D. Woods Shouts Out That Grape Juice
Sam: Hey D.Woods, how are you?
D.Woods: I’m great. How are you?
Sam: I’m doing fine, thank you. I’m doing fine. It’s great to be able to speak with you.
Sam: I’m sure you’ve been very busy as of late, describe your day today.
D.Woods: Oh, today. We were in rehearsal all day today. We’re actually about to shoot the video for our new single ‘Damaged’. So we’ve just been rehearsing, dancing and sweating (laughs).
Sam: That’s great. Let me just say, I’d like to congratulate you and the group on being certified Platinum with your self-titled debut.
D.Woods: Thank you.
Sam: You’re welcome.
As has been seen previously, coming from a popular reality show doesn’t always transcend into high record sales. How, then, does it feel to have achieved such a major feat with the first album?
D. Woods: It was definitely a surprise. I mean, it’s what we all hoped for, but we knew the odds that were against us. So after all our hard work, achieving it (platinum status) was like the icing on the cake because we, basically, had our dreams turned into a reality.
Sam: Ok. Your sophomore album is interestingly titled ‘Welcome To The Dollhouse’. How did the group come up with the name for the record?
D. Woods: Well, one of the records we have on the album called ‘The Key’ has a very…the music sounds kind of like a wind-up doll. So we had a whole visual brainstorming session for the direction of the album and (came up with) the fact that we can be likened to these dolls that can be made up, positioned and dressed. Yet, at the same time, we wanted to get a little bit deeper; open the doors to how we really feel because last time we didn’t really get too emotional, touch on things that matter and our personalities didn’t really shine as we would have wanted them to. This time, it’s like, welcome everyone in; we are like these dolls, pristine and whatnot, but at the same time we have other sides to us.
Sam: The record you mentioned, you said it was called ‘The Key’, right?
D. Woods: Yeah. It was written by a writer/artist named Shanell, who is actually my sister.
Sam: Yes. Is she signed with Ne-Yo?
D. Woods: Yes she is.
Sam: (laughs) I did a bit of research on that.
D. Woods: Yeah. Myself, my sister Shanell and another partner Mika, are a writing team called the The Girls Club.
Sam: Having watched the current season of Making The Band, Diddy seems to have given you ladies more of a creative input this go round. In what ways was this so and how did it impact the final product?
D. Woods: It definitely (impacted the final product). I mean, the title ‘Welcome To The Dollhouse’ is some thing that we as a group created. We definitely went toe-to-toe with him on choosing which songs (would feature on the album) out of the ones we recorded. We had a lot to say about the direction of our upcoming video. Everything, this time, is a lot more organic and believable.
Sam: You guys did a lot more writing on the album this go round, right?
D. Woods: Yes. We worked collectively to co-write. By ourselves, we wrote about six of the tracks on the album.
Sam: How many tracks are going to be featured on the album?
D. Woods: That is still in the works right now. We’re still going back and forth, choosing songs, keeping them and taking them off. I’m not sure just yet.
Sam: The album’s lead single, The Stereotypes produced ‘Damaged’ is markedly more pop sounding compared to the radio-friendly R&B on your first album. Is this the ‘sound’ we can expect to hear more of on ‘Welcome To The Dollhouse’?
D. Woods: Definitely. We definitely wanted a dance record, something that was Pop, with international appeal. We wanted something in the vein of what some other people were doing, like Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado. To be honest, we wanted to have that energy because we are all dancers. I mean, we were in rehearsal today just killing it (laughs). It’s exciting for us, for me. I’ve been dancing since I was three years old and me being able to express (myself) goes hand-in-hand with the vocal part of our performance. So yeah…
Sam: Great. As well as newcomers such as The Stereotypes, who else did the group work with on the album and what collaborations etc can we expect?
D. Woods: We did a couple of songs with the producer Danja. There’s also a song called ‘Bad Girl’ that Missy Elliott features on and we were really excited to be able to work with her. Some of the other producers include The Runners, Bryan Michael-Cox, 7even. We have writing teams like The Clutch. Our vocal producer, who basically vocally produced the entire album and we wrote songs with him, was Jim Beans. He had a really wonderful way of working with our different voices, voice textures and making us blend together. He helped us find new ways to get five voices on one track.
Sam: A lot fans wanted to know when the ‘Damaged’ video will premiere.
D. Woods: We are actually shooting it this Wednesday. So soon after.
Sam: Who will be directing the video?
D. Woods: The director is Syndrome.
Sam: I’m assuming the album has been completed; you’re just in the process of selecting tracks. Do you have any personal favourites?
D. Woods: Yeah, the recording is done, we just choosing the songs. I have to say that ‘The Key’ is my personal favourite because it comes from my camp…
D. Woods: There’s another one I wrote on called ‘Flashback’, it’s actually an interlude. I was one of the last ones that we did. Me and Dawn wrote it. It kinda almost has an alternative/rock edge to it. After recording it as an interlude, we were like ‘Dang, we should made this a full song!’ Also, there is a song called ‘Striptease’, which myself, Dawn and Jim Beans wrote together. It’s very tongue-in-cheek, sassy, and sexy, using a lot of metaphors…it’s real sexy (laughs). I’m hoping that it will end up being a single so that we can match the visual to the cleverly written lines. Danja produced that song, so the beat is crazy.
Sam: Definitely a lot to look forward to there.
We have to talk about the drama surrounding the group this past summer. There was a lot of talk among the media, as well as some of the group members themselves about a possible break-up/new line-up etc. Obviously, now things are fine, but what exactly went down then?
D. Woods: Well, there were the rumors that we were breaking up and I stress that they were rumors, as they were never confirmed. That was never a reality, so that was that. The other part of the drama, definitely, was that we had to ‘clean house’ with our business organization. Being a group that was constructed on a reality TV show, we were not in control of a lot of the things that were going on around us. I mean, as you saw with our last album, it kind of picked up and then the ball was dropped. So, we had to address those issues and take matters into our own hands; and that takes time (to restructure your business). We had to fire our management…actually, it was a mutual split, and both parties weren’t happy (laughs). We, basically, had to pick up the pieces. There wasn’t a lot of support from the label at that time, because they didn’t know what to do with us. We really just had to pull together; we live in 5 separate cities across the country…It was just a real reality, we really found out the real reality and that was what that (the drama) was all about.
Sam: There was a rather lengthy gap between the group’s first and second single, ‘Show Stopper’ and ‘Ride For You’ respectively. Was this linked to the restructuring process you mentioned?
D. Woods: Uh huh. Yeah.
Sam: Despite selling very well with the first album, the group have stated, on quite a few occasions, that you all didn’t make any money from it. Why? How did you all safeguard yourself this time around?
D. Woods: Well, being that we weren’t allowed to write anything on the first album, I say ‘allowed’ because we definitely submitted lots of songs but they weren’t…
Sam: Allowed to be placed on the record?
D. Woods: Right. It was in other people’s best interest to not have us writing on the first album (laughs). I mean, that’s the main way you will make money when releasing an album; after you recoup everything, there’s not much left over (besides what one would receive on writing credits). I think, that during the lengthy gap between ‘Show Stopper’ and ‘Ride For You’ – as you observed – that was actually the record company figuring out that we are actually a credible group. They were figuring that out at that point.
Sam: I know a lot of fans were hoping for more singles from the record. I remember hearing a lot of calls for ‘Sleep On It’ and other tracks to be given the single treatment. For obvious reason, it…
D. Woods: With the state of the industry, a lot of record companies are not gonna risk anything. They don’t want to spend a lot of money, but they want a lot of returns. I think people weren’t sure they could spend a lot of money on us and get a return on us; but we definitely proved them wrong –time and time again (laughs). So with that, we definitely fought for the right to take creative control, to be able to write on our album, to put new management in place so that business opportunities will be there that would allow us to make money outside of just the records. At this point in the industry, you make most of you money outside of the music. We didn’t have any of that set up by our last management. We were basically doing shows and paying ourselves, the people on the road with us etc. So when the shows stopped, the money stopped. That’s the part of the industry (people don’t see). Yes, it’s ‘Lights, Camera, Action’ and glamour, but it’s a job at the same time, you know. If you’re not out there making people move their feet and clap their hands, then you don’t get paid (laughs). It’s like at IBM, if you don’t press those buttons on the computer, you’re not getting a paycheque.
Sam: … (laughs) On the current season of Making The Band, much ado has been made about the fact that you ladies reached Platinum status with the first record. Do you feel any added pressure this go round? Are you fearful of the dreaded sophomore jinx?
D. Woods: No. I feel like this is the first album that we’re doing. We’re actually able to be ourselves. I feel it’s a better way for us to step out. Already, we’ve had great feedback on ‘Damaged’. From little listening parties here and there, people are real excited about the music, images, photoshoots, everything. The photoshoots etc we are doing now are just cohesive with the music; so it feels like now we are just starting. So it doesn’t feel like ‘Oh my God, the sophomore jinx’ (laughs); it’s more like ‘Oh, we really about to do it now. We weren’t playing the last time’ (laughs).
Sam: That’s great. Bad Boy’s track record with artists is, arguably, hit and miss. How does Danity Kane plan to sustain in the industry for the long haul?
D. Woods: We just plan to learn from the mistakes of the past (laughs), keep moving forward and not rely on anyone. I mean, all of us in Danity Kane, this isn’t our first taste of the industry – we all have our own levels of experience and know what’s going on. Like if we don’t know something, we know someone that does and will get the information. We’ll have the right attorney around us to give us the information, have a music business book etc at hand and make it happen. That’s what you really have to do; do it for yourself; you can’t rely on everybody else to do it for you.
Sam: Cool. On this season of Making The Band, you have co-star with the guys from last seasons show. How does the show’s new dynamic sit with you? Did you have any apprehensions going into it, as things have obviously changed?
D. Woods: Going back into it, I was a little nervous because I didn’t know what the direction of the show was going to be and how we were going to be portrayed. I was very protective of our image; I didn’t want it to go down as some ‘Flavor Of Love’ or ‘Real World’. This is our career and we weren’t looking to make a mockery of ourselves to get camera time. So that was my main concern, but I’m very happy; we have the comedy, the drama, the little romance that keeps it interesting. Yet, it also comes back to the music and I’m glad that it’s not all about the beat down or the ‘Oh, you couldn’t get your part right in the studio’. We are actually being portrayed as artists. People can walk away from this and they can respect our process, instead of criticizing it. If you look at how we were shown on the first couple of seasons, it wasn’t bad, but they would show a lot of the downfalls, but not much explanation behind it. So the viewers at home, who don’t know about recording in the studio for 12 hours trying to make hits, they don’t understand. That’s why we had a lot to fight against the first time coming out. Now I feel that the respect level is a lot higher.
Sam: As at writing, the episodes that have aired thus far, show you and Robert (from the guys) to have a situation of sorts going on. A potential romance, perhaps?
D. Woods: No.
D. Woods: That episode you got the gist of the relationship (laughs). We made up and, by the end of that night, we had an understanding. I think when you don’t know people, you don’t know the buttons people have…it was trying me. You know, sometimes with the male macho ego, he probably thought he could just do whatever he wanted. Me just being a jokester, along with Aubrey, we just think such things are funny. I guess some people don’t have the same sense of humor (laughs).
Sam: Are there plans for any more seasons of Making The Band?
Sam: Moving on; with your evidently curvaceous build – something touched upon in previous seasons- and individuality (the hair etc), do see yourself as a role model to younger females. If so, why do you think it’s important?
D. Woods: What did you call it (laughs)?
Sam: Curvaceous build (laughs).
D. Woods: Awww
Well whether I see myself as a role model or not, I probably am. There are probably people that I will never meet that know about me, know what I’m doing, look at me in articles etc and it’s something that I always have to keep in mind…sorry what was the rest of the question (laughs)?
Sam: (Laughs / repeats question adding…) like, there was an episode from two seasons ago, where Diddy called you out (for being heavier than the other girls). A lot of the reaction was, obviously sympathy for you, and at the same time there was a collective ‘Oh wow, D. Woods is actually real. She’s just like a real woman’. So to some extent women see you as a role model.
D. Woods: I think above all, you just need to be true to yourself and that’s what I’ve been doing. As far as my physique, I’ve always been body conscious – not in an obsessive, compulsive way – but I’ve been a dancer all of my life, so I’ve always been into body conditioning, staying in shape and making sure that I’m able to perform and do what I do to my best capability. I try to maintain that in a way that’s neither mentally or physically damaging. Yes, it comes to a place where you accept genetics and you have to take care of your process and what you’re willing to do. Like, I’m not willing to change myself to fit into anyone’s mould. If you feel like I need to be a certain size to be in this group, then you probably should have picked somebody else.
D. Woods: … because, no matter what, there’s certain things on me that aren’t going to change or get much smaller. Even with the hairstyle, I just do what I feel like doing. Like today, I decided to cut a little of it off (laughs). It’s all a part of how I express myself. (I) Express myself through song, through dance and through the way I look.
Sam: Who would you say are inspirations to you, as an individual?
D. Woods: My parents would listen to a lot of Soul music and those types of singers, so I was inspired by that. I was also inspired by Whitney Houston with her legendary, powerful voice. I was inspired by Patti Labelle, in the way she’s so individualistic. When you look at her, her track record, being in a group and then moving on to become a solo act, throughout she never compromised her style. The way she decides to sing or wear her hair etc, just exudes a lot of confidence (which inspires me). I’m very influenced by Hip-Hop, like Outkast, Jay-Z, Nas, Biggie, The Fugees, that’s the stuff I know all the lyrics to. There’s countless singers like Stevie Wonder, Brandy, Bjork, a lot of different people. I did a lot of musical theatre coming up; I majored in Theatre at college. So those are really my influences.
Sam: You have a lot of international fans (especially here in the UK), many of which are hoping to see/hear from the group this year. Will you be touring/releasing etc this year?
D. Woods: Most definitely. We’re definitely putting pressure on our label; we’re always telling them ‘y’all need to put together an international market’. We’re going to be all over the globe this year. So, yeah.
Sam: That’s awesome. A few quick random questions:
Have you heard Laurie-Ann’s new single ‘Addictive’?
D. Woods: I sure have (laughs)
Sam: (laughs) Are you liking the single?
D. Woods: How do you feel about it?
D. Woods: I’ve only seen the video once, I think I have to see/ hear it a few more times (laughs). I think it’s very interesting, I know it’s something she’s wanted to do for a while. I have to now get myself into looking at her as an artist and not a choreographer.
Sam: Uh huh. What songs you’ve had on constant rotation?
D. Woods: Without sounding cocky, I’m listening to my own music (laughs). I like it, what we put together and ready to get it all out of my system. I definitely like Kanye’s ‘Graduation’. I work out to ‘Stronger’, Rihanna’s ‘Don’t Stop The Muisc’ is another of my workout songs (laughs). I really love Alicia Keys’ album too. For some reason, I’m listening to a lot of throwback stuff recently. Like I just bought Madonna’s everything off iTunes (laughs). If someone was to go through my iPod, they’d probably wonder how it (the different music) all comes together, but somehow it just does.
Sam: Rounding up, the release date for the album?
D. Woods: March 18th
Sam: That’s great. Do you have a message for the fans?
D. Woods: Get ready to be excited. The album, the tour, everything. Get ready.
Sam: Thank you for your time.
D. Woods: Thank you.
Danity Kane’s sophomore album ‘Welcome To the Dollhouse’ hits stores on March 18th. In the meanwhile, you can catch D. Woods and the rest of the ladies on MTV’s Making The Band 4 (check your local listings for air times).
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