“My music is my form of healing; a healing process that has taken sometime and will continue for as long as it needs to take. But I know that with my music I will be safe and it will give me the strength to push through.”
It is always a pleasure to sit down with artist and discuss their passions, inspirations and aspirations. What I find most rewarding about meeting with different creatives around the city is leaving our conversations with a stronger sense of my own purpose. Each and every one of them has a distinctive story of triumph and failure, which are both the force that propels their creativity and hinders their progress. But all share the same sensibility, as they realize somewhere along their journey, what their purpose is.
Donyae Lewis, who also goes by the stage name of Donyae Asante, sat down with me on a discreetly sunny Monday afternoon, to discuss his inner findings of self-love and purpose.
“I don’t think it was until I began to sort of “live my life”, that includes the good and the bad, that I knew it was time to start developing the album that I’ve always wanted to create. But I figured out that I needed to go through my experiences, in order to realize that it was my purpose to create an album in which I was very vulnerable and it would help someone else realize that they’re not alone and someone does understand them.”
Donyae tells us that the process to develop his debut album Stripped was a process of patience and healing; believing that it has not only help him regain his courage, but it’s also has given him more strength as an independent artist.
“I was in a very bad place, but writing has always been my outlet to release all of the bottle emotions drowning me inside. And the beauty about writing this album was how natural and healing the process was.”
At face value, his vivacious and alluring personality has allowed him to tread through many performing stages as a singer such as, The Taste of Chicago, and auditions for X Factor and The Voice.
“I’ve been doing music all my life. I grew up in a family that sang all the time, particularly gospel. My uncle and grandmother sang gospel and aunt was in a gospel choir and being around that environment, naturally gravitated me towards singing in my school choirs. During that time I had the privilege to perform with groups. But that’s the thing, I felt very early on that wanted to perform solo. Singing in groups will sometimes diminish the opportunity for your voice to be heard. When I was in High School I was very involved in theater and that was my first opportunities to really dive into a solo career. It helped me find my voice.”
Yet, although his dedication to performing kept his outgoing personality alive, Donyae says there was a lot that he dealt with internally that many people weren’t aware of, and it had become a different side of him that most people never saw.
“Just as I had discovered my love for theater and solo performing in high school, I had also discovered that there were some mental health issues that I wasn’t dealing with properly and a much disclosed side of me became prevalent. I wasn’t comfortable speaking about what I was dealing with until later on in my life.”
At 21, Donyae says that he still struggles with being more open about his mental health issues, especially to those close to him, but says that he’s found an outlet that has given him his courage back.
“A lot of the songs in my new album are very personal to my experiences and feelings. Some of which I am afraid to sometimes say out loud because I’m afraid of how people will respond to it. Yet, when I sing my own lyrics and vibe to my own beats, I feel empowered and I gain a new found strength. That’s what I ultimately want for people to get from my music once they listen to it.”
One song in particular, he says was the most empowering of all.
“Writing and producing Let the Flakes Fall (L.T.F.F) was the most liberating. That song is a bop!”
With a smile beaming from cheek to cheek, Donyae says writing L.T.F.F was difficult at first because he had wrote the song after having trouble with his mental health and realizing that he needed to rid himself from anything negative that was taking away his happiness
“Overall I am a very extroverted and happy person, at least I strive to be. But there was a point in my life when it felt like no one was doing me right. Relationships, family, friendships and even my own self, I felt unhappy by it all. And the emotions began to take a toll on my physical and mental health. I remember going to the emergency room due to a serious panic attack. It was dark period. But after enduring so much, I owed it to myself to truly care for my well-being in a structured way. And I began to cleanse my mind by ending negative relationships, mediating, and writing. And that when the song began to develop. ”
With its dance-hall rhythm and pop vibe, L.T.F.F is a true representation of the carefree, upbeat personality that Donyae exudes and a strong declaration of self-love and independence.
Donyae also says that he’s planning the music video of the song and hopes to make this video as inclusive as possible, stating that as a member of the LGBTQ community he wants this song and the video to send a strong, positive message of the community he’s proud to be a part of.
Donyae now is in a much better place and after releasing his EP to L.T.F.F, he is booked to perform his new hit and debut a new song called Alone.
“Alone has a different vibe from L.T.F.F. It’s definitely one of my favorites in the album, but its message is more vulnerable and I hope people feel something from it. I want people to always feel something from my music, and by saying “feel” I want people to recognize that it doesn’t have to always mean sadness. I think that as long as my music allows you to empathize than that’s okay. I think what this world needs right now is empathy.”
Donyae says that he’s hoping people come out to see him at The Elbo Room, 2871 N Lincoln Avenue at 7:00 P.M. Sunday night and support his new album.
I for one, I am very proud to watch my friend making such wonderful advances and gaining success. And I thank him for being so open, so kind, and so aware of those around. But most importantly I am glad to watch him follow his life purpose.
Tickets are only $10 for Sunday’s show.