We first met Conya Doss while in New York City for an in-store performance at the iconic Macy’s Herald Square to promote her debut CD, A Poem About Ms.Doss back in 2002. Touting a pretty good memory during a recent talk with the talented Ms.Doss about that time, she affably reminisces, “Oh my God! You’re taking me way back. Wow! That’s definitely been a minute.”
You could say that opportunity to be heard by scores of listeners at the world’s most famous store was indeed a sign of things to come. The stirred crowd of enticed spectators that day was consistent with the growing buzz around this Cleveland bred, singer/songwriter because of that splendid, now hard to find, debut – a choice brew of heartfelt sentiment, compelling grooves and fertile melodies straight out of the rich r&b/soul tradition with Doss’ engaging tone and passionate delivery emitting a life-lived authenticity. Conya Doss’ entry onto the scene was strong indeed.
She fast became a notable artist in the then burgeoning movement known to many as “Neo-Soul”- The spirited crusade driven greatly, though not exclusively, by a legion of amazingly talented independent artists bent on keeping their artistic vision intact and ownership of their work.
Dropping a succession of widely acclaimed projects that followed ( Just Because, Love Rain Down, Still, Blu Transition, A Pocket Full of Purpose and Seven:VII ) with many of the resulting tracks breaking through to coveted commercial radio air, Doss’ success has grown so notably on the soul/R&B scene that it has prompted many to dub her fondly, “The Queen of Indie Soul.”
With a considerable and enthusiastic fan base eagerly waiting, the acclaimed and award-winning Doss is now poised to share an anticipated new project this year, amped up even more with the release of her soulful, funky and infectious single, “I’m Trying.”
“I’m pretty much done with the project,” says Doss “You know, I am a perfectionist and I know sometime you have to move on. I definitely have a compilation of what I want, but there’s just one more thing I want to add to it.” Needless to say, for Doss, historically adding that one last track has paid off well, bringing about popular fan favorites. “Most of the singles like ‘Don’t Change’ [from A Pocket Full of Purpose] and ‘What I Do’ [from Still], those were last songs.” After mentioning that even now the popular single “You Got Me” from her last project, Seven:VII is still in heavy personal rotation, she shares that song too was a last song added to a project. “There’s just something about those last songs,” says Doss. “It’s funny.”
Doss says about the forthcoming project in relation to her others, “It’s a combination of everything.” She then also adds with excitement, “But one thing I will say is I had the honor of working with a couple of other producers outside of the two gentlemen that I normally work with. Of course, they’re still on the team, but it was just nice to get a different feel. Just venture out.”
Charting her own creative direction without much or any compromise is certainly something Doss is used to doing and not only enjoys having that freedom, insists on it. It’s something that now a legion of aspiring and even notable veteran artists count as the major impetus for releasing their music independently. Over the years the growth of the internet has made this even more attractive and viable. But has it made it easier?
“I think it is, to a certain degree, easier,” says Doss “But still, I always say it just depends on what you want.” She explains, “I stand by the fact and feel that being an independent artist means independently being able to creatively think and produce things the way I want to. I think it just allows for more freedom.”
“Jamie (Come Back)” from her 2012 release, A Pocket Full of Purpose, is a depiction of the trappings and compromises that often come with the major label deal, a scenario she decided early on to steer clear of. “Before I decided to go independent I didn’t know what to do with A Poem About Ms. Doss,” she shares. “So I had people from majors saying, oh we’re going to have this person manage you. Basically they were telling me I was going to have to change my image. That I was too afrocentric. And when they said that, I was done. I said, don’t call me”
Another interesting fact and quite laudable to discover about this very talented artist is that to this day she continues to do the thing she had been when she started her recording career – Teaching – Full time.
“Absolutely, but the beauty of it is that now I’m teaching at a performing arts school that is my alma mater and I really enjoy it,” says Doss. “I’m able to do the academic side, but be involved with the arts side as well, even though I don’t teach music there. But I’m always there as a soundboard for the students. It’s just a really good feeling to be able to have that balance.”
This all sounds good, but still might have some scratching their heads. Many artists given what she has accomplished and the window of opportunity to jump into game full time, would and have. Notable names she’s on par with on the soul and R&B scene who were on the come up with Doss have made that choice. To that, Doss sincerely states, “I have much respect for those other artists. We just have our different paths through life.”
“I’m going to blame it on my Gemini sign,” jokes Doss “It’s just me. I just feel, I don’t want to confine myself to a box. I have to be able to have that flexibility where I don’t feel like I have to just do that.” She admits, “I’ve definitely had opportunities to go full fledge music on quite a few occasions. But I’ve been blessed to be able to do both and touch people lives through music and through teaching. So I just think that’s my calling. That’s exactly what it is,” she declares. “I just think I’m able to do both, why not do both”
But something new in Doss’ life since our talk years ago is that she is now a proud mom of a seven year old son. Her release, Blu Transition was named for him. “Oh yeah, and he’s a piece of work,” says Doss affectionately. And it goes without saying he has had an impact on all parts of her life including her music. “A lot of songs people may be thinking I’m talking about a man or something and I’m like no, this is for my son,” she admits. “Definitely my whole perspective on life is different. The way I work, I’m doing this not just for me now. It’s just a whole different ballgame.”
For the established and desirous fans of Conya Doss she says of the new project, “They’re going to see some flexibility in my music.” She explains,“ I think every time that I create more music they’re seeing a different side because as life progresses we progress and things change and we [artists] write about our own experiences. I think for me, this go around they’re going to hear a lot of clarity, vulnerability and just, more and more of myself.” And for all including the new ears that come across it? “It’s definitely going to be a feel good project and I know there’s something on there for everybody.”