For those who aren’t up-to-date with the latest YouTube Phenomenon, Dondria is the latest thing coming straight from the computer screen to a record store near you. So So Def’s Dondria, sat down with Singersroom and gave us a behind the scene look on her journey from YouTube sensation to up-and-coming R&B Diva. With her new single, You’re the One dropping today, (November 23, 2009) she is about to take the music world by storm, so all who aren’t familiar with the songstress, allow Singersroom to introduce you to Dondria AKA Phatffat.
Singersroom: I know that Jermaine Dupri discovered you on YouTube and that’s how you were signed. But going all the way back to the beginning, what made you begin posting yourself singing on YouTube?
Dondria: Well first my friend just wrote me and was like: “girl you’ve got to see this site called YouTube.” So, I started looking at it and saw people singing; so that just kind of got me excited because I didn’t know people sang on YouTube. So, I took that opportunity to see what people would say outside of family and friends because you know they’re always going to be like “Oh, you sound so good.” So, yeah I really wanted to see what people who had no idea who I was; what they would say.
Singersroom: Okay, so from there what was the timeline or the process from when you first began singing on YouTube to JD reaching out to you?
Dondria: I got on YouTube in ’06, and literally a year laterâ¦like it seems like after this one milestone, everything started happening like every time I turn around. When I did, Promise by Ciara, it reached a million views. Like after that I just started getting calls from people wanting to do collaborations with me, people wanting to sign me like on underground labels and all kinds of stuff. So, one of those acts of contacts was from JD on MySpace. He wrote me, and he didn’t really say, actually what he wanted he was just like, “I’ve been trying to hit you up, hit me back.” I was like this is not him, because there is no way he’s just sitting there having this casual conversation with me, “like I’ve been trying to call you, hit me back,” you know like he knows me. So, I just kind of looked over it, but he was really persistent. After the third time, I was like okay: “maybe it’s really him and maybe I should answer before he stops contacting me.”
So, from there he still didn’t really say anything about signing me, he just said he wanted to do a YouTube video with me and Jagged Edge. So we set a date to do the video, then two days before the date, he called me and was like change of plans. He flew me and my mom to Atlanta; it was actually the night of Jagged Edge’s listening party, and I basically met them in person and that’s when he said, I want to work with you. So, that was basically the start of where I am now.
Singersroom: So Who is Dondria?
Dondria: Dondria is this small, 5’2”, 110 pounds (laughing) young woman with a voice that you probably wouldn’t expect to come out of her. She loves music; she’s very extroverted, not shy at all. I think she’s very welcoming; she draws people to her and draws people to her love of music. I think she expresses herself probably ninety percent through music.
Singersroom: You were supposed to release an album last year, are you going to include songs from the first album on your debut release?
Dondria: I am, actually we kept a lot of it. Right now I have 19 songs, so actually we might keep a big chunk of the first one.
Singersroom: What is the direction or story you’re trying to convey in your debut album?
Dondria: I’m trying to show everyone that Dondria is more than that Phatffatt everybody saw on YouTube. You know she’s not singing other people’s songs anymore, you know she’s singing her own songs. She’s not eating and forgetting words, you’re seeing the professional side of her. The diva! (laughs)
Singersroom: Tell me about the new single “You’re The One.”
Dondria: “You’re The One” is basically like I’m in a serios relationship. I know that the person is right for me, but I wasn’t acting accordingly, so basically I’m saying I recognize it now. “I know that you’re the one, I’m sorry I took it for granted, but I’m ready now, so I’m ready to go to the next step.”
Singersroom: When did you first realize your passion for singing?
Dondria: I think I realized it in middle school. It took me a minute. I always sang in church, but you know when you’re little it’s kind of like your mom made you be in the choir. So, I didn’t really recognize it at church at first, but in middle school, like in sixth grade I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do because you know you have your Arts class. So, I tried: Art first, didn’t like that, then I tried band, I was in there for literally 2 days, and didn’t like that either, so then I went to choir. I was like oh okay I really like this, that’s when I started listening to the radio more. And I’m really big on background vocals, so that’s when I started paying attention to all the background stuff, and not necessarily leads [vocals] and everything.
Singersroom: After going through the chaos of the music industry ups and downs, what have you learned about yourself as an artist?
Dondria: I guess I’ve learned that I canâ¦I guess I’ve been like pretty nice and maybe like too nice sometimes. But I’ve learned that I can kind of put my foot down and say what I like, what I don’t like, and if I have any ideas, instead of just letting everybody do everything. So, just being very involved in my own project.
Singersroom: If you weren’t singing, weren’t signedâ¦If you couldn’t do music, what would be a second runner up thing that you’ve always wanted to do?
Dondria: I think I would want to teach. Like before I got signed I was working at a private school, and I was probably there for a year-and-a-half and I had my own classroom with another teacher. And I just got really attached to my kids. So, I think that if I couldn’t sing I would probably go back to doing that.
Singersroom: If you could work with anyone who would it be?
Dondria: I have to get a song with Tank. Like I have to, I’m so in love with him. And I’m going to get it.
Singersroom: What impact do you want to leave on the music game?
Dondria: I don’t know, I think my biggest goal is to do my part in bringing real R&B back. You know, singing about real life, singing about Love, heartbreak, and friendship. I really want to remake “Count on Me,” like Whitney [Houston] and CeCe [Winans] did. I want to do my part in bringing back that R&B that makes everybody feel good and smile. Like when they’re upset they put in my CD and it makes them feel better. Like I just want to make everybody smile. —— By: Interview By Lauren M. Walker