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: Filmmaker Patrick House

bluediamondsIt really is fair to say that all artists are storytellers. No matter the medium they are sharing what’s on their minds.  Sharing things they’ve seen or felt; things that have had an impact on them and maybe even you. Sometime those stories are emotionally charged and tragic. And sometimes they’re light-hearted and flat-out funny. Like life itself, sometimes they are all of that.  

When you speak with filmmaker Patrick House you quickly home in on the fact that he’s influenced by those full life stories and interested in telling them with authentic portrayals of the real life cast of characters that play them out. Artists, of course, often spin those stories to create some interesting, clever, thought- provoking, whimsical and, yes, flat-out funny scenarios as well. House’s latest film, Blue Diamonds, is indeed an enjoyable and well executed example of all of that.

The award – winning, Blue Diamonds is a full production, film short currently showing in notable film festivals around the country, garnering rave reviews and critical acclaim. In the entertaining film House, who now calls NYC home, calls upon the tales and characters of growing up in his native Chicago to craft an entwined, two prong plot –  perfectly cast, scripted and enacted – boasting a soulful, retro-vibe a la 70’s Blaxploitation film classics with a cool comedic lean.  Blue Diamonds also comes complete with a felicitous, soul – slathered soundtrack to match – a high priority for filmmaker House – splendidly provided by ace guitarist, producer and an I SPY SOUL featured artist, Marcus Machado.   

We caught up with the talented Patrick House to learn more about the impetus for Blue Diamonds, the influence of his Emmy-winning dad, his approach to making films and the portrayal of African- Americans in film. Check out this video interview and all others on the I SPY SOUL Youtube Channel.

 

Keep an eye out for screenings of Blue Diamonds at a film festival near you. To contact filmmaker Patrick House for further information or interest in the film go to Patrickhousefilms.com

 

Chris Rob is No Doubt on The Soul Seen

As the saying goes, timing is everything.  A plan was already set to revisit, as part of retrospective series, The Soul Seen, our past interview with the uber – talented, Chris Rob. So imagine our surprise when not only would we, by chance, run into him, but that he would grace us with a heads up to his brand new single, No Doubt.

Catching up with the crazy busy and ubiquitous, vocalist, multi -instrumentalist and producer is in itself quite a coup.  In addition to headlining his own high energy shows across the country he can be found touring and recording at a myriad of places literally around the world with a host of A-list artists including, Stevie Wonder, Talib Kweli, Common, and popular band headed up by his talented brother, comedic actor, Craig Robinson called the Nasty Delicious (more examples of who he has and continues to roll with on the regular are in our piece)  – But then we checked out that track and confirmed that chance meeting was indeed of divine order because it is a gem – No Doubt!  Check out the piece below and this joyfully swinging,  slice of true R&B goodness to get you all caught up!

The Soul Seen is a retrospective of past features that provide a snapshot in time in the careers, from fledgling to legendary, of these very talented artists. The projects featured are older now, but no less significant. The insights and perspectives they shared, speak to their success and as you will find, still resonate today.

From the original I SPY SOUL feature segment, Watch Closely 2003

Chris Rob Call him,What you like!

To merely say singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, Chris Rob has steadily been making his presence known on the music scene, is putting it quite mildly. The talented Chicago native, who now calls the “big apple” home, has lent his dazzling chops to live performances and recordings as well as notched Music Director duty for anchrisrob3 impressive array of celebrated artists, hit-makers and emerging talent – Artists like Stevie Wonder, Prince, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, Anthony Hamilton, Kanye West and currently with young chart-topping sensation, John Legend. They all must have recognized that beyond his virtuosic skills lies a chameleon-like ability to shift through a myriad of musical styles and sound always at home – always impressive – Be it soul, hip hop, or jazz – funked up or smoothed out. Attribute that to not only innate ability and solid training, but to a wealth of varied musical influences spanning the likes of James Brown, Prince, Miles Davis and Coltrane to Steve Miller, The Police and A Tribe Called Quest to name only a few. 

Needless to say, Rob weaves those same influences into a unique and funky, groove-filled sound of his own, displayed on his EP,  The Official Bootleg Of Chis Rob Vol. It’s a glimpse at a sound he himself is reluctant to tab, but has deemed, “electronic soul” – a officialbootname he believes speaks fittingly to the sound and the direction of the music. “Electronic Soul is a fusion of funky grooves over hip-hop beats incorporating elements of jazz and elements of classical. It’s a futuristic sound,”  explains Rob  “I’m still incorporating my influences, but I’m going a step further.  So it’s not like just revisited. It’s not retro. It’s not neo. It’s going in a new direction.”  This musical brew is brought to a boil especially during live sets that often feature a full-scale band complete with righteous horns and Rob wooing the audience with “JB” type flair and bouncing from impressive vocal flights to keyboard wizardry.  Here he is in his element and it’s obviously clear to see – for his performances are what have spawned opportunities to not only work with some of the industry’s best, but to also headline elite clubs like the Blue Note and SOB’s  in New York or to be tabbed to perform for famed entertainment attorney, Londell McMillan’s celebrated pre-Grammy soiree.   

Chris Rob has been charting a musical course since he was a child growing up in Chicago – no doubt catching the music bug from parents who were themselves accomplished musicians. Piano was the first love, but he ultimately found his way to become adept at other instruments as well such as guitar, bass and drums with accolades and acknowledgement of his talent coming early on – A talent that fittingly took on prodigy status. One amongst many shining honors received by Rob as a kid and perhaps a “crystal ball” gaze at his musical future was his receipt of the Sony Student Innovator Chris_Rob_31-400x394Award in 1992.  A scholarship brought the then sixteen year old to college for music in Chicago and upon completion then set his sights on building the impressive resume he now enjoys with more certain to follow.

But what he admits may have solidified the pursuit of music as a career, was a movie with a Prince-ly star. “I knew for sure I would do something with music after I saw Purple Rain”, recalls Rob. That was pretty much it for me! From then I was drawn to that imagery – to the spotlight.” Needless to say he’s been doing his thing in pursuit of the goal ever since.

“I like to really just make music”, says Rob. “The overall feeling I like to leave the audience with whether I’m doing a side thing or doing my own thing is that they’re left with an experience. I like to leave people talking. I like to leave them with the feeling that they’re glad they came out. Whether I’m doing jazz or if I’m doing funk – something rocked out or something soulful.”

As far as the defining labels go Chris Rob has a simple solution. “I guess I’ll let the listener’s decide. To me it’s just music.” 

Bert Caldwell

 

To purchase No Doubt click here at iTunes or at leading music outlets

To learn more about and follow Chris Rob go to chrisrobmusic.com

Video Interview: Singer/Songwriter Chantae Cann

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There are things that no matter what seem to always bring a smile to your face – A fond memory, dancing with your sweetheart or the eyes of that brand new fluffy puppy you just got.  You might also add to that list, a voice. In particular the voice of accomplished songstress and songwriter, Chantae Cann.  It’s the kind of voice that evokes a sense of calm and a rush of assurance that somehow, someway everything will be okay – Engagingly warm, beautifully comforting, and oh yes, highly adept.  Perhaps the perfect voice to console you in your time of despair yes, but also wonderfully ebullient when it wields words of inspiration and encouragement to pursue your dreams and love yourself.

chantaejgIt’s surely the quality noted and award- winning artists she’s collaborated with over the years like collective Snarky PuppyThe Foreign Exchange, and more were attracted to.  And many more came to discover it by way of her highly-regarded debut project, Journey to Golden that reached #1 on the iTunes Jazz Charts and #7 on Billboard’s Jazz Charts.

Cann’s followup, Sol Empowered, featuring guests looks from Snarky Puppy, and chantaesolTarriona “Tank” Ball from Tank and the Bangas, has garnered similar excitement and success because of course, it features that enchanting voice served up in an infectious, soulful vibe. But because it also offers even more messages of self-acceptance, self-love, and self-empowerment.  As she shares in our interview, it’s insight into her own personal evolution and process towards realizing those things. To hear about her being Sol Empowered, the joy of working with Grammy® award winning soulstress, India.Arie, and Grammy® nominated artist, Maroon 5 member and long-time friend, PJ Morton and more, check out the video above on the I SPY SOUL YouTube Channel.

 

For more about Chantae Cann go to website Chantaecann.com

 

Check out the news of her new collaboration with Kia Motors America in promotion of her new Kia Sol Empowered Tour on The Soulnar

Video Interview: Shelley Nicole

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The provocative, fiery sound and style of singer, songwriter and bassist, Shelley Nicole has through the years become trademark for the talented artist through her own work with band BlaKbüshe and the revered Burnt Sugar Arkestra. She’s bringing it hard as ever on her anticipated new project, I Am American, produced by guitar beast and founding member of legendary rock squad, Living Colour, Vernon Reid

On the doorstep of release in all its spirited, soulful and “no holds barred” glory, Nicole returns to ISPYSOUL for a chat, an overdue follow-up to our first meeting upon the release of her acclaimed debut, She Who Bleeds . . .,  to share the impetus for I Am American, the lure of “Punanny Politixxx” and more in the video below on I SPY SOUL YouTube Channel.

For some background on Shelley Nicole’s BlaKbüshe check out our previous interview by clicking here

 

 

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The first single from Shelley Nicole’s blaKbüshe, Punanny Politixxx is out and available now iTunes and Spotify. Click the links to check it out or purchase

Video Interview: Vocalist/Guitarist Tomás Doncker shows us “The Mess We Made”


“Don’t push me/cause I’m close to the edge . . .”

Many will recognize those as the lyrics to the iconic Rap classic, “The Message”, from Hip Hop pioneers Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Emcee Melle Mel earnestly gives the warning because, as he eloquently goes on to proclaim in the hook, “It’s like a jungle sometimes/It makes me wonder/How I keep from going under”describing the troublesome times, traps, and conditions facing a young black man living in New York City. That track was released in 1982. Fast forward to 2017 and for as many ways that we’ve advanced and come a long way, sadly, many of the same traps, biases, frustrations, inequity and volatility of the time that underscores “The Message” and even years before still exist today.

Something “pushed” multi-talented singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer, imageTomás Doncker past that “edge” on June 17, 2015. The event took a huge emotional toll on the accomplished New York bred, musician and artist who in addition to his own acclaimed projects, has performed and worked with artists such as Madonna, Meshell Ndegeocello, Ivan Neville, Cory Glover, and James Chance and the Contortions as well as being at the helm of the label True Groove Records.

But to “keep from going under” this always busy, man on the run, stopped and cancelled everything. And as a way to just heal, he shunned the world- played his guitar and wrote. What came from that, quite without intention, was the framework for his new release, The Mess We Made, an incredibly impressive, provocative, no holds barred, scolding of our country – of our society- but not without a few suggestions of things we can do to get right. At the same time, Doncker masterfully manages to entertain with a stirring soundtrack of soul, blues and funk he calls Global Soul.

ISPYSOUL caught up with Tomás Doncker to talk about the The Mess We Made and what drove him to let us know. Check out our interview above and others on the the I SPY SOUL YouTube Channel.

Click here to check out and purchase The Mess We Made

And to learn more about Tomás Doncker and True Groove Records go to Tomás Doncker.net

© ISPYSOUL 2017

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