Most Interesting People 2014: Antoine Dunn

Antoine Dunn


Why he's interesting: With heartfelt and powerful songs based on his real-life experiences, Dunn has established himself as a breakthrough artist who brings an old-school soul sensibility to his music. Dunn has served as vocal producer on 2007 American Idol finalist Lakisha Jones' debut album, performed in Thailand for six months and toured with Kem, Avant, Anthony Hamilton and Estelle. His 2012 debut album, Truth of the Matter, produced two Billboard Top 15 singles, "Can't Forget" and "Miss My Love." Dunn's intimate, sensual style has earned him comparisons to Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway, two of his musical heroes.

Piano man: At Cleveland Heights High School, Dunn cut classes to sneak into the auditorium and play the grand piano. By 17, he was minister of music at the Cuyahoga Community Church and soon taught himself to play drums and bass guitar. "I truly believe I was born to make music. Music has the power to transcend race, religion and sexual orientation. I am so passionate about bringing people together because there are already enough things that keep us apart."

Urban Renewal: With influences ranging from Ray Charles to the Stylistics to Adele, Dunn has found his own niche in an urban music scene typically dominated by rap. "Rap is one of those things that is out of control right now. When it comes to rap, it seems there are no limits, and it affirms a lot of stereotypes."

Wonder Years: In May 2010, Dunn was at Nighttown to hear his friend and jazz artist Jackie Warren perform when Stevie Wonder walked in. Encouraged by Warren to sing for Wonder, Dunn was later summoned to the legend's table. "He told me I really had a gift, and he thought I was going to go far."

Soul Inspiration: His mother, Janna, who passed away from breast cancer in 2011, serves as the inspiration for his latest single "I Am." "You only get one mom. She was a realist who let me learn my own lessons. Most of the good things I have come from her."

Memorable Mentor: Dunn says he learned the most from middle school teacher Glen Brackens. "His program was so hands-on and real-world. He was the reason I started singing in front of people."

Real Deal: He is an advocate of doing what feels right instead of what's popular. "That's why I respect Adele so much. She said, 'I don't dance.' And I don't dance either. If you appreciate what I do, you will find it entertaining."

Local Laureate: Dunn likes to sing the praises of his hometown. "I'm always talking about Cleveland, because I want people to know I'm from here. People who visit talk about how great the music, the museums and the food are, but when you're from here you don't always see it. Cleveland's time is now."

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