A TRUE ARTIST WHO GLOWS & IMPACTS OUR SPEAKERS
Music brings people together. And indeed I have met many, many beautiful people through my love of music. Some of them have become family and many of them have become dear friends who I truly adore. Music has recently connected me yet again to an incredible woman whose artistry and work I am compelled to share. This woman is Dawn McGhee. Through the weekly musical “Journey” of the incomparable DJ Spinna as well as the very talented producer/remixer/musician Ahmed Sirour, Dawn and I have been brought together. She recently found time in her schedule to share her story with me and introduce me to her powerful new initiative: IMPACT THE SPEAKERS. Please enjoy our conversation.
Interview by Amanda Frontany
AMANDA: Hello Dawn McGhee of GLOW! It’s so wonderful to chat with you. Let’s begin with GLOW. Who or what is GLOW?
DAWN MCGHEE: GLOW is an acronym for the Gifted League of Writers. And I am the Mistress-mind behind GLOW, which is a band of artists, not just one artist or a touring band. GLOW is a production team of non-exclusive songwriters, composers and producers, working in tandem to produce songs for solo vocalists/groups/bands. While I’m Dawn McGhee of GLOW, there could also be Cymphony Jaxon of GLOW, or Ernie G. of GLOW. Every GLOW song is tailored to meet the specific essence of each artist/group/band they work for and produce.
AMANDA: And how did you become this super-amazing Creative Woman? I know you are extremely talented and wear so many hats.
DAWN MCGHEE: I was born in Dallas, Texas. I come from a family of pioneering entertainers and the record retail industry. My family owned and operated one the most successful black-owned record businesses in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex areas until we had to close our family-owned business due to the booming digital takeover.
However, it was during the early years that I found my love of music across all genres. Since my dad owned a record store and was a pioneering actor in North Texas himself, both music and film/stage celebrities would frequent my home, which also put me front and center into a host of musical artists.
Growing up, I was always around [Blues singer] ZZ Hill (my godfather) or my Uncle [saxophonist] Fathead Newman, Aunt Freda Payne [singer/actress], or [actress] Irma P. Hall (my godmother). I was literally submerged under the umbrella of talented people in the entertainment industry, but to me they were family and I wanted to be like them.
I grew to love the arts because it was a steady pattern in my home. So my family, first and foremost, motivated me to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.
AMANDA: Your artistic roots run very deep. How did you cultivate your own passions and talents early on?
DAWN MCGHEE: Growing up, I wrote down my bizarre life experiences in a journal, which led to a passion for creative writing that rewarded me scholarships and acceptances to many colleges, including Ivy League.
While I was in college, I chose two paths: business and arts. I wrote scripts, short stories, poetry and songs in my journal and dabbled in print modeling. I also learned marketing, management and business administration.
After earning my Master’s Degree in 1992, I freelanced in the entertainment industry as a songwriter, indie record label consultant, set coordinator for indie films, and actress in local productions.
AMANDA: You also operate an independent label, Archive Records. Tell us a little bit about this labor/label of love.
DAWN MCGHEE: Yes. In an effort to extend and solidify my business skills in the music industry, I started a boutique independent record label, Archive Records. This launched emerging relationships with multi-platinum artists and producers.
But before Archive Records became a small boutique label, it was called Keepa Of Da Archives Productions aka KODA Productions. Early in the business plans of what eventually became Archive Records LLC, it was a small production house. KODA had no plans to sign artists, but just to produce record demos to sell and/or license to record labels.
Eventually, with what seemed to be an opening of success with some artists, the business model of KODA Productions changed into the idea of Archive Records LLC and did sign artists with the hope of releasing records. But after a series of mishaps, which would take up a whole book by themselves [laughter], the company had to rebrand itself and create a new marketing strategy for its releases.
Today, Archive Records LLC has only one artist, GLOW, and has no plans to sign any other artists to its repertoire without a major distribution deal in place.
AMANDA: And tell us about your time as the artist Rysque.
DAWN MCGHEE: By 1994, I began to thrive not only as an indie label owner, with a few signed artists, but also trifled as a rapper. I performed under the moniker, Rysque, which opened the doors to many recordings. I received rave reviews for various projects, appeared in major trade magazines and opened shows for major artists on national platforms.
But as the artist Rysque, I also found trouble, leading to an arrest record. I turned to my journal and scripted what would lead to my first film and soundtrack project, PeeP Show (A Freak’s Dream). I was very proud to have legendary film director Melvin Van Peebles endorse me as a new indie film producer, after the film and soundtrack release, which still continue to sell today.
AMANDA: Wow! So your work as a rap artist opened other creative doors for you.
DAWN MCGHEE: Yes. And soon thereafter, I began to work on a second film project, a documentary, Behind the Life, now available everywhere on the web. I also collaborated with long-time friend and Grammy-Award winning business partner, Jamal Joseph, on my third (unreleased) docu-drama, New York 21.
In addition, I started a non-profit company, Artists For ArtSake, which focuses on documenting the achievements of pioneers in my community.
AMANDA: Dawn, you are a Renaissance Woman! Thank you for sharing all of that. So let’s circle back to GLOW and its January 2020 release, Ten of Diamonds. It is a beautiful, eclectic compilation. Can you walk us through this project, which overflows with so much talent and quality?
DAWN MCGHEE: Of course. So to put it all in context, after a series of mishaps in the industry, Archive Records LLC went on a hiatus. I decided to focus on motherhood, film endeavors, and a growing need to care for my parents, who were riddled with illnesses.
By 2017, a friend suggested that I revamp the label, which is when GLOW was birthed. It took three years to get the songs ready. So finally, in 2020, Archive Records LLC released GLOW’s first compilation, titled, Ten of Diamonds.
But it was not easy. The first track, “Best of Me,” was originally written for D’Angelo. However, Dominique Trenier, his then-manager, did not feel it was a good fit for the Voodoo project, so it was rejected. I sat on the song. I knew it was hit, no matter when it would be released. Eventually, I found artist Dave Love for the track, after I saw him with his son, singing on a social media post.
The track, “Same Ol’” was produced for N’Dambi to record. At the last minute, she backed out of the agreement. A close friend recommended Honey Larochelle, who often performs with the Brand New Heavies, to take her place. Her performance on the record was phenomenal.
Next, was my diamond in the rough. During the early days, Don-E and I had always said that we would work together. I had asked Don-E to record some songs for me, in addition to introducing me to Omar when the time permitted. Lo and behold, the opportunity presented itself for me to record Omar. “Give Myself To You” was the end product of that union. The rest of the songs on the project have their story, but for the sake of time, I will table it for our next interview [laughter].
AMANDA: [Laughter] Of course! I can’t wait to hear more when we chat again. And in terms of the project coming together, everything happens for a reason and when the time is right. Ten of Diamonds is a testament to that. And the album has earned much success.
DAWN MCGHEE: Yes! The album charted in the Top 10 UK Indie charts, rising to the #1 spot on the UK Indie Soul Charts and reached as high as #3 in the BBC Jazz markets for over three months.
DAWN MCGHEE: Thank you. And in addition to the compilation, a remix maxi-single was released with multi-award winning producers, DJ Spinna and Don-E. This earned GLOW international recognition, also reaching #1 on the UK Soul and Indie Charts.
AMANDA: Aha! DJ Spinna is one of the conduits for you and I connecting. We do love Spinna! And now let’s talk about “All Woman.” Whew! What a beautiful, empowering song on the Ten of Diamonds album performed by Nndi.
And Ahmed Sirour’s remix of “All Woman” will undoubtedly become the Woman’s Anthem for years to come. How did the remix by Ahmed Sirour come about? [Ahmed is another incredibly talented Creative that I cannot wait to interview!]
DAWN MCGHEE: My daughter, Cymphony Jaxon and I are a part of GLOW. We worked together on the original version of the song for the Ten of Diamonds compilation. Shortly after we produced the demo, Nndi came into my life. I thought it would be a good song for her to record. She agreed. The first three songs on the LP were released as singles with “All Woman” slated to be the fourth.
2020 ended with Archive Records only releasing the top three tracks as singles, although each song has single-release quality and potential.
When 2021 began, DJ Nastasha Diggs recommended Ahmed Sirour and I work together on a song. Ahmed and I decided that a remix to “All Woman” would be perfect to begin this new year. To further solidify the song’s positive messaging, the “All Woman” single is not only music, but is the anthem for the IMPACT THE SPEAKERS initiative that focuses on the accomplishments of living women in many industries throughout the world.
AMANDA: Please tell us more about the Impact The Speakers initiative. DAWN MCGHEE: The “Impact The Speakers” initiative is a non-written agreement between female deejays, progressive male deejays, radio presenters, influencers, etc. anyone with an audio vehicle to spread and share the “All Woman” single, along with stories and/or images of living women who positively impact the world to their social media sites.
As a collective, participants in Impact The Speakers pledge to uplift and support living women who are working to present the Earth with positivity and self-assuredness.
So the Impact The Speakers campaign seeks to highlight living and pioneering women through both the “All Woman” (Ahmed Sirour Remix) and the “All Woman” (Original Album) versions, thus making the song an anthem for women.
Participants in the campaign will use their audio platforms to Impact the Speakers of turntables, mobile phone speakers, television speakers, etc. with “All Woman” and its positive vibrations, elevating and promoting the success of women, positive thinking, social consciousness and a progressive movement worldwide.
AMANDA: Count me in! I’m here to support your campaign and help spread the message and the song wherever I can. We are living through some difficult times on so many levels. We can all use uplifting music, especially during the pandemic…
What are your thoughts on the music industry during the pandemic? Some artists are doing really well, yet so many are struggling.
DAWN MCGHEE: The music industry was not equipped to deal with a pandemic. Also, the music industry is not set up to have anything in place for working musicians to make a living wage, while the masses are having to stay at home. The artists who are doing well mostly have the mainstream machine covering them. They receive quarterly income to carry them over and are able to get endorsement deals which supplement income for them being unable to perform at live events, which is how most artists and labels make income.
For indie labels, like Archive Records, we are scraping the bottom of the barrels and scratching our heads trying to survive. There is virtually no extra money in households for “entertaining.” Those resources are what indies depend on to make records. The performing venues are closed down. Indies depend on those types of venues to sell merchandise and receive performance royalties. Those resources are additional funds that indies use to continue making quality music. Most people are wedded to streaming music, which does NOT pay the label enough money for studio time, mixing, mastering, etc. Most families are gearing away from downloading music because there is no time or patience for iPods, mp3 players, etc. Thus, consumers are satisfied with streaming.
Today, even before the height of the pandemic, indies had decided that it was not worth the investment to produce a whole album, thus EPs and single releases are on the rise. Indies are now putting their resources into driving the market with one or two songs.
The key is to release music to stay relevant. Generate enough income to stay relevant. Market enough to stay relevant.
AMANDA: Very astute observations, Dawn. And very sad too. How do you continue to stay inspired?
DAWN MCGHEE: Today, I continue to stay inspired because the arts are woven into the tapestry of my DNA. I can’t think of a night without the arts in my life. Because I’ve worked for such a long time being a fan of the arts, in addition to my small contributions, I still feel that I have much more to learn and offer the industry. This yearning for more keeps me motivated to continue the struggle of succeeding in this industry.
Currently, I am gearing up to release new songs from the Ten of Diamonds project. I am shuffling the deck for the winning hand.
AMANDA: Wonderful! What impact do you hope to personally leave on the world through your involvement in the music and entertainment industry?
DAWN MCGHEE: I often like to use the poem, “The Dash” by Linda Ellis as a rule of life. I want to leave the world in an ascending growth of passion and positivity through my art. When I transition, I want to have impacted lives so that anyone, no matter where they are in life, or who they are, can look at my artistic ascensions and feel uplifted and spiritually grow higher.
AMANDA: That’s beautiful, Dawn. Looking ahead as an artist/producer/label executive, who are some Artists you would like to work with?
DAWN MCGHEE: I still want to cut records on D’Angelo and other great artists like Erro, Dwele, Raheem DeVaughn and ladies like Trina Broussard, Rina Chanel, and others. I like working with talented artists who are focused on music and art. I want to be able to record artists who want to be ARTISTS, and not in the business for fame or hobby.
AMANDA: What advice do you have for the up-and-coming female artist/producer/creative– the next Dawn McGhee, so to speak?
DAWN MCGHEE: I don’t do clichés. The only advice I have for anyone male or female is to continue creating music that elevates the human race. Pursue music because you love the art, not for fame nor money… chances are it will take years before any of those happen and most often, it doesn’t last. What does last is good music.
AMANDA: Absolutely. Good music lasts the test of time. …Let’s conclude by circling back to your Impact the Speakers initiative. How can we help you push this campaign worldwide? Who are you looking to reach? What can the everyday music lover like myself do to help Impact the Speakers?
DAWN MCGHEE: Impact The Speakers needs deejays to play the song “All Woman.” We need to flood the speakers with the anthem so that it’s not just played during March [Women’s Month], but all year long and for years to come.
Impact The Speakers needs for everyone with a pioneering woman story, living today, to share their stories with the “All Woman” song playing in the background and please use the hashtag #impactthespeakers.
Impact The Speakers needs radio presenters to play the song during their mix shows and make “Impact the Speakers” a slogan for positive music being played.
Impact The Speakers needs all of the industry to rally around the song “All Woman” and make it the theme for our new Vice President Kamala Harris.
Impact The Speakers needs politicians, first responders, and all industry workers to request the song, in order that it becomes a true Woman’s Anthem for “All Woman.”
AMANDA: Dawn, thank you for your time and for sharing who you are and what you believe in with all of us! I know you will continue to Impact the Speakers everywhere.
DAWN MCGHEE: Thank you Amanda!