Joya: Singing to your soul


Joya’s big discovery was at all places, a funeral. The Detroit-born, church-reared singer-songwriter was heard sangin‘ oldies but goodies like “For the Good of Them” by Rev. Milton Brunson & the Thompson Community Singers, “His Eye is on the Sparrow” and “Tomorrow” by the Winans at a friend’s funeral, and it stirred up something that L. Jackson couldn’t overlook back in the mid- ’90s. Since, she’s completed projects for HBO, Showtime, FOX, BET and several indie films through her publishing deal.

A vocalist and background singer for artists like Alicia Keys and Usher, and a big fan of artists ranging from U2 to Nas, here, Joya talks about collaboration, reality TV and her next project. –yvette caslin

Your career spans nearly 20 years. To what do you attribute your longevity? 

You have to remember that I’m a singer first, so that includes studio sessions, backgrounds, working with or alongside Alicia Keys and Usher. I’ve worked behind the scenes for many years doing film and TV, but I don’t believe that outweighs performing with the likes of Mary J. Blige, Lauryn hill, Carl Thomas, Naughty by Nature, Lords of the Underground, Monifah, etc. These artists fall in the category of mainstream because they’re all platinum-selling artists. Also, performing keeps me relevant and lands opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

Who are your inspirations?

Ella Fitzgerald. Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, Marvin Winans, Sade, Mary [J. Blige] and Faith [Evans].

Do you still work with Vincent Herbert?
No. I have spoken to him recently. I wouldn’t be opposed to it, but no.

Are you working on any other project besides music?
Yes. I’m currently collaborating with Piper Carter of 5e Gallery on a fully live musical production, but that’s currently in the works for 2014.

What do you think about the show “R&B Divas”?

I love the show! Monifah is a dear acquaintance and I respect the entire cast for their exceptional talents & their ability to continue to thrive in this business. That’s extremely, and I mean extremely, tough to do.

What about the reality show with the Clark sisters?

Love it!! I was taught by Dr. Mattie Moss Clark, so I’m biased on that one. They can do no wrong [laughs].

What makes you most proud about Detroit and it’s impact on the music scene?

… The city is a mecca for soul. You can’t teach what this city births. There’s an uncanny rawness and richness. …  And you cannot match that special ingredient Detroit gives.

What’s next for Joya?

Mixtape coming in June: Memoirs in Chartreuse! JOYA

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