Known as the Queen of Gospel Energy, Recording Artist and Song Writer, Dawn Tallman is a gifted singer with an anointed voice. Her voice has been heard across dance floors around the world. Full of love, high energy, and positivity, she is able to uplift and encourage while making you dance. I was thrilled to be able to chat with Dawn about the messages in her music, her career and her impact on the House and Dance Music Scene.
Black Widow: Tell me about your background and how you began singing?
Dawn Tallman: My background is rooted in the church. When I was a little girl around 1, my mom said I’d sing all the commercials on TV. I would jump off her lap and rock back and forth and sing all the songs. My mom knew that there was something special inside of me. She knew I had a gift. I started singing in church. I had my first concert at 5 years at old at church. This wasn’t a kid choir it was an actual concert. I remember that moment. As a kid it felt like a million people looking at me from that pulpit. I remember the look of happiness on their faces. I knew this was what I wanted to do. Putting smiles on people’s faces because I could sing? Yeah…
Growing up in church and then getting older, I started exploring other kinds of music like R&B and I started doing that for a while. You know doing R&B you had those stigmas you had to fight against.
Black Widow: Like what? What were some of those obstacles?
Dawn Tallman: You know…it’s about the look. I got those typical responses. I was too big but I could sing my butt off. I didn’t have a certain look. I was doing the “Kelly Price” thing. You know my voice was always accepted. I was doing hooks and working doing background vocals, but when it was time to be out front, they weren’t having that. It was very discouraging.
Black Widow: That had to be frustrating and discouraging. If you let it get on the inside of you, it can be damaging.
Dawn Tallman: Absolutely!
Black Widow: How did it affect you and/or motivate you to keep doing what you are doing?
Dawn Tallman: I always believed in what I was doing and my foundation is rooted in my faith. I knew this was a gift from God and my gift was going to make room for me. So I knew to keep pushing. Of course, It bothered me and I was hurt but I had a fire inside of me and determination, so I pushed through that hurt and kept going but everyone can’t do that.
Black Widow: Faith will push you through things others would never be able to deal with. Who were some of your earlier influences?
Dawn Tallman: Girl yes!!!! You know I love music. My dad listened to a lot of Johnny Mathis and Nat King Cole. I was influenced by different artists, not just gospel. I loved Aretha Franklin, Vanessa Bell Armstrong…artist like those. That kind of stuff.
Black Widow: My mom used to say to me, there are some people who can sing and there are others whose voices are anointed. The ones who are anointed will touch you in deeply personal ways. I can tell you, some of your songs have gotten me through some really rough patches in my life. In particular, when my divorce became final, I heard “For me” at the club and was in tears. They were happy tears tho…
Dawn Tallman: Oh wow…we have a lot in common. Those songs were written from real life experiences. They were birthed from a bad marriage/divorce/relationship and I was in a dark place. During that time, that light bulb switched and that inner voice said, “Wait…you don’t have to be in this. You have a choice. You can get out of this”. It took a minute. It took my faith and it took work. God isn’t going to sit there and pull you out; you got to do the work.
Black Widow: and it’s hard… it’s really hard…
Dawn Tallman: Yes it is. It takes time and it takes work. It’s very hard. You have a choice but it is not easy. There are days now where I have to remember what I sing and the testimonies I get from people. I still have to keep going even when I may not feel like it. It’s my ministry.
Black Widow: Your music makes people feel something. It’s not just the kind of music you sing but the way you sing it. Your faith comes through your music. How has your faith influenced you as an artist?
Dawn Tallman: These songs are birthed from real stories and situations. Of course, I can write a song about whatever because I’m an artist. That’s what we do. My faith is the foundation. That’s where these songs from. These lyrics are powerful, and you got to have faith to sing them and to convey those messages where people can feel it. It’s not just me performing, it’s my testimony.
Black Widow: You have songs I play to remind me that I got this or songs that remind me that even when I make mistakes; I’m still going to be ok. They stay in rotation on my playlist especially when my faith is challenged. I’m not going to lie to you; I’ve burst into tears in the middle of a dance floor!
Dawn Tallman: You know… the lights, camera... action… stuff is cool but this is real ministry for me. My ministry is not in the four walls of a church it’s out here. I’ve ministered to myself in a club sometimes. It’s always my prayer that what I say or what I sing will touch someone. It’s a career and I love it but more than anything, I want someone to be touched, transformed or have their heart changed from my music. I’ve received so many testimonies from people telling me some of my songs have really pulled them through hard times.
Black Widow: Those are the reminders you are doing what you are doing what you have been called to do. You’ve made some awesome music with Josh Milan. How did you guys start collaborating?
Dawn Tallman: He’s my partner and best friend. When we did, “For Me”, he just knew what to say. God really used him musically. I mean… WHOA…what I couldn’t write, he knew exactly what to say.
Black Widow: When you have a partner or someone you collaborate with that knows you like that…
Dawn Tallman: WHEW Girl!!!
Black Widow: Those collaborations are priceless. You know we make mistakes and we are human. Songs like this remind me that you can fall down and get back up again.
Dawn Tallman: “For Me” was one of those songs that I ministered to myself with. You know, we have a choice to be happy. It may be hard but I’m making a conscious decision to be happy no matter what.
Black Widow: YES! YES! I completely relate! Happiness is truly a choice! How did house music come into play?
Dawn Tallman: I first heard songs like “Follow Me”, “Break for Love” etc. when I would go out to clubs. I just remember that feeling when I heard it…it was crazy. I was at a wedding about 20 years ago and met Juan Coon. He was a producer and loved my voice. He asked me to do some music with him and I put out a single with him. In the early 90s, I did a song called, “Caught in Love” on K4B records with producers K London Posse. This record was like fate, it just took off. Then Benji Candalario did a remix. He was a huge producer/remixer in the 90s and that record did phenomenal. I did my very first show at the Sound Factory Bar with Barbara Tucker, Don Welch and Louie Vega and I was hooked.
When I went to that club it was a whole new world I never knew existed. Everyone was just free and having a ball. They didn’t care that I was big. They didn’t care how I looked; they just loved me and my voice. I was accepted here. No one was telling me how to look or anything, they just said, “Girl keep singing”!!!
Dawn Tallman: It felt like I was walking into this family and I was accepted and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Black Widow: That’s what I love about this scene; it’s a lot of kids in these clubs that went out to be accepted. It’s very come as you are…
Dawn Tallman: Yeah you come to dance, be free and have a good time.
Black Widow: Let’s talk about your creative process. You mentioned your songs come from real life experiences. Do you have moments of writers block? How do you combat it?
Dawn Tallman: You know around the time of “For me”, I struggled. That’s where Josh came in. Like I said, he was able to write the words I couldn’t at that time and we were so connected, he really conveyed what I wanted to say. I most definitely get times when I just don’t have it in me. You have to try to push yourself out of it but if you force it, it’s not going to be authentic. Sometimes you have to ride it out. Sometimes I feel like I’m not creative, I’m not hearing nothing…I’m just not feeling it. Once I get back in, then it slowly comes back. I will force myself to write because you don’t want it to linger to long.
Black Widow: I’ve definitely been there. Sometimes I’ll just write whatever I’m feeling. It won’t necessarily be a song; it may just be my personal writing in my journals. Writing is a muscle and you must exercise it…you know?
Dawn Tallman: OMG! I was going to say the same thing…even if it’s in my journals. Write something and write exactly how you feel…just write everything; that inspiration and creativity will come back to you.
Black Widow: Writing is my therapy. Sometimes the songs I write are sermons to myself. Do you feel the same way about performing?
Dawn Tallman: Oh yes! I totally understand. You know...what we do has to bless us first before it’s blesses the people. That’s the only way people can feel it. You have to be open, you have to be vulnerable.
Black Widow: It’s about releasing fear…
Dawn Tallman: Yes! That’s where my song, “I’m not afraid came from”. It’s about embracing it all. You can’t be so diva-fied” because people can’t connect with you that way.
Black Widow: When you are vulnerable, you are putting yourself out there and sometimes it ain’t pretty. Is there a fear in that?
Dawn Tallman: Nope…not for me. That’s artistry. When people see that from you, they connect to it. You become human. I try to keep it 100 but there’s a difference between being vulnerable and letting people inside your person. It’s a balance between being vulnerable and allowing people inside your personal space. I’m a firm believer that you overcome by the words of your testimony. You can’t keep it in. Even if it’s only one person…it matters. You just never know. I try to be open and vulnerable because I need people to see I’m human just like you, I make mistakes just like anyone else, I’m figuring it all out just like you. These songs pour into me and I want to pour them into someone else.
Black Widow: it makes you relatable.
Dawn Tallman: …and Human. There’s a difference between being too familiar with you and being vulnerable.
Black Widow: I’m most certainly learning about creating those boundaries.
Dawn Tallman: You got to learn how to discern and decipher.
Black Widow: Because we are human and go through stuff, it doesn’t stop the job! How do you press through performances when real life is complicated?
Dawn Tallman: it seems like when I’m going through it in real life, those are my most powerful performances!
Black Widow: Out of great pain comes great art sometimes.
Dawn Tallman: Girl yes!!!! Even when you are dealing with stuff, you got to remember people have decided to come out and pay their money to see you and you never know what people are going to receive from your performance. Sometimes the songs I sing, minister to me while I’m ministering to someone else.
Black Widow: Ministering to yourself through your own music.
Dawn Tallman: It’s a powerful gift.
Black Widow: I have told my parents that I’ve had the same experiences they have in church in a club sometimes. It really can be transformative and a completely spiritual experience. That’s a deeper connection with your audience that cannot be faked.
Dawn Tallman: There are going to be people who may never go to church. I may not be stuffing church down your throat but you will be encouraged and uplifted. That’s why I remain open; you don’t know what people are going through. I have to be willing to strip myself down and connect with people; it’s what draws people to me.
Black Widow: How do you balance career, family and motherhood?
Dawn Tallman: You know it’s hard. I’m sure you know what I mean. It’s so difficult. It’s hard because of the type of business I’m in. It’s not a 9-5 where I can turn it off at the end of the night. It’s the music industry… I can get a call tonight that Beyoncé wants me to record…and I got to work all of this out! You know?
Black Widow: Girl yes! Absolutely! That’s a call you aren’t gonna miss! LOL
Dawn Tallman: It’s hard to juggle but it can be done. It’s difficult…there are times I have to turn it off. I have to set aside those moments. I have to turn my phone off; it’s a conscious decision and just have that quality time. It can be a lot but you know…we do what we have to do. I am the caretaker; it’s all on me so I’m out here making it happen. I don’t just sing house music, I sing in two wedding bands, I sing in a jazz band, I do background vocals for jazz artists. I’m all over the place sometimes. Being on the road, motherhood doesn’t stop. I was just in Russia but I’m on the phone making sure my kids are good, homework is done, and everyone is on point. It’s hard to balance but it gets’ done. It’s what we do.
Black Widow: Tell me about it! We always do! So, let’s talk about the party! I’m excited to see and hear you perform. What can we all expect?
Dawn Tallman: GIRL!!!! I’m coming with the heavenly choir!!
Dawn Tallman: I’m excited! I’m coming with an open heart and ready to do what I do. I’m bringing the fire with me tho! I’m ready to bless the people. It’s going to be such a great night! Bring the tambourines!!!
Black Widow: Well if you see a girl with curly hair dancing and singing every lyric…that’s me! I can’t wait. Thanks so much for speaking with me today. I look forward to hearing you sing!
Dawn Tallman: Absolutely! I can’t wait. It’s been a pleasure.
Check out Dawn Tallman at the following:
- On Facebook: @Dawntallman1
- On Twitter: @dawntallman
- On Instagram: @dawntallman
- On Traxsource
Hope you enjoyed this week's interview! As always, see ya on a Dance Floor!