CONYA DOSSLove Rain Down
| "If they
want to label me in the Neo-Soul movement they can, but to me this soul
music is nothing new. The D'Angelos and Lauryn Hills derive from what we
grew up on -- like Donnie Hathaway, Angela Winbush and so forth, it's just
modernized. I grew up on every form of music from Bonnie Raitt and Steely
Dan to Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan. It's hard to categorize me into one
genre of music because it narrows your audience and I learned from them
all. It's just good music -- and that's the way I see it."
There’s a reason Conya Doss looks so comfortable onstage, gently swinging her hips like a day lily caught in a summer’s breeze, singing in a voice that’s equal parts honey and hellfire. It’s because she’s used to it. As a teacher of children with special needs within the Cleveland public school system, this twenty something soul ingenue faces an audience tougher than most, nearly every day. Of late, this audience has also come to include throngs of R&B and neo-soul aficionados enticed by Conya’s sweet, supple delivery and heartfelt lyrics.
But long before she was standing in front of sold-out clubs and crowded arenas, Conya faced perhaps an even more daunting audience: rambunctious young kids ready to learn. Ironically, in working with underprivileged youth, Conya has learned as much from her students as they have from her. She’s learned the value of humility, honesty, and most significantly, the importance of being true to yourself. These lessons were painted in broad strokes on Conya’s candid, endearing debut, A Poem about Ms. Doss which she co-wrote and co-produced and whose title was inspired by a letter to her from a student in her classroom. Emotionally resonant and wondrously infectious, Conya’s debut is openhearted and down-to-earth. “I incorporate music as part of my class, the traditional way of learning can be boring, so I have kids project academics through poetry or singing,” says Ms. Doss.
There are no tales of wanton bed hopping, no bling-bling, just earnest, expressive songs of heartbreak, salvation and praise. With her sophomore album Just Because Conya fluently took her listeners on a journey of finger snapping and head gyrating wondrous grooves laced with an electric blend of instruments that rode each beat with finesse. She possesses an indistinguishable reverence to the soul divas of yesteryears by encompassing invigorating vocals with thought-induced messages that silhouette charismatic, rhythmically charged production that simultaneously blazes a trail for her brand of melodic soul. On her sophomore project boasting ten choice cuts, Conya not only belted out the jazzy notes that caressed your ears, but she wrote, arranged, and produced over half of the album, only enlisting a small qualified team of gifted producers to help compliment her raw sound. It was songs like “Sweet Love,” “Miracle” and “Stay” that became classics.
The spiritual and emotional symmetry she threads into a refreshing, realistic and expressive musical pattern, creates a pleasant mind-cleansing experience that stirs, rivets, and soothes the jaded soul. If what you covet is vintage soul with modern appeal and instrument-heavy beats embellished with flavorful sounds, then the music of Conya Doss is for you. The divine Ms. Doss wraps her seductive, magical voice and polished rhythmic sounds around personalized confessions like the warmth of a passionate embrace. Her music is an organic experience- a hybrid collection of up-tempo jams and fluid slow grooves that artistically join her sleek voice with intoxicating melodies. Conya’s music is not lost among the pantheon of new crooners, but instead invokes the spirits of legendary composers-singers such as Chaka Khan, Betty Wright, Natalie Cole, Me’shell N’Degeocello and Alanis Morisette.
On her third disc, Love Rain Down, the compelling songbird pours passion and appealing eccentricity into a dozen stunningly inventive jams that reflect quintessential soul music infused with a pinch of subtle funk. "I think this new album is very unconventional and takes me out of the 'neo-soul' box. The music is more like a tribute and a praise to icons I grew up listening to such as Bonnie Raitt, Doobie Brothers and Jane Child." While feel-good harmonies can be found sprinkled throughout this delightful musical journey, especially on "Those Were The Days", "Call Me" and the title track, "Love Rain Down," it's Conya's magical ability to deliver a potent mixture of confessional, bittersweet and meaningful lyrics with childlike charm. Conya offers an unforgettable vocal performance on the mellow, minimalist melody, "Sign", with its lush orchestral guitar arrangement and soft tambourine riffs while "Why Did You", the pumping, bluesy-jazz frenzied anthem, celebrates moving on after experiencing the pain of a broken heart. "This record reflects another side to my music and extends back to many of my own personal experiences. The lyrics and songs on the last album were inspired moreso by conversations I had with friends and family whereas this album is much more self-motivated and biographical."
Love Rain Down is expansive mood music to the fullest; the soundtrack to the intellectual and emotional thoughts of Conya's mind. Each tune is effortlessly strong and beautiful, capturing the exuberance of finding love, as well as the disappointment associated with losing it. The mid-west native encompasses far more than infectious rhythms and silken-voiced hits, she establishes her own definite sound instead of following radio trends. As the author and performer of one of the year's most critically-anticipated albums, Conya punctuates the fact that she is a mesmerizing force of nature who has successfully rid herself of any mis-used genre labels. She is just as comfortable with lascivious R&B wails as she is with gospel-themed fare. Composing yet another intricately crafted and cohesive body of work that illuminates her unequaled musicianship, Conya only scratches the surface of what she is capable of.
Nestled between Indiana and Pennsylvania, lies a state that has yet to be fully tapped of it’s musical resources. In a region whose lineage reflects that of Babyface, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Tracy Chapman, Marilyn Manson, Gerald Levert, The O’Jays, Macy Gray, James Ingram, Roger Troutman and Zapp, The Gapp Band and Avant among others, Conya is the first female soul singer to emerge from and hold steadfast to her Midwestern roots and lineage. Much like what her predecessors Erykah Badu, India.Arie and Jill Scott did for Dallas, Atlanta and Philly, Conya plans to put Ohio on the soul music map. Conya has shared stages with a spectrum of artists ranging from Kem to Frankie Beverly & Maze to name a few as well as working with Gerald Levert and writing and producing for pop group, 3LW.
Born and raised in Cleveland, she has been singing since she was five years old, first groovin’ to the likes of Stevie Wonder and Angela Winbush. She attended Cleveland’s famed School of the Arts, where future stars such as Avant and 71 North would also cut their teeth. “Unlike artists in other regions, the Ohio area is very limited when it comes to enabling me to practice my craft--especially the kind of music that I do,” says Doss, “Cleveland has a tremendous amount of talent, however due to the lack of locations to showcase such talents, many have moved out East or West. I chose to stay here and utilize the very talented producers and songwriters from Cleveland. Initially I had the opportunity to work with several other producers from both the East and West Coast while searching for the sound that I wanted. Ironically, it was at home all the time.”
But through it all, Conya’s remained grounded. And therein lies much of her appeal. In a time when many pop stars have become further and further removed from the folks that they speak to with their custom made looks and unattainable lifestyles, Conya remains a lot like us: a tender, tough, self-possessed young lady who puts her community before commercial concerns. When summing up what her music is about, Conya offers a simple answer: “Life in general.” Not just hers, but ours as well.