SoulBounce: What's it like being in an established group like the Brand New Heavies?
Dawn Joseph: Well, on one hand it’s obviously a massive -- well, it’s a big deal for me -- and we have a lot fun and I guess that’s the pros of it. And the cons of it, well, I’m stepping into someone else’s shoes. So you can imagine the sort of pressure -- I don’t mean, I don’t think, I don’t feel that I’m getting pressured from outside, but internally I think I kinda beat myself up about it, you know? That I am stepping into somebody else’s shoes who the fans are already familiar with, so I feel that I first and foremost have to do the songs justice but also remain myself. And I can’t and don’t want to be anybody else, I just need to try and establish myself within the group. And 18 months down the line, I think I’m achieving that.
SB: You started off on their last album, Forward, and on that album you shared lead vocals with N’Dea [Davenport], did that ease you into assuming your role with the group now?
DJ: Well, I got the phone call just at the end when they were finishing making the album and there were a few tracks they needed vocals on. So they invited me to the studio because I had never met them and I suggested, well, you know, I can’t really say yes to this job because I had never met them before so I wanted to know if we particularly got on, you know, first and foremost. So they invited me to the studio and they said, “Oh we’ve got this track up on the one, would you mind putting down some backing vocals?” So I did, and they said. “Alright put some ad-libs on.” And so I did that and that was subsequently my audition. I didn’t know that at the time. [laughs] That was my audition and they ended up using those vocals on the record. So I guess that was kind of a nice introduction, too, but I didn’t know and they didn’t know at the time that I was actually going to take over for N’Dea. I was just sort of brought in on the occasion that N’Dea wasn’t available for the gig. So that was the only idea they had in their head.
SB: So did you get to work with N’Dea at all?
DJ: No, not all, actually because, like I said, if I was doing it, she wasn’t doing it, so our paths never met. Actually when I did the session, a month later they were at Jazz Cafe, and I went to actually see them perform. But no, we didn’t actually get to meet unfortunately.
DJ: I know. Our paths crossed, but we never actually spoke.
SB: Well, hopefully that happens sometime soon. I'm sure you guys probably have a lot to talk about.
DJ: [laughs] Probably a lot of gossip.
SB: In the past, you’ve worked with some pretty big names, like Rick Astley, Phil Collins, Craig David, CeeLo Green. How does being a part of the Heavies compare with those endeavors?
DJ: Well it’s a different kind of experience because with CeeLo and Kylie [Minogue] and Spandau Ballet and, gosh, Michael Bolton, Michael McDonald, I was brought in as a backing vocalist, so I was shoved in the background and told to blend -- which I don’t really like to do, to be honest. So it’s a different kind of thing. I still work with Rick, he’s one of my really good friends. And I love jumping from being in the background and just hanging out, and I like being in the front and fronting a band. The only downside to fronting a band is that I’ve got to look after my voice more. I can’t go out partying with the guys [laughs]. I must rest it. We just did a tour in Japan last week and I got a virus before we went out.
SB: Oh no!
DJ: I couldn’t actually speak but the weird thing was, I could sing, because when you speak, you’re speaking from your chest. So I just used my head voice and sound from the back of my throat, which is -- the doctor would probably tell me that’s the worst thing to do. But I had nine shows, so I had to do it. But I was able to project this sound from my throat, but I couldn’t speak, I had to just sing. So when I was having a conversation with somebody, I had to sing it. Ridiculous!
SB: Oh man, what was that like? I can only imagine.
DJ: I know. I just had to say it like this, [sings] Hey sorry I have to sing everything to you. [laughs]