In the scope of today’s musical smorgasbord, Antoine Dunn’s offerings of “old school yet new school slant” are fortifying. The 24-year-old vocalist hopes that audiences have a taste for some flavor, describing his sound as “fresh, yet familiar.” With popular singles like "Can’t Forget " and "Miss My Love" already establishing his vibe, the Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder enthusiast was the opening act for Anthony Hamilton and Estelle's recent tour.
A self-taught musician/former church music director, Dunn desires to bare his soul while simultaneously breaking down barriers and uniting people through the messages in his melodies. Dunn’s debut CD, Truth of the Matter, drops today and is a testament to the healing power of music; the keyboardist/guitarist found solace while recording this project following last year’s death of his mother, Janna Dunn. After she succumbed to breast cancer, the songwriter/producer found it not only fitting to dedicate the CD in her honor, but to also release it in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. EBONY caught up with the Cleveland, OH native to find out more about his sound and why some consider him to be the next great 'soul man.'
EBONY: Are you nervous about the release of your debut CD?
Antoine Dunn: Nervous wouldn't be the best way to describe the feeling. I'd say I'm 'ready.' It's been a long hard road to this point in my career. The culmination of years of writing songs in the basement and cutting class to play the grand piano is embodied in this debut album.
EBONY: You dedicate this project, and the song “I Am,” to your mom. I’m sure you have good days and bad days. How do you move through the range of emotions?
AD: "I Am" is a song that speaks to my struggles with life, love, and the loss of my one and only mother. Learning that a loved one has only a few weeks left to live isn't exactly the easiest thing, 'ya know? We all like to feel like we are in control of our lives, but at times we are reminded that there are things beyond our control. The song says: "Take me out of time…me out of space…me out of everything that I am." It was my wish that if those things happened, it might not hurt so bad.
EBONY: Describe your sound.
AD: My music has been described as: "Intimate, personal, soothing, sensual, and sexy." I must say that is the way I feel when I’m writing and performing my music. I draw my sound from many different genres and generations of music. Soul, classic soul, rock and blues are the ingredients to the personal conversations I have with fans through my music.
EBONY: How does a young man have such an old soul musically?
AD: Well, when you grow up listening to groups like The Dramatics, The Stylistics, The Chi-Lites, and The Jackson Five, you don't really have a choice in the matter. I'm a product of my environment. The interesting thing is that my "old soul" isn't something that just exists in my music. It's who I am. My parents loved those groups, but they displayed an even greater love for showing me what it meant to be a mature and responsible young man. My music is a direct reflection of my environment and how I was raised.
EBONY: The industry is filled with new singers—here today and gone tomorrow. How do you plan on making a lasting impact?
AD: The connection I plan to make with fans through this music is not a relationship that will fade. Every song on this project was written from a true life experience which makes it that much more personal to the listeners. A wise man once told me: "What’s from the heart is received in the heart." If he's right, a heartfelt connection isn't something you forget.
EBONY: How would you define the current state of music? Are you pleased with the direction?
AD: I often times refer to the contrast between ‘artistic purity’ & ‘artistic popularity’ when talking about the state of the music industry. Music is in a state of transformation. I believe that for years what was pure was [also] what was popular. In recent years, I believe that dynamic had changed, but is quickly approaching a turnaround back to where pure original music is the standard again. I can say I'm extremely pleased with that direction.
EBONY: People are saying that you’re bringing real R&B music back. How does this make you feel? Do you think it’s ever left?
AD: It makes me feel like I have a purpose in not only this business, but the world. Authenticity and individuality are so important to me in my everyday walk. I don’t think real music ever left; I just think it just was removed from the forefront of our media outlets.
EBONY: What’s the best musical advice you’ve ever received and from whom?
AD: Early on, there were many attempts of dissuasion in regards to my music career. Listening to my inner voice telling me to be steadfast and to keep being me turned out to be the best advice. I learned early on to listen to my own voice, which is the best voice for me.
EBONY: If you could have your dream partner for a duet, who would that be and what song?
AD: I would love to have a duet with Stevie Wonder! After all, we share the common denominator of being a musician, singer, and songwriter. I can't say that the song has been written yet. (Dunn laughs) A meeting of the minds would be the best way to craft the perfect duet in the moment.
EBONY: Anything else you’d like to add?
AD: I'd first like to thank Ebony.com for the opportunity to share my story! This debut album is the soundtrack to my life thus far, and I am extremely excited to share it with the world. It is my goal that through the music, differences can be forgotten and the basic things we as people share in common can be brought to the forefront of our existence. I'll keep entertaining the possibility that possibilities are endless…You all do the same!
Margena A. Christian is Senior Writer for EBONY. Follow her on Twitter @MargenaXan