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.”

bc

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

Advertisements

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

Marcus Machado proclaims “I Can’t Lose” with his new single

 

“I Can’t Lose” is the new single from swiftly rising, virtuosic guitarist Marcus Machado featuring soul smothered vocals from Jermaine Holmes most notably of soul star, D’Angelo’s stellar crew, The Vanguard. It is also the first single from the upcoming film and soundtrack, “Blue Diamonds” directed by Patrick House. 

Machado, a past featured artist here on I SPY SOUL, has steadily been wowing audiences and turning industry heads with his high-powered, eclectic style molded with rock, soul, jazz, blues, and hip-hop influences, since even before grabbing Rolling Stone magazine’s “Next Young Gun” honors in 2014. In addition to heading his own shows and projects, the guitarist and producer has become a sought after musician putting it down with artists like Robert Glasper, Jamie Lidell, and  Pete Rock, as well as with Daru Jones (Jack White, Slum Village) and legendary bass player Doug Wimbush (Living Colour) established the killer squad, DMD.

Check out the single below on Spotify and our video feature on Marcus Machado by clicking here  

Purchase the track on iTunes here or Google Play here

And for more on Marcus Machado go to officialmarcusmachado.com

Video Interview: Shelley Nicole

Shelley-Color-19-72-dpi

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

 

 

punanny p

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 Raul Midón

Often the words used to describe singer, songwriter and guitarist, Raul Midón are likely along the lines of amazing, phenomenal, incredible or just plain “ridiculous.” That is to say, of course, you’re not just rendered speechless after hearing his music or especially witnessing his artistic wizardry and virtuosity live. However, for his many ardent fans those superlatives still may not seem to be enough.

Well, there is now a description that may best sum up the marvel Midón is or at very least be added as an apt “go to” on the list – “Bad Ass. It’s half the title of his brand new release. The other half is a fact that may possibly get lost in the midst of taking in his brilliance – and Blind. The moniker is perfect because both parts are simply fact and cannot be denied.

Blind since birth, Midón is confident in his abilities and proud of his accomplishments, as well he should be. Bad Ass and Blind, his ninth project, is a proclamation he was comfortable making and believed was the right time.

We caught up with Raul Midón to talk about the new project, his influences and why he thought that title could be important for others as well. Check out our interview below bc:

 

Click here to check out and purchase Raul Midon’s Bad Ass and Blind

And to find out when Raul Midón will be performing near you and more go to Raulmidon.com

 

 

Heston: Mind, Body and so much Soul

 

My first interview with Atlanta-based singer, songwriter, artist, Heston Francis, commonly known as Heston, was in 2004, around the time of his self-title EP, which made quite a splash on the independent soul/R&B scene featuring jewels such as fanheston2 favorite, “IF”, “Angel” and “Radio”, to name a few. The project was an introduction to a soul singer in the truest sense of the word – a voice infused with passion, sincerity, empathy and life experience – adeptly employed and immensely engaging. Heston himself in that interview affirmed, “My emotions are on my sleeves and nothing that I write or nothing that I sing is meaningless. Everything that I say out of my mouth and every word that I write is through expstorytellererience. It’s heartfelt. It’s my life. It’s my release.”

On every subsequent and acclaimed project since (three including his full-length debut smash Storyteller) happily really nothing has changed in that regard. It’s no doubt the reason for the success and loyal fans he’s garnered, with a healthy touring and performance schedule around the world as a by product. But even at a time now when use of the word soul often seems more like a popular promotional catch phrase than a real strand in the music or artist its employed to describe, Heston is savvy enough to embrace the recognition of the qualities without need for necessarily adopting the label, soul singer. “I’ve not really given myself that label, but yeah, if you are to take the true meaning of the word, I would have to agree,” says Heston. “Because it’s [his music] heartfelt, it’s not phony, it’s not made up, its just what it is.” He goes on to explain, “Because for me, the people that I’ve always loved are like your Otis Redding, or your Beres Hammond or Marvin Gaye and you can tell that they bleed music and I know for me, behind the scenes, behind the curtains, I bleed music. Like it’s some kind of curse and a blessing for me because I love it so much.”

Needless to say, when searching for what name to give to his new project, now days imageaway from its U.S. release, the genuineness in his music that everyone has come to love is what inspired it being aptly titled, Transparency. “When I speak to people even if its just a friend or family member, a music lover, a music writer or someone conducting an interview, I’ve just always continued to hear through the years that there’s an honesty to the music, there’s a sincerity in the music, there’s true passion, there’s honesty in your performance. If there’s a review for a live show, it’s always saying the reason why people connect is because it seems sincere, so I think it was just appropriate for me to name the album Transparency because it’s just an honest interpretation of my experiences through music.”

Indeed Transparency, which will be released in conjunction with the highly regarded Purpose Music Group/Nia Distributionis all that, with Heston’s cleverly poetic take on life and love amidst a musical backdrop that blends soul, R&B and hints of Caribbean flavor on some tracks, which is not a stretch for the native of Dominica. On the project are the ebbs and flows in relationships as with the intensely moving “Every Time I Look Around Here” and the additively, up tempo, “Contradiction” in which he ironically proclaims “You’re my contradiction/with you/ I lose/even when I’m with winning.” There’s also the impassioned romantic desire displayed on tracks like the seductively persuasive, “Stay,” one of the several tracks sure to serve as a soundtrack for intimate opportunities.

hestonbw“Mind, Body and Soul,” the official first single from the release, and another fuelled by his own personal revelation, scores a journey many of us make. “I think I’ve gotten to a stage in my life where I’m definitely able to value relationships much better than I used to some years ago” says Heston. “Same thing with “When A Man Knows” [another track from the project], it’s just that I’ve gotten to realize – you have to pick someone- you have to make a choice – that there’s a women out there [for you]. You turn around and you look and you can find someone and when you do, you have to put all of yourself into that relationship if you want to make it work.”

And then there is “Dear God,” which Heston reveals was actually released as a kind of song to test the waters and prep the fan base, but might likely speak most to the title of the project. “It probably is the most transparently honest song on the album, says Heston. He then goes on to describe a moment one might call magical or perhaps in this case and more appropriately, spiritual. After sharing some interesting background of his family’s heritage and visit back home on a reservation in his native Dominica, Heston recalls that time. “I went to sleep in a very, very small wooden house, I wouldn’t even call it a house, it’s just boarded it up with wood, floor, ceiling, no kitchen, no nothing and I must have woken up at three o’clock in the morning, pouring rain and this song just literally came right out, and the moment I was done the rain stopped. But I was just honestly; I was just crying and crying. I don’t know where it came from or what the purpose of it was, but the moment that the song was complete, the rain just completely stopped. What was even crazier, by the time I woke up the next morning the ground outside was completely dry.”

The fact is, true to Heston’s assertion and the title of the project, personal back-stories, his thoughts, desires and beliefs make up Transparency. It’s really the only way he knows how to do it. And what he hopes to accomplish each time out is still now what it was in 2004 – Make quality, entertaining music, that stands the test of time and is a true representation of himself. “For me, it’s just about making sure that the integrity of my music last and it’s consistent and so far I can honestly say that’s been the case,” he maintains. “Anything that I’ve put out, I’ve honestly been proud of. Obviously, I always want to grow as an artist. I always want to grow as a writer. I always want to grow as a singer. But the quality of the music that I leave, and you know, the story has never changed. It’s always been about the integrity of the music for me.”

I think it’s fair to say Heston’s all in with mind, body, and so much soul.

Bert Caldwell

copyright ISPYSOUL 2016

 

TRANSPARENCY is available now on iTunes! Just click here

And to learn more about Heston go to his website @hestonmusic.com