Donnie Klang’s rocket ride to stardom has come so fast, he hasn’t had time to let it sink in yet.
A little more than a year ago, Klang was working in a warehouse and going to business school, thinking seriously about abandoning his dreams of being a singer after two failed “American Idol” auditions and years of struggling with little to show for it.
He auditioned for Sean Combs’ MTV reality show, “Making the Band 4,” on a lark and was shocked on live television last August when he wasn’t selected to become part of the group assembled, Day26, but instead received a recording contract as a solo artist with Diddy’s Bad Boy Records.
On Tuesday, only a year and a week after his selection, Klang’s debut, “Just a Rolling Stone,” will hit stores and, with Combs’ backing, has a legitimate shot at No. 1.
“In case this is your first time here, we make bands here,” Combs told the audience during the season premiere of “Making the Band 4,” which features Klang, Day26 and Danity Kane. “They make albums and those albums go to No. 1. Donnie, his album hasn’t come out yet, but it comes out Sept. 2. Hopefully, you guys will make it - what? - No. 1, my favorite number.”
For his part, Klang understands the possibility, though he has a hard time processing it.
“My head is racing,” Klang says on a recent commute from his Levittown, N.Y., home to dance rehearsals in Manhattan. “The only way to describe it is surreal. Sometimes, I feel like I’m standing beside myself, watching these things happen.”
Klang’s most recent out-of-body experience came earlier this month when he debuted his first video, “Take You There,” on MTV’s prime-time show “FNMTV Premieres.”
“Just watching the video there was crazy - the hairs on my arms were standing up,” Klang says. “I had goose bumps the whole time.”
Then, after the video debuted, when it appeared MTV commentator James Montgomery was about to say something negative about Klang, Combs rushed the stage and started challenging Montgomery, saying “Who are you? Where did you come from? What hit records have you ever made?” before ending his tirade with, “The guy is a star! Donnie Klang is a star!”
Klang laughs as he remembers the moment. “Well, I certainly appreciated it,” Klang says, adding he thought Montgomery - who artfully said that he “didn’t see a lot in the video that really separated him from that field” - was just stating his honest opinion. “You gotta take the bad with the good.”
And right now, there’s not a whole lot of bad in Klang’s life.
His album, “Just a Rolling Stone,” turned out better than he ever expected, and he had a major role in it, collaborating with superstar producers including Seven, Danja and The-Dream.
“This was crazy for a first-time artist, especially one from a reality show, where you kind of just sign the contract just to audition,” Klang says. “The thing about me was that I was a surprise. Lots of people were preparing stuff for the group, but they weren’t preparing anything for a solo artist. That really worked in my favor. It opened the gates for me to write a lot.”
The result reflects Klang’s wide range of interests, from the rock-tinged “Catch My Breath” to the smooth R&B of “The Rain” and the club-oriented “Dr. Love.” “We wanted it to be so that you don’t know what to expect from track to track,” Klang says. “And we wanted to stay clear from other lanes but still stay commercial.”
The most immediate track is the first single, “Take You There,” featuring Combs, which gave Klang another out-of-body experience. “I had just finished the single after 20-something hours straight in the studio - I was exhausted - and I was in the car about halfway home to Long Island and Diddy calls and was like, ‘Come back to the city, I want to test it out in clubs,”” Klang says. “So it’s like 3 a.m. and I go back to the city, and we go to this one spot and Jay-Z and Beyonce are in there, which was crazy. Diddy’s playing the song on loop and then we went to the next spot. We were in the limo and he says, ‘I want the video to be about this night and what happens after the clubs.”“
Of course, what Combs wants, Combs almost always gets. The video for “Take You There” is a night on the town with Klang and Combs - and too many young ladies to count. “When we did that video in March in Hollywood, it was just crazy,” Klang says. “I remember being in elementary school watching all the Bad Boy videos. Now, not only am I in one, not only am I signed to Bad Boy, but Diddy is in my video. That’s crazy.”
It’s a lot to take in, but luckily, Klang has been able to see how his friends in Danity Kane and Day26 have handled it. “Donnie has really learned a lot in this year,” says Danity Kane’s Dawn Richard. “Donnie doesn’t need any advice. We’ve actually been writing a lot together lately. I hope I can get on his next joint with him.”
Klang says he is hoping to join Danity Kane and Day26 as No. 1 artists, but releasing his debut is thrill enough for him.
“I grew up on the early ‘90s R&B groups and I was into the whole Bad Boy thing ... and I really liked boy bands - that’s what really pushed me over the edge to do music,” he says. “My sisters, my female friends, had these DVDs of ‘NSync and Backstreet Boys going out on tour and I would see these swarms, this sea of people just going crazy in the audience, banging on the tour bus. And I was like, ‘All right, this is what I need to be doing in my life.’ This is what I’ve wanted since I could remember. And now it’s here.”