By Steve Tsepelis

You know her and you love her. Her name is synonymous with great dance music. I mean, if Diana Ross is asking to come party with you, you know you’ve been doing something right. Dawna Montell’s love of music has been packing the dance floors for 30+ years in some of the biggest clubs and events on the planet. We were able to sit down with Dawna, in her very limited free time, to chat about what keeps her going and what’s on the horizon.

GED: Hi Dawna. You have been a successful DJ for many years… what made you want to get into this male dominated profession?

Dawna Montell: I’ve always had a love for music, even as a kid. I would spend all my allowance on records, and all I wanted for birthdays and Christmas was records. My sister took me to my first gay bar when I was 16 and I was blown away with the music and want to learn how to DJ. When I first asked a DJ to teach me how, he told me it was a waste of time because there’s wasn’t a club owner that would hire a female DJ.  “Girls can’t hold a crowd,” he said. That was in 1979. Of course, then I HAD TO become a DJ… to prove him wrong! Over the years, I’ve been told I couldn’t play certain clubs because I was a girl, or that “you’re pretty good for a girl.”  38 years later, I still face some of the same obstacles.

GED: What has changed over those years in the DJ world and what inspires you to keep doing it?

DM: The biggest change of course is the technology. It has opened the doors for more people to try and get into the industry, and  creates more competition. There’s a lot of young DJ’s that want a job so bad that they are willing to play for free. That ultimately hurts the industry and the people who have paved the way for the next generation.

GED: Tell us a little about The Abbey and The Chapel. How long have you worked there and what’s the different vibe between the two clubs?

DM: I’m blessed to have a residency at arguably the best club in the nation, if not the world. I’ve been here for almost 20 years, which is very rare in this business. When the club right next to the Abbey became available, it was the perfect opportunity for the Abbey brand to expand. And so, “The Chapel at the Abbey” was born. It’s a space where we can bring the boys back to Boystown!
The difference between the two clubs musically comes down to format. On the weekends the music at the Abbey is more like you’re in a Vegas style club, with high energy music that makes you want to swing from the rafters. The Chapel has the same energy, but geared more to house and big room circuit, tailored for the West Hollywood boys. Guest DJs come in from time to time to change it up.

GED: It was reported that Diana Ross was recently at The Abbey. That’s pretty major to have such an icon at your club. How did that happen? What other celebrities come to party at the Abbey?

DM: Having an Icon like Diana Ross come to the Abbey is without a doubt the highlight of my career. I’m on the Billboard Dance Chart panel and have been playing the new 2017 remixes of “Ain’t No Mountain high Enough.” Her publicist comes in from time to time and likes my music, and thought it would be a good fit for Ms. Ross to come and celebrate the success of the new remixes. That song was from 1971, so to have it go to #1 on the Billboard dance music chart was something that needed to be celebrated.
As far as other celebrities, I’ve been fortunate to have played for Lady GaGa, Elton John & David Furnish, Christina Aguilar, Britney Spears, Sam Smith, Demi Lovato, the list is long (she laughs).

GED: What are your goals at this stage of your career? What have you not done that you would like to accomplish?
DM: I’m blessed to have a residency at arguably one of the best clubs in the nation, if not the world. Some gigs in New York, Miami and Europe would be nice, but it would have to be the right fit.

GED: We are seeing your name at more and more events, major ones. What do you have coming up where people can come hear you?

DM: My residency at the Abbey and The chapel keeps me pretty busy. You can find me at one of those clubs most weekends, when I’m not traveling. As for upcoming travel, here are some fun events I will be spinning at:

White Party in Puerto Vallarta (February 17th-18th);

Too Much Saturdays at Chill Bar in Palm Springs (February 24th); and

Elevation Gay Ski Weekend Mammoth (March 17th). There are a few more that have not been confirmed but are in the works, so stay tuned.

GED: Is it possible to have a favorite song or songs?  If so, what are yours at the moment?
DM: It’s hard to have a favorite… I am a huge fan of real songs, where there is a message, a good positive uplifting message. Something that makes your heart full. I don’t have time for degrading lyrics or negativity on my dance floor. I try to create a place for people to escape all the troubles of the world. Alison Limrick “Where Love Lives” is one of my all time favorites; I have a great remix of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” that I love to play on Sunday afternoons; and “Let the Sunshine” – I’m a huge Madonna fan too. As far as new stuff, I am listening to Lady GaGa “The Cure”, Pink “What About Us”, Sigala ft Ella Eyre “We Came Here For Love”, and
Rita Ora “Sad Songs”.

 

Follow Dawna to see what she is up to on Facebook at: facebook.com/dawna.montell and listen to some beats via SoundCloud at soundcloud.com/dawna-montell.

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