[Q&A] Donna Lugassy Exudes Artistic Independence with ‘Love & Breakups’

Photo Credit: Sicerow Photography (@sicerow)

By Alissa Arunarsirakul // March 25, 2020

By age 14, Donna Lugassy had already been producing her own music, which is something she continues to pride herself on today. With charming vocals and stirring electronics, Love & Breakups is Lugassy’s latest effort that takes us through practically all stages of her past relationships–from infatuation to heartbreak. Having produced, composed, and mixed Love & Breakups herself, Lugassy has certainly proved herself worthy of being on your radar. 

On Love & Breakups, Donna Lugassy elaborated,

“In ‘Moonrise,’ there is the push and pull of first getting to know someone. Then ‘Coldest’ is the part where I have fallen for this person and I’m head over heels thinking this is the one I need. ‘Nobody (Loves Like I Do)’ is the part where [cracks are beginning to show] in the relationship and I am so invested, letting the other person know I’m all in and would do anything for them. ‘How Bout You’ is about the other person not coming through for me as I feel that they should have and false promises are getting too much. ‘Break Up’ is where I’m getting fed up with the bullshit and reject the other person and get a real big attitude with them and then followed by ‘I Wish’, where I feel like I made a mistake by breaking up with them and I have regrets on what I did, rejecting them. Then it’s usually a wrap and I start all over with a new person back at ‘Moonrise…’ That’s when the next relationship is starting, to do everything all over again and repeat the pattern.”

To celebrate the release of her dynamic new music, we recently chatted with Donna Lugassy about artistic independence, relationships, and of course, Love & Breakups

HH: When you were just 14, you had already been producing your own music. How did you even get into music in the first place? 

DL: There was no one who had introduced me to making music, really. My mom would get me a CD when she took me to the record store, but she was already surprised at the type of music I would pick because she didn’t listen to soul, R&B, or jazz herself that much. 

As to actually making music.. I literally just woke up one day when I was seven years old and told my mom, “I’m gonna become a singer.” She looked at me and laughed and said, “Yeah, next week you’re a ballerina. All good, honey.” But I did stick with it and never changed my mind, haha.

I then looked up music studios and artist managers online when I was only 10 and my mom was actually a real G that she did bring me to those studios. When I was 12, I found an audition online for artist management. I auditioned in a studio they rented and they didn’t like me. But the guy who partly owned the studio saw something in me and he asked if he could work with me. The artist manager didn’t see anything in me so she and her team told him they could have me. He then showed me how to do recordings in a studio; vocal techniques, microphone techniques and I would watch him produce for hours. After a year, it wasn’t going fast enough for me. Other artists would get more studio time, attention, and beats. (I don’t blame them now; I was only 11 and I wasn’t that good yet.) But I decided that I could make beats too after seeing those producers do it daily. So I did… And it worked out.

HH: What’s your favorite part about being an independent artist?

DL: I am definitely a control freak. So I love being able to do everything myself and get my complete vision out. Sometimes I would love to have a big team (and budget, lol) to back me up though. A big label sounds nice, but that also has a lot of cons and pros. As I can see from the artists that I write for, that are signed to small and major labels. Usually what I’m hearing is, “I can’t wait to get out of this contract.” So if you do sign a contract, make sure it’s on your own terms.

HH: Love & Breakups is an absolute masterpiece. What was it like to produce, compose, and mix the EP yourself? 

DL: Thanks!!! It’s a lot of work! Lol. There are multiple levels to which I am really happy I was able to do this. I am grateful that I was able to do everything on my own. That I have grown so much in my career and that I didn’t need anyone but myself to make the music I want to put out. Now that I’ve done this solo project, I’m going to focus more on working with others again.

The reason I started making the EP was because I was a little fed up with all the writing sessions I had been doing the last two/three years. Going everywhere to write for different artists and DJs. Which is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but it’s their product.
I wanted to go back and focus on what I really wanted to make. I didn’t know anymore… I wanted to find my own sound and then “Moonrise” came after a week of voluntary quarantine in my studio. (November, 2019) After that, “Break Up” came very quickly and I realized Donna got her groove back. I had all six songs within three weeks of solitude/isolation.

HH: You listened to D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar quite a bit while you were making Love & Breakups. What exactly about this album influenced your EP? 

DL: The grooves, the vibes, the energy that comes off of his music. That album moves my entire being. I was beating myself up about the fact that his entire album is produced with live instruments and I’m producing it digitally. It’s not the same. But then again, for me to be able to do this all alone when he worked with a whole team of amazing musicians, a huge record label, and investors, I’m pretty proud to have presented my EP. And that I’m still able to express myself the way I do–despite the fact I don’t have other musicians around me.

HH: Whether it’s the infatuation in “Coldest” or the heartbreak in “I Wish,” your EP explores basically all stages of a relationship. Would you say you’ve learned from every relationship you’ve been in? 

DL: Yes and no. Lol. If I did, I probably wouldn’t have this repeating cycle. It’s still ongoing, by the way… I would have hoped that putting this EP out would be me breaking the cycle, haha. Guess I still need to work on that part of my life. In due time. My first priority is my music anyway. But of course, you learn from every interaction and what I’ve learned the most is that we’re all human, we all hurt, and we all lash out when we feel hurt or threatened by the other. So kindness and empathy is the key, I think.

HH: As Love & Breakups takes us on a journey through your love life, what advice do you have for people who are currently going through breakups?

DL: Get some weed… I can’t deal. I’m a highly sensitive person or whatever they call it, which makes my emotions way too strong. I always need some weed to take the edge off and then I will reflect on what I could’ve done better and if I was wrong and if I need to make amends. But I will say: definitely step away from what isn’t right for you. If you are in a relationship that isn’t right for you, it will bring out a dark side. Don’t force a situation. Always go with what flows naturally and feels right–just like music.

HH: If you could collaborate with anyone in the music industry, who would you pick?

DL: Mannnn, I got a couple on my list to be honest.. Obviously D’Angelo. Then I’ve been a looong time fan of India.Arie so I would love to work with her or with my long time friend Anthony Hamilton. Not to mention all the super stars of today like Drake, Post Malone, Jhene Aiko just to name a few, haha.

HH: What are your three hidden hits?

DL: Pink Sweat$ – “Your Side.” Tyla Yaweh – “High Right Now.” Xavier White – “Distance.”

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