Conya Doss makes it CLEAR, she’s back

With a considerable and enthusiastic fan base eagerly waiting, the acclaimed and award-winning soultress, Conya Doss, suggested at the end of last year a brand new project was brewing with the release of her soulful, funky and infectious single, “I’m Trying.” Needless to say, anticipation was set in motion. More singles have followed like the conyadcleargroove – filled, sure “Stepper” lure, “Back to Us”  and more recently,  the loving declaration wrapped in a classic R&B vibe, “Until” stoking the fires of desire for Ms. Doss’ return. Well alas , the wait is now over with release of her new project, CLEAR. 

Speaking with Doss earlier in the year just after dropping, the single, “I’m Trying” and thereby sounding the alarm for what has resulted in CLEAR, she enthusiastically described the project in relation to her others, as  “a combination of everything.”  She then also went on to note with equal excitement, “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.”

The initial introduction to Conya Doss came while she was in New York City for an in-store performance at the iconic Macy’s Herald Square to promote her debut CD, A Poem For Ms.Doss back in 2002. Touting a pretty good memory during the talk with Doss about that time, she affably reminisces, “Oh my God! You’re taking me way back. Wow! That’s definitely been a minute.” conyapoem

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.  Boasting gems like the seductive “All Because Of You”, the warmly introspective “Meantime” and the classy remake of the Norman Connor’s hit, “You Are My Starship”, 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”-  A 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. 

conyaDropping 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 scene that it has prompted many to dub her fondly, “The Queen of Indie Soul.”  CLEAR is a fitting new chapter in her musical story, but indeed consistent with her past. One that will likely endear her to both new and faithful fans with that, now trademark, engaging tone and compelling delivery, felicitously immersed in a true, soulful, R&B vibe. 

What’s also still consistent is Doss charting her own creative direction without much or any compromise.  It’s certainly something she is used to doing and not only enjoys having the freedom, but 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 goes on to explain, “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.” 

3S6A3175-EditYou could imagine the time it takes for an artist, let alone an independent artist, to achieve the great deal of success Conya Doss has. So you’d certainly assume she can’t have time for much else right? Well that actually couldn’t be further from her reality.  That’s because 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 the game full time would and have. Notable names 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 3S6A3171-Editfledge 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 a proud mom of a seven year old son. “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 CLEAR, “They’re going to see some flexibility in my music.” She further 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.”

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To purchase the new project CLEAR from Conya Doss click here or to stream click here  

And to learn more about her and tour information go to Conyadoss.com

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Video Interview: Singer/Songwriter Eric Roberson

A look now at the talented singer/songwriter Eric Roberson in the new video feature below:

And our first look from the original monthly feature, WATCH CLOSELY 2003

ERIC ROBERSON Making music, honestly

For most aspiring music artists their earliest dreams featured them on stage or screen, front and center, whipping hordes of entranced fans into a frenzy – signing a major label deal, selling millions of records and in the process sealing their rep as a talented artist who will forever be noted in the annals of music history. For a scant few, likened to the odds of winning the lottery, that actually happens. But for the lion’s share the realities of the business usher a rude awakening and dashed hopes. However, there are those who guided by their passion to create, an undeniable gift, tenacity and faith, maneuver the harsh realities and find success by other means. Take, for example, singer/songwriter Eric Roberson.

The New Jersey native, who caught the music vapors as a kid growing up in an artistic household, has weathered the storied blows and bombshells of the industry to become one of its brightest young songwriters. In fact, Roberson’s work can be found on the successful projects of folks like Musiq Soulchild, Vivian Green, Jill Scott, Dwele, Case and Will Downing as well as on tracks from the upcoming releases of 112, Carl Thomas and Glen Lewis. Pretty good for someone who was admittedly pursuing the “artist” route, but a natural fit for someone who has always had the writing “bug.”

“Songwriting was always a craft that I was in love with and just always addicted to,” says Roberson. “I never really thought that I would have a career in songwriting. I thought I would have a career as an artist. When the artist thing didn’t work out, it was really ericwhat just kept me available.” But he quickly adds, “At one point, there was a time when I was just very jaded in the business and didn’t want to be an artist, as crazy as that sounds. I said, I just wanted to be a songwriter because I didn’t want to be bothered with the ups and downs emotionally that go with pursuing an artist deal.”

Indeed Roberson, who in addition to holding solid writing prowess owns a beautiful voice to boot, knows that seesaw ride first hand. After two years at Howard University on a scholarship reaped as grand prizewinner of a teen talent competition, Warner Bros. Records tabbed him for a recording deal that started the ball rolling with a single called “The Moon” that hit #33 on Billboard’s R&B charts. But soon after, an all to familiar changing of the guard took place that eventually pulled the “rug” right from beneath him. That experience and others like it steered the keen Roberson back to the fertile grounds of Howard U. “I went back to school and just honed my skills,” says Roberson. “I became a better person in every facet. Became a better student, a better writer, a better singer, a better everything.”

From that point to now his phone has kept ringing and his talent, opening doors. One ofimage those opened doors, a background stint with vocalist Kenny Lattimore, led to another opportunity that ultimately brought him to the now famous fold out of Philly, A Touch of Jazz. The link to the sought after production entity brewed by DJ ace Jazzy Jeff that is credited, in part, with putting the storied music town back on the map, proved to be epoch-making for Roberson. “It was the music I had in my head,” he says of his first encounter with the music of the crew. “It was the music that I felt.” Needless to say it was a match made in heaven that helped to solidify his songwriting status. However, there was still a jones that wouldn’t go away – A passion to perform and record his words for the world to hear.

imageThe boiling point resulted in an outstanding independent debut release in 2001 called The Esoteric Movement that still, although a hard found commodity (something he vows will soon be rectified), is a hotly sought after underground soul gem. In fact, the rave reviews and love trumpeted for that release demanded this year’s follow-up, Eric Roberson presents The Vault Vol.1. This splendid collection with a hybrid sound of soul and R&B features one of the most stunning voices on the scene eloquently riding vibes that move from amorous to hip and sensual to smoothed out. Add to that solid production from amongst others, Roberson, Osunlade, James Poyser, and Vidal Davis as well as on the track, “One Time”, the vocal artistry of Ms. Jill Scott. Throughout, The Vault, Roberson spews poetic prose with a golden voice and sincere delivery that’s in a word, impressive.

It’s clear after listening to his work why the fire to do the “artist” thing can’t be extinguished. As Roberson puts it, “Songwriting is my nine to five, but I put my records out because of the passion I have as an artist,” and emphatically adds, “to maintain my sanity!” A sanity he explains can be lost when dealing with all the kinks of the music business. Which is why at this point, although the songwriting gig serves him well, making music under his own moniker is becoming a renewed priority.

“I write honest music and there are times when I get tired of giving away my story and all the stuff I really, really feel in my heart and not see it being taken care of. I almost feel like driving down the street, just throwing CDs out the window saying ‘anybody want to hear this? If you can appreciate it, here!’”

Judging by the enthusiastic response to both The Esoteric Movement and The Vault Vol.1 he’s finding a burgeoning crowd of listeners who can and are quite willing to pay for it. Honest!

BertCaldwell

 

 

Come on, you know about Maya Azucena, right?

 

I met Maya Azucena years ago at what was for many the indisputable hub of recorded music in NYC for the then burgeoning independent “nu-soul” movement, Bondy’s.

UnknownYou would be hard-pressed not to notice Maya then or now – strikingly attractive, funky style, vibrant, engaging personality, and very cool. You could tell from the start that she was driven, focused and passionate about being a true and quality artist. You could tell too that she was refreshingly humble.

Needless to say, Maya has since built an incredible resume of achievements and traveled the world lending her voice to Grammy-winning recordings, acclaimed projects and perhaps most importantly to her, very worthy causes. From one day to the next you can literally see her performing at hot clubs and venues across the across the world – Gigging with Hip-Hop’s elite to sharing the stage with Jazz legends –  Puttin’ it down with the hottest Soul and R&B artists to rockin’ out with a hot alternative band.  And then rapping it all up singing at a rally against injustice.

A look now at the talented singer/songwriter Maya Azucena in the new video feature below:

 

MAYA AZUCENA: WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Maya who? It’s the response that singer/songwriter Maya Azucena (pronounced Ay-sü-say-nah) often gets when folks hear her unique name for the first time. But instead of being stressed by the seemingly routine reply, she used it, to name her funky, soul- saturated debut. Of her name a confident Azucena declares, “ultimately, once people get it, they’ll never forget it.” Indeed the talented Brooklyn, NY native has hopes that’ll hold true not only for the CD, but also for her as an artist as well.

mayaBeing recognized for her artistic gift was something Azucena has had her sights set on since childhood, but the lean then was more toward acting. Early acting classes and celluloid aspirations led her to the New York High School for Performing Arts known as inspiration for the film and T.V. series, FAME. However, the music bug was never far away. “Music was always around, but I felt [at the time] that the industry that I was going to go into and that I was very familiar with from a young age was acting.” And opportunities to audition for major films with final callbacks becoming a more frequent result seemed to be validating the chosen path. But in the midst of the pursuit Azucena pegs divine intervention for pulling music to the forefront and with it came wisdom she explains this way. “With acting your job is to bring a third dimension to someone else’s vision, but with music, as a songwriter, I fulfill my own vision. I write it. I sing what I mean and what I feel from the bottom of my heart. Then I get up there on stage and I fulfill it.” She continues, “I think feeling that I have so much that I would like to say. So much that I want to contribute to the world, so to speak, I felt with the music I would be able to do that.”

After several years of stirring audiences with her live sets and counting up a nice fan base along the way, Azucena determined a CD was now necessary for her fortunes to continue growing. The result, MAYA WHO?, is an outstanding effort that should shoot her amongst the top of everyone’s list of emerging artists to watch. With a splendid blend of Soul, R&B and Hip-Hop, Azucena sings about scenarios that’ll hit home with passion, sass, and been there authenticity while displaying a voice that’s diva strong and compelling.

The hot, ten-track set boasts a decided tilt toward contagious, body-movin’ grooves that are reminiscent of 70’s, 80’s, funk-driven R&B of the past, but buffed with the urban beat of today. However, poignant lyrics and memorable hooks driven perfectly by solid arrangements and Azucena’s potent delivery don’t get lost.  Out the box she revs it up with “Do You Really Wanna Party”, throws down on the trials of a relationship with “Right Way” and gets the fingers-poppin’ and head bouncing with “Too Much.” These are gems like many of the rest, but the piece d’resistance comes in the form of “G-hetto”, a sure hit waiting to happen. Here she flips a rendering she heard coined with obvious negative intent into a nostalgic, ultra-funky homage to the Brooklyn neighborhood she’s from. “I wanted to use it [G-hetto]”, says Azucena, “and tell a story about being from around the way. All the fun stuff you experience because you have each other – Your family. Your friends.”

While there are several things that are impressive about Maya Azucena the one that is a refreshing standout is the sincerity in which she asserts on the back of her CD cover as well as during our conversation, “I am a work in progress.” It’s something artists with half the polish she possesses wouldn’t own up to. But her stance speaks volumes for her desire to be an artist with something to say. “I think I’m really good, but I’m [still] trying to reach for my calling and my fullest potential.” She continues, “I wanna touch people and I want people to be able to respond to what I do. I hope one day to create music that is classic. That when you hear it, you get a nostalgic feeling.”  She’s definitely on the right track.

Now say it with me. Maya A–zu-ce-na. Very good.

BertCaldwell

 

For learn more about all the very busy Maya Azucena has got going on go to mayaazucena.com