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Singer/Songwriter Dorian Is Risk-Taking His Way to Success

Dorian AllenNot only does singer/songwriter, Dorian possess an infectiously effervescent personality, his new EP Running Back To You is a mesmerizing collection of songs that float inside and outside of a rock, gospel, pop and R&B format. His vocals are classically extraordinary, warm and unforgettably engaging.

2015 is setting out to be an exhilarating year for Dorian as he finds himself musing over the fact that he’s been touring and singing background vocals for singer Sam Smith who has been experiencing a pretty amazing, chart-topping music career for the past year or so since being featured on the massive Disclosure hit, “Latch” as well as earning four Grammys for his album, In the Lonely Hour.

I got a chance to catch up with Dorian to talk about life after graduating from the highly distinguished Berklee College of Music, his new EP, what it was like being on an MTV reality competition show and touring with Sam Smith.

You’ve been touring with Sam Smith. He’s been nominated for like 6 Grammys [won four]. What has touring been like?

We actually just wrapped up the radio tour. Before that I was on the North American tour and that was a lot of fun. He’s an amazing artist. That experience was a pleasure. It was like kind of being a part of his rise almost because my first gig with him was on ‘Saturday Night Live’ which was like his first [solo] debut in the U.S. From then, that was March until now, it’s been a great journey. They’re like family a little bit.

What was it like attending the illustrious Berklee College of Music including being a part of its legacy? I mean, so many amazing artists and musicians studied there.

I think sometimes that people have this perception at Berklee like “Oh wow, I’m at Berklee so it’s going to be the next step after this,” but in reality it’s still a grind. You even said that I’m a part of that legacy. It’s a little weird because, first, I’m nowhere near where I want to be, nor do I feel like I should be with those people but the fact that I’m on that journey, that I have accomplished a little bit is kind of mesmerizing because there are some people that leave there and may go and do something else or not even continue on the journey. So to be on the other side of that is almost like, “Oh wow, I am on that journey and on my way and continuing to build upon my legacy and also, that legacy includes being a part of that institution.

Since graduating from Berklee, how have you navigated your success?

After graduating from Berklee I had a couple of internships. I’m a music business major so I had an internship at Universal Records. I came to New York and had an internship at Universal Music publishing which was great. I had to do it to complete my degree and then I had another internship in the sales department at Island Def Jam and Universal Republic and the reality was that they loved me and they were like, “You could do this. You could do that,” and I felt like I had a different vision. I’m a creative. I felt like I was on the wrong side. You have to stay true and that’s really important and I just left. I finished my internship and was just going to make it happen on this creative thing. If I wasn’t secure in my vision or in what I wanted to do, I wouldn’t be having this conversation with you because I’d probably be working at a desk at a label and moving up in the company, still in the music industry, possibly but not doing what I really wanted to do. I was just like, “I have to take a risk, take a leap of faith. I have to because there’s something pushing me and pulling me to do so.”

Staying true to your vision is the thing that keeps you and makes you inspiring to others. That’s the main thing. Having that thick skin and realizing that that dream you have, you hold the power to it and once you give up, then that’s it. So, if you keep pushing then something’s going to happen.

You were on P. Diddy’s MTV show “Making His Band,” what was it like?

I actually did “Making His Band” before I finished Berklee. I was in my fourth semester. The idea behind the show was that he was trying to find a band and backing singers for the Diddy Dirty Money album. So he was building that and it was my first kind of big intro into what that was like and it was a learning experience. It prepared me for doing Sam’s gig and Stevie Wonder’s gig. It really kind of opened my eyes to what goes on in the music industry. It was a class in and of itself. Like I was a student at Berklee, it was also a class, too. I could see the difference between school and the actual music industry. So it really kind of propelled and prepared me to thrive in the industry. I’m looking back now at that experience and there are things that I learned there that definitely helped.

What’s something interesting that goes on behind the scenes of a show like that, something that viewers wouldn’t expect?

I noticed a lot of things didn’t air even though we were filming for weeks. But I wasn’t on there as long as some of the others. If they would have shown some of that other footage, I probably would have had a little more air time. [He laughs] Certain things may look faster than there really are. It was a long process. It’s a longer process than what people see. I’m a huge fan of Sean Combs.

What was it like working for Stevie Wonder?

That was in the middle of Sam’s tour. We were actually on a break and so I got the call to kind of do this choir scenario at Madison Square Garden and it kind of just ended up turning into me doing it for the majority of the tour. It was the Songs in the Key of Life tour. Working with Stevie Wonder, that was a dream. I felt like I was living in a dream.

Who else have you worked with?

Maybe not to the extent that I’ve worked with Sam and Stevie but I’ve also worked with Mavis Staples, Philip Bailey, Michael McDonald and a lot of this was done through my Berklee experience. I’ve had a chance to work with some really awesome people. I definitely consider myself blessed. This has been a tremendous year for me, being able to tour and I’ve never really toured before.

What do you like the most about touring and what do you like the least?

I enjoyed meeting people. I enjoyed talking to the fans in every city. That was really cool. Though they weren’t necessarily my fans, in a way they became my fans just because I was a part of it. I got to experience what music, as well as what people’s artistry can do for people. The fans just wanted to be a part of anything that was a part of that brand so they became interested in you and just being able to talk to them, it was just like having a moment. I was like, “I see the connection now.” I enjoyed traveling as well but what I liked the least was the fact that when you’re touring you don’t get to see the city that much. So the idea of going to this city, to this city and to this city, well, you may be there just for the show or you may have a day off sometimes but a lot of times we would leave right after the show. That would be the least favorite thing, that I didn’t get a chance to really experience the city like I would have liked to.

Your EP has such a wonderfully lush, multi-genre infused sound. It truly is refreshing. How did you decide upon that approach?

I listen to so many different genres of music. I have my entire life and everything I listen to is a part of me. I didn’t set out to create the EP just that way. I think it was the opposite. I used to try to put myself into a box but I can’t do that, I listen to everything. There are R&B elements, there are rock elements, there are folk elements, there are country elements and there are gospel elements. There are all these things that I listen to that are fused in there. I feel like all the artists that I listen to, people like Michael Jackson and Prince and even one of my favorite bands, One Republic, they just don’t have one genre. They may be labeled as pop but the reality is they fuse so many different sounds and that’s what makes their sound. That’s what I’m after.

Who are some of your favorite artists? If someone were to take over your iPod who would they find?

Definitely a lot of Michael Jackson. Whitney Houston. As a kid, it was always Michael and Whitney. Of course, Stevie Wonder, Donnie Hathaway. People I’m inspired by now, Beyoncé. She’s legendary right now. Usher. I like Maroon 5. I listen to everything. Coldplay, Katy Perry. 5 Seconds of Summer. I listen to their album a lot. I’m a 90s kid, so I even listen to Smash Mouth.

Who would you want to work with that you haven’t worked with?

I love Sia. Dr. Luke. I like One Republic. Ryan Tedder is an amazing writer. Of course, Beyoncé or anybody from Destiny’s Child. Definitely Brandy and she’s like a huge inspiration. I’d love to work with her. But right now, I’d work with anybody.

What do you want people to learn about you from Running Back To You?

I definitely want people to discover my sound. I want people to just see honesty, really. I know how music makes me feel listening to the artists I mentioned. There was something in there that I gravitated to and what I want people to take from my music is honesty and I want people to see that it’s okay to be you. I want people to feel it’s okay to embrace themselves, their journey, their experiences. All of our experiences make us who we are. I want people to see that and individuality because when we’re individuals, I feel that’s when we can be collective.

Any current projects on the horizon?

I’m working on new music that I’m really excited about. This EP is like the basis of where I’m going, musically, so definitely enhancing the sound and being creative. I definitely will have something out in 2015. I have some cool songs now that I really want to share but I’m pacing myself.

How do you approach writing songs? What’s your process?

I’m definitely a lyric and melody guy. I was watching a TV show, which I very rarely do and a commercial came on. There were chords and I was hearing the melody and a song just came. The melody usually comes first for me and then lyrics and then if I’m in a great setting I usually get inspired by life. So I guess as I keep living I’ve always got to be inspired, hopefully. I’m learning the guitar right now but definitely melody first then lyrics.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I definitely see myself having hit records and hit singles, definitely hit albums. I want to be doing a lot of touring around the world. I see Grammys, my own, and financial security to the point where I can be set for the rest of my life and have that for my family.

Dorian’s EP Running Back To You is available on iTunes, Google Play and Spotify. To learn more about Dorian, visit http://dorianworld.com.

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