Image Source: YouTube user Dola
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Many recognise Condola Rashad from her Tony-nominated performances in Saint Joan, A Doll's House, Part 2, The Trip to Bountiful, and Stick Fly or as Kate Stacker on Showtime's Billions, but few know her music alter ego Dola. However, that's all about to change. On July 22, the 33-year-old dropped her debut EP, Space Daughter, featuring five tracks titled "Blue," "Give Up the Gold," "Running in Place," "What I Said," and "Too Fire." Along with the songs, Rashad released accompanying music videos for each track, and they're all so visually stunning. Personally, my favourite is "Blue."
Ahead of the album's release, POPSUGAR chatted with Rashad about everything from how Space Daughter came into fruition to what she hopes fans take away from the EP. She also explained how her collaboration with Samsung has helped her stay inspired and connected during the pandemic. "This collaboration with Samsung actually came at a really great time, because with the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, I actually have been able to capture, in a really awesome way, the energy of my space for the past couple of months through photos and videos," she said. Rashad even gave us a glimpse at what that looks like with images taken on her Galaxy Z Flip, which you can check out in her interview ahead.
POPSUGAR: You've been so busy with Broadway and Billions over the past few years, and now your debut visual EP, Space Daughter. What inspired you to expand your artistry and get into music?
Condola Rashad: I started as a musician. Nobody knew that, which is really exciting. I'm actually just finally sharing a part of my artistry that's been there the whole time. I don't play classical anymore, but I started classically training as a pianist when I was a young child all the way through when I graduated from high school. Writing music was my first form of artistic expression. When I graduated from college, I was very fortunate that my acting career took wings very early. While I've been so grateful for that, it allowed for there to be a space where people just didn't know, nobody knew that I'm actually a musician who acts.
PS: How did you decide on the title Space Daughter?
CR: This "Space Daughter" came to me, and I didn't know what it was at first. This was before I even created the music, I wrote it down. Then as I was creating the music, I actually didn't know what it was going to be. I didn't know whether it was a song; I didn't know whether it was the name of the project; I didn't know whether that was going to the artist name; I didn't know what it was. I just knew that was the centrepiece of this whole journey.
It is my playful ode to the divine feminist and all of the different spaces that she fills. In the videos, there's this one main entity that's at the beginning of each video, she's dressed all in white. That was my playful take on kind of a core divine, feminine energy. There's a different action at the top of each video, where she actually manifests into another version of herself to tell a different story. I'm a big storyteller, so that's really what it's about. It's about the vibe and energy telling different stories of herself.
Image Source: Samsung
PS: All of your music videos are so stunning and aesthetically pleasing. What was the creative process behind making them like?
CR: It was one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had. I produced all of these, and I built all of these from the ground up. It was the most expansive experience because I had never produced anything before. This was the first time where I assumed that role, stepped into those shoes, and realised that I'm good at that. Not only was I the financial backing for the project, but every single thing that you see in the video — the colour scheme, the hair, the nails, everything — I had to be a part of, which was amazing.
Being the artist while also producing was incredibly expansive because the entire year of 2019 was spent manifesting this project. I was meeting with the makeup designer, I was getting a call with the hair, figuring out how we're going to do the nails, and going to get the costumes, and trying out the production company. Every single day was spent towards creating and manifesting this dream of mine. It never ended. What I haven't been able to share this whole time is that we shot all five [videos] in a matter of five days.
PS: Wow, that's incredible!
CR: Yeah, I've been waiting to share that detail. The only way that I was able to do it in that way was — I'm so grateful — my alma mater. I went to the California Institute of the Arts. They were so supportive of my project. They supported me so much that they actually allowed me to utilise their theatre spaces to create this. All of the sets that we have are actually on the stage that I did all my college productions on. It was really, really cool.
We didn't shoot one video per day, we shot it like a film. We might've shot two scenes from "Running in Place," and then the next thing, we went into the "Blue" costume. We had three stages that we were allowed to work with. While we were shooting one scene on one stage, my production company was busy building the other stage, building the other set on the other stages, so we could just bounce back and forth. That's how we were able to do it in five days.
PS: I understand that you wrote, self-funded, produced, and codirected Space Daughter. Not only is that super impressive, but why was that so important for you?
"Anybody that wants to collaborate with me, at least now they know who I am and they can decide whether they want to get on board or not, but I can't be manipulated into another artist. I've already established who I am."
CR: What it came down to is that I conceived it. It's not that anybody was going to do it the wrong way, but because they're not coming from the inside of my brain, it's easier if I'm connected to it. Also, what it came down to, to be quite honest was as a "new" artist, just the way that the music world works today is, nobody was going to allow me to do it that way. Nobody would have let me create this project the way that I created it, nobody would have allowed me to release it the way that I released it. I decided not to put anybody in the position of allowing me to do anything. I realised that if I could do it myself, which I happened to have the capacity to do, then I was the leader, and I could actually decide how I wanted to release. I could decide how I wanted to shoot it. I had an artistic vision and I was able to honour that, because I didn't have anybody telling me, "Oh, this isn't mainstream enough," or, "Oh, we need you to be more like this artist," or, "Oh, this might be too much."
There were people that thought I was crazy. People were like, "You're kind of nuts. You can easily find someone to financially back this." I was like, "Yeah, but then they will try to tell me what to do with it, and it won't be what I created." Moving forward, I don't know that I'm always going to be able to do that, but at least now I have to be able to say, "This is who I am as an artist, and this is what I do." Anybody that wants to collaborate with me, at least now they know who I am and they can decide whether they want to get on board or not, but I can't be manipulated into another artist. I've already established who I am.
Image Source: Samsung
PS: Speaking of collaborations, if you could collaborate with any artist in the future, who would it be?
CR: I really want to collaborate with Little Dragon. They're one of my favourites. They're a huge influence of mine. I don't think there's a song that they have that I don't love. I would also love to collaborate with Chloe x Halle. I think that they're artistic geniuses. I love them, and I feel like we're in the same soul tribe. I've never met them, but I'm ready for that collaboration. I appreciate their artistry so much.
PS: I saw on Instagram that you've been donating proceeds from each Space Daughter track to various community organisations like Campaign Zero. How did you decide to connect the EP to organisations?
CR: We were always slated to release this project at the end of March, beginning of April. What happened was, towards the end of February when the pandemic was growing and we all started to feel the weight of that and realise what that meant, I think the initial response for everybody in terms of projects, everybody was like, "Everything's on hold. We're just going to hold. We're going to wait it out." At first, I was like, "OK," but then I was sitting with myself and I just had this realisation, which was, "Why am I waiting? I have created this piece that I have put all my love and light into, and this is a dark, shadowy moment. As an artist, this is what I have to offer my community right now. If it offers two and a half minutes of music that lifts someone's spirits, why am I waiting for a good time for me to release it?"
After I connected with that intention, I realised, "How can it be something that I'm artistically offering and is there a way to actually link it in such a way that it also gives back financially to my community at this time? How can I do both?" The first initiative was with the food bank of New York City. That was because I tried to think of a demographic that I felt was going to be hit first and hardest by this pandemic, and automatically, my thoughts went to people who have low income, people who suffer from hunger. Once we did it that way, every time we came up with another song, I just realised, "Well, why stop now? I'm going strong. Connect it to more organisations that are helping other sides of the community." So, it just kind of kept going naturally.
PS: What's your favourite song on the EP?
CR: Honestly, I think for many reasons it's a tie. It's so hard. "What I Said" is very much indicative of my love for electronic music, which is a very, very, very deep love of mine. I would say in terms of the production, that's the one that I had the biggest part of my hands in. "What I Said" has always been a favourite of mine, but I also love "Running in Place" because it was my idea to have live strings in that song. That's what drives that song for me. Every time I hear that song, I'm always very excited by the live strings. One of my quirks an artist is that I really love the pairing of electronics with live instruments. That's a really big thing for me. "Running in Place" is incredibly dramatic, which is also very much a part of my style. I'd say between those two, but I know people really love "Blue," which I think is really sweet, too. They're all so different, but I would say it's a tie between "What I Said" and "Running in Place."
"I always create all of my work from a very deep place of love. That is what I would say, that it's made and offered with love."
PS: What do you hope fans take away from your EP?
CR: The only thing that I ever say is that it's made with love and it's offered with love. The reason why I say that is because artistically, I'm pretty particular about my relationship to how I communicate with audiences in the sense where I create a piece, I have a story to tell, I create it with love, and then I offer it. I try to allow for that always, and this goes for the acting. I try to always allow for there to be space to offer peace without informing the audience how to receive it. It's like giving a gift and then telling a person how they should feel the gift. I try to just offer it and allow people to actually just receive it however they want. The one thing I can say is that I always create all of my work from a very deep place of love. That is what I would say, that it's made and offered with love.