Candiace Dillard-Bassett Reflects on 'Uphill Battle' to Becoming More Than a 'Housewives Singer'

BRAVOCON -- BravoCon 2022 from the Javits Center in New York City on Saturday, October 15, 2022 -- Pictured: Candiace Dillard-Bassett -- (Photo by: Bryan Bedder/Bravo via Getty Images)
BRAVOCON -- BravoCon 2022 from the Javits Center in New York City on Saturday, October 15, 2022 -- Pictured: Candiace Dillard-Bassett -- (Photo by: Bryan Bedder/Bravo via Getty Images)

Bryan Bedder/Bravo via Getty

Candice Dillard-Bassett is basking in the success of her formidable music career.

A year after releasing her debut album Deep Space, the Real Housewives of Potomac star hit the road this month on her first-ever headline tour — stopping in cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, Nashville and Atlanta along the way.

It was a milestone even Candiace, as she goes by in her recording career, is still wrapping her head around.

"I still don't believe that I'm actually here!" she tells PEOPLE's Nathan Vinson, ahead of her show Saturday night at City Winery in Washington, D.C. "The Deep Space Tour, this is my thing. This is my brainchild. I literally said out of my mouth, 'I want to do a City Winery tour,' and my team and manager Nye [Davidson] made it happen. So it's been so incredible to go out there night after night and live out my dream. It's really insane to even think about!"

Candiace just didn't get here overnight, of course. The former Miss United States has been pounding the pavements to make her launch into music a reality ever since she first started showing off her vocals on season 3 of RHOP, when she first joined the franchise.

At her 2018 wedding to husband Chris Bassett, featured on season 4 of the Bravo series, she sang and recorded the original love ballad "I See You" for Bassett. A go-go remix of the tune featuring Big G and UNO came in April 2020, the tune — featuring Candiace's luscious vocals with a more upbeat backing — sparking demand in audiences for a full album.

Deep Space was just that, dropping in September 2021 to much acclaim, reaching over 3 million streams and spawning the hit single "Drive Back." It's an especially gratifying achievement as Real Housewives stars who have previously attempted to launch music careers typically don't go far beyond one-hit-wonder status.

"I knew that I would have a sort of uphill battle," Candiace recalls to PEOPLE. "No shade meant to other Housewives, they're doing their thing, but there's this sort of stigma attached to Housewives who sing. 'Oh, look, it's another Housewife that wants to do a song.' So I expected to have to fight against that."

"I've always, in my mind, been an artist. In my heart, I've always been a performer and I wanted that to translate to the Bravo audience, but also just to lovers of music, lovers of artistry and lovers of all things this space," she adds. "So I've tried to be very intentional about how I roll out my music, how I roll out my music videos, how I present myself as an artist such that I'm presenting myself in a way that surpasses just being in the Housewife space."

RELATED: Nicki Minaj Praises Candiace Dillard-Bassett on Her Vocals After Making Her Sing at RHOP Reunion

That doesn't mean that Candiace isn't grateful to the Bravo fans for their unwavering support. "They've been absolutely incredible," she shares. "Bravo has given me so much. I mean I've been able to amass the amazing team you see around me because of my platform and my presence on Bravo. So I'm very happy to be a part of it."

But she's been putting in the work, too, even when it comes to live performances like the one she did on during a visit to BravoCon 2022 this month. Earlier this year, she appeared as an opener on the Femme It Forward tour, opening up for R&B divas like Faith Evans, SWV, Mya and 702.

"Femme It Forward was really my first tour and it was so special," she says. "Everybody was there to share in that moment with me and open for the greats in R&B. Women I literally studied their artistry to perfect the kind of artist I wanted to be. That's an honor. It was a completely surreal experience to be up there with these titans of the industry."

RELATED: The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip Season 3 Clip Shown at BravoCon Teases All the Drama

Since then, Candiace — who also dropped a Christmas song last year — has been hard at work on her second album, Deep Space Deluxe. Below, she tells PEOPLE all about it — plus what fans can expect from her down the road.

PEOPLE: What can fans expect from Deep Space Deluxe? We know you have recently teased a collaboration with "The Baddest" — also known as the trailblazing rapper Trina.
Candiace Dillard-Bassett:
Oh, yes! I just can't believe that Trina even entertained me. Like girl, are you kidding? It was a surreal experience to work with her. She's the most down-to-earth, sweetest, most amazing woman. She's the kind of artist that I want to be when I'm her.

That single, "Insecure" featuring Trina, actually comes out right around Thanksgiving and we also did a visual for "Insecure." It's disgustingly dope. It's insane. It was intricate and colorful and sexy and just everything. It's my best visual to date. Isaac Carree, who is an incredible gospel singer, is featured on my inspirational song "Win." Q Parker– we did "Benefits Pt. II," which will be on the deluxe. And then we have four new songs, three of which you will hear at the show in DC.

I really enjoy "Affirmations," which is one of the new songs, because of the premise of the message behind the song. It kind of has an anthemic vibe. And I just remind you that you're enough, no matter what's going on around you.

So this is truly a deluxe album! New songs, new collaborations. Having an inspirational track as the final track on your album is classic Black artistry– something that we don't get as often today. What other elements do you feel like you pull from artists that you grew up loving? 
Deep Space and the deluxe are both an homage to 90s R&B because that's the era when I really fell in love with music. Where I learned to kind of hone my skills and my want to move into the artist space.

I definitely wanted to take the interlude and the intro/outro moments from '90s R&B, so you have that on Deep Space and on the deluxe. I wanna talk to my listeners, so you either hear me talking or others talking to introduce and open up new songs. I look forward to hearing everybody's thoughts and I love that the minute that Deep Space dropped, my true R&B heads and real R&B fans, they got it. They understood what I was trying to do. So I look forward to having that same sort of understanding with my listeners on Deep Space Deluxe.

You are a Howard University graduate twice over. Your co-writer/manager Nye Davidson is a Florida A&M University alumnus. How do you feel your Historically Black College/University (HBCU) experience shows up in the music industry and your music business?
I think that the HBCU experience has absolutely informed how I have moved in the music space. You cannot match the network of people that you meet and the way that people want to reach back and help and advise and cheer for you simply because you share a beautiful experience that is the HBCU experience. It's very unique. Howard University is a campus that sits right in the middle of northwest DC. Howard made me scrappy. It made me savvy. It made me brave. Incredibly audacious. And those are qualities that you have to have to step out on faith and move in the music industry. A lot of the confidence (and a little bit of the arrogance) comes from what I learned and what I was able to carry with me from Howard.

Of course, you're ending your tour in D.C. Can we expect any of your RHOP castmates to make an appearance? 
That is a good question! I do not know. I've invited a few of the girls, but also, we've been promoting for months. So they know where to find me, child. They want to show up? Come on through!

What makes a Candiace Dillard-Bassett show a must-see show? 
Authenticity and a good kiki! I'm often known for going off script and just vibing with whoever is in the room. Every show is a little bit different because I'm going with the vibes in the space. So far, every city has been incredible. Philly wanted an encore. Chicago was a packed house. Nashville is being postponed. We're announcing a date very soon for Nashville, and I expect nothing less from Atlanta 'cause Atlanta is home to me. My family is there. I was raised in Georgia. Most of my family lives there, so that's home. To get that hometown love and hometown vibe is really special. And then DC is also home. Again, to get that love and that energy from DC is going to be amazing as well.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

The first leg of Candiace's Deep Space Tour concludes in Washington D.C. on Saturday. Tickets are available here.