with my family, then either studio or someone’s house with instruments for a jam session. Just friend time. I’m an only child so I don’t like being at the house a lot. I try to do my work out, bring my computer, find speakers to play my shit. Steady moving, my days aren’t stagnant.

3 things you need in the studio?
Water, good engineer, and some throat lozenges like Halls. I love wings sometimes in the studio. Especially in Atlanta, hit J.R. Crickets and get a whole thing of barbeque wings. Something quick to eat in the studio that doesn’t mess my throat too much.

What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
Before my solo career, I was still dancing. I was the face of Kidz Bop when I was little. The summer before I moved to LA, all I’d done is the Hannah Montana: The Movie. Somehow this fan finds my address, drives to my house in South Carolina from Georgia, rings on the doorbell and asks for Dana. My parents are like “what?” She brought me a fathead of myself, a 5’10” picture of a headshot of mine. After that, I’m like “aight you have to leave…”

Dream collab?
Jill Scott. Also Ariana Grande would be crazy. Her Christmas & Chill EP is literally my favorite thing she’s ever dropped. Just sonically, production wise, vocally how she did it. I want her to put a whole project out like that EP.

Anything else?
Go get “Sweet Tea”, the EP is coming out later. “Rough Rider” is the next single. My videos are lit. Watch my music videos.


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