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Artist: Donnie Klang
Interviewer: Alex Thornton
At first, it might seem like Donnie Klang is getting an easy path to the top after spending hours in front of MTV cameras, but in many ways, he's got it tougher than most. As the next artist out the gate from The House That Sean Built, Donnie Klang already has a lot to live up to. Beginning a new career as a Pop Superstar is difficult enough as it is, but on top of that, add 24 hours a day of filming for Making The Band and ten other artists to compete with up with in the form of Danity Kane and Day 26. As if that wasn't enough, throw in a notoriously tough boss who gave Donnie and special, unplanned opportunity to be the first solo artist in the history of the show.
Still, even with all the challenges up against him, Donnie is ready. He's been putting his hardcore work ethic to use for his entire life and as a long time fan of Bad Boy's music, the last thing he's going to let himself do is drop the ball. If it's up to him, Donnie will get beyond the "Reality Star" label and become a legitimate artist so that long after you've forgotten his infamous date with Aubrey, you'll remember Donnie Klang.
You're right at the age where you came up during the height of Bad Boy; what's it like to now be on stage with someone you used to watch on TV for all those years?
Its crazy to me because I was right into all that, especially like 96, 97, 98. I was into Biggie, Mase, Diddy, 112, Faith Evans all that... that's what I was in to. That's one of the reasons why I'm into music now, so for me to be signed to Bad Boy right now is crazy. I was in a talent show and we did "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" and I did Diddy's verse so it's weird. Even with my old groups that I used to be in, we used to just say "Bad Boy" on our tracks because it sounded hot. We used to try to find acapellas of Diddy to have him on our songs, and now I've got a song ("Take You There") with him on it. Crazy.
You've recorded a lot of your music in between the time we saw on the last season of the show and now. Do you feel like you missed out on anything by not doing the whole album with the other groups?
Not really. I got to record while we were there and I've been recording since then so I kinda got he best of both worlds. While we were there, some of the girls and some of the guys would come in and check out my sessions, but now when I'm on my own, sometimes I bring in some of the friends from home to try to absorb some of the energy into the session if it's like a club track. It worked out better in the long run.
A lot of the Day 26 guys complained about adjusting to being part of a group, but you've actually said that you're more accustomed to groups so going solo was hard. Have you gotten used to being the center of attention yet?
It took adjusting but I'm definitely happy with it. Being in groups, you start to see personalities clash at a certain point. Danity Kane's obviously been able to work through that and with the guys, we all came from the same process and the same auditions so they were able to work through it to. Still, being a solo artist you don't have to go through that and you hold your own fate in your hand. If you mess up a dance move, it's all on you, but if you don't mess it up, you don't have to worry about if someone else will. I love it.
Do you feel like Diddy has higher expectations of you since he changed his original plans for the season to give you a deal as well?
Yeah, absolutely. Diddy in general has high expectations already, so when it comes to his artists, whether it's a live show or recording in the studio or just rehearsals, you gotta be on your "A" game and working as hard as you can. He expects that because that's how he got where he's at and he knows what it takes. He's pushing us to our limits so we can be better artists because he's been there himself. Yes, especially as a solo artists for the first time on Making the Band, it's definitely a lot of pressure but it's making me better every day.
Even on the most popular shows like American Idol, the winners on reality shows get a lot of exposure up front but then have a lot of trouble staying relevant for long. How do you plan to be one of the few who breaks through?
You know, thank-you for bringing that up because a lot of people see me and they're like "hey, you're Donnie from Making the Band" and I really wanna just eventually separate myself so they're like "hey, you're Donnie Klang." We've got the tour and a new season filming but after that, Making the Band is gonna die out. I'm gonna do my own tour and start doing collaborations; I'm a producer and a writer myself so I want to get in and start working with other people, writing and producing my own projects, and then really getting in to TV and film. I really don't want to rush into the wrong part though and have people be like "oh, this kid can't act." I want to get into that role where people will see it and be like "okay, this kid's really gonna be in it for a long time."
You seem like the type who has been training since you were really young for this type of career. Do you have Stage Parents?
[laughs] Yeah, my parents had me modeling when I was a baby. When I was little, I was going on auditions and commercials and stuff like that and got into the screen actors guild. It was mostly just extra work, but it was really good because it just got me used to auditions and learning lines and being in front of cameras all the time, and then with my old groups, we did live shows and we worked in the studio. I just feel that was training to get to this point, and then even Making the Band is more training, but I'm finally getting to graduate from the MTB school this season.
You've spen the last few years of your life being filmed 24/7. Do you ever miss the cameras when they're not around?
Eh... It's half and half. Sometimes it's at the point where I just want to go to sleep but they're right in my face all the time, but at the same time it's really good training. You could get off a plane at 3 AM and you're exhausted and you've just done a whole week of radio and TV and club shows, but you'll get a fan that comes up and wants to get an autograph and take pictures. You can't be nasty to that fan because this is a once in a lifetime chance for them to meet you, and being on camera all the time teaches you to stay ready.
You probably get sick of hearing it, but the reality of the situation is that you have been and will be compared to Justin Timberlake frequently...
Yeah, the way I take it is that he's an artist that I grew up listening to with N'Sync, and that's the level that I want to be at. Being compared to him instead of just some one hit wonder is an honor, and he's someone that's compared to Michael Jackson, so to me, that's a huge compliment.
You've said in the past that your album has more of a Prince vibe than a Justin one, but his last album, FutureSex/LoveSounds had a pretty heavy Prince vibe as well. Is that really helping you shake the comparison?
It's not really on all the songs. I worked with a producer named 7 and he gave me some homework with some Prince DVDs and some James Brown. That just kinda added to the repertoire that I have as an artist. The thing is, once the album drops, people will see that I'm something different and I really created a new lane for myself.
7 is clearly talented but he's a little bit... unique. How did you adjust to the unusual recording environment he likes?
At fist it was definitely weird but after a while I got to know him and... I don't know what it is, maybe it's just the energy, but there's something different that he brings to the songs. You can feel it in the songs that he makes and even in my vocals on those songs. Even now, I go into my sessions and I'm like, looking for candles and stuff. He's converted me.
Now that you're on Bad Boy, are you looking to take advantage and have any dream collaborations on the album?
No, we're really trying to keep it to just me. We've got Diddy on one song, but I want to introduce who I am as an artists and connect with the fans beyond Making the Band. We might have one "surprise something" to throw on there but... I can't talk about that yet because it's up in the air.
Donnie's album, Just a Rolling Stone will be in stores August 19th, just in time for the new season of Making the Band and the Making the Band Tour along side Day 26 and Danity Kane.