By Shirley Ju (@shirju)
Dana Vaughns can sing, dance, act, and entertain the masses at any given moment. The 21-year-old hails from Pittsburgh and lists Jill Scott as one of his biggest influences, giving you a sense of the R&B soul he grew up on.
After a stint with boy band IM5, the singer-songwriter has been locked in the studio perfecting his craft and delivering soulful ballads for his fans. Most recently, he even performed at Kanye’s first Sunday Service at Coachella.
AllHipHop caught up with Dana in Los Angeles to discuss linking with Kanye, his forthcoming single and EP, and his loyal fanbase.
AllHipHop: How long have you been in LA now?
10 years. I moved out here when I was 10. Dance brought me out here originally. I danced with Chris Brown and the Jabbawockeez. I was literally the first kid dancer in LA, even though it's weird to say that when you are that. It's been really tight. To grow up here, I feel like an OG and I'm not even 25. It's a blessing for sure. It’s given me advantages in a lot of situations.
AllHipHop: What came first, music or dance?
Dance is the first thing I did. Saw You Got Served, secretly danced in my basement for 2 years. My parents didn’t even know. I’d be petrified if my parents saw me. They got married when I was 6. At their wedding reception, they put on Usher’s “Yeah” and I went off that whole record. Breakdancing on the dance floor, this and that.
Everyone thought my parents had planned it, ‘cause I really was going in. My parents were shocked, like “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Even 2 years after that, we never really did anything about it. My dad did pharmaceuticals, my mom did hair and home healthcare. They're not living through me, we never planned this. We’re from a small town in Pittsburgh. Not sure what’s next, I just keep trying to go.
AllHipHop: Talk about dancing at Kanye’s Coachella Sunday Service.
Dana Vaughns: More recently, I did Kanye's Coachella Sunday Service. I got called by Fatima Robinson, she’s a big creative director (“Remember The Time” by Michael Jackson). I have a great relationship with her. She called me on Thursday at 3:45pm to be at rehearsal at 4pm to go do Coachella for Kanye. [chuckles] I knew it was a big deal but definitely something that wasn’t being announced, that was under wraps.
It was great being with Kanye 2 or 3 days straight with all the team members. We’re rehearsing the whole time for a show, but also it's a church service. I tell people, you ever been to church? You can't really account for everything always. The music director might be feeling the Spirit, want to keep it going for 8 more bars.
As dancers on this field, 50K people on this huge mountain. We got these little earpieces in. It was definitely hectic but going into it, we all had one goal: bring this Sunday morning to millions of people, even on streaming. That’s what kept us all together.
AllHipHop: Talk about your loyal fanbase and being a role model to them.
Dana Vaughns: They’re great. Fans may be crazy but we have to be appreciative and humble. They come to our shows, it makes their day. Especially with younger teen girls, they go to school and there’s a lot of s##t going on. The boys are being rude.
I try to be a role model in that sense, almost what to look for. There’s a lot of bulls##t out there, even in my peer group. Equality is everything but there's still something true about a man being a man and a woman being a woman. Staying in your lane. Don’t be so dramatic.
AllHipHop: What can we expect on your upcoming EP?
Dana Vaughns: I'm going to executive produce my EP, it's going to be 6 or 7 songs. “Sweet Tea” will be on it. This next single is called “Rough Rider.” You'll get that whole pop/soul feel. From me being down South to one straight up R&B record I just love. “The Doctor”, it has to be on there. That's an exclusive.
The thing is I haven't written it. I have the whole track built, the whole melody from start to finish. All the harmonies, everything’s arranged, there’s just no words to it. I know it’s my favorite, it sounds so good. Just hits the bone so good. I got s##t you can ride to the beach to. I have one that’s a mix of D’Angelo and Jersey Boys. Just focus on the bass, that pocket. You gotta listen.