Artist Spotlight: Joyia mixes house music with R&B, jazz and hip hop

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By Cole Brocksom

When Kassandra Nunes first came to Ryerson to study in the creative industries program, she wanted to be a DJ and make EDM music. Now in her fifth year, Nunes has changed her tune. When she isn’t studying the workings of the music industry from a classroom, she’s making moves in the industry herself.

Nunes, who goes by Joyia on stage, is an independent singer-songwriter, instrumentalist and producer who just dropped her debut three-song EP Legends back in mid-January.

“I chose those three songs (Legends, Flavours and Adore You) because they were kind of my ‘becoming’ moments,” Nunes said. “When I was going through university, there was a whole lot of finding myself, especially as an artist.”

Nunes came to Ryerson in the middle of her EDM and house music phase, originally wanting to be a DJ. “That ship sailed really quickly,” she said, adding that she went through five different stage-name changes in her first year.

After she fell out of love with electronic music, Nunes fell back into her soul and R&B roots. “That’s the music I grew up on, that’s the music my dad always played for me.”

Over the past year and a half, Nunes has begun developing her own style, which she describes as “dark, modern R&B, right in the middle of live and electronic music.” She wants to take the typical Toronto style of R&B and add more emphasis on live instrumentation, rather than just electronics. Nunes’ sound is influenced by jazz and hip-hop as well.

It was also during this time that Nunes began writing and playing with Corey Wong of the music duo HMLT and Kei-Li to collaborate and record music every Wednesday. Eventually this led to an EP of collaborative material aptly titled Wednesday. The success of this EP earned the group a feature on CBC Music’s First Play Live.

Nunes recorded solo material as well during these sessions, including the three songs she selected to feature on Legends, with Corey of HMLT as producer. Nunes said the release of Legends has opened a lot of doors for her, and that she looks forward to collaborating with other artists for an upcoming full-length project, which she hopes to release by the end of 2019.

When her parents saw her love for music at a young age, Nunes’ parents encouraged her to join her church’s choir at age six. At 10, Nunes began piano and voice lessons. After three years, her instructor recommended she try her hand at writing music. “Initially I laughed because, what problems does a 13-year-old have that she can write about?”

As she began taking songwriting more seriously, Nunes imagined herself as a singer-songwriter like Alicia Keys, Ed Sheeran or a pre-pop Taylor Swift. “That took a turn when I got into electronic stuff…I kind of put the brakes on singing and songwriting because I was so focused on learning production.”

Nunes would still write and sing, but not in the same capacity because of the structural differences between making electronic music and more conventional pop music. For example, a typical pop song might have a structure of verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus. In electronic music, Nunes explained, “there’s one main hook, maybe a verse here or there, then one main tagline…the focus is on the production.”

She only got back into full song structure writing when she was 19. Since then, Nunes has focused on analyzing and improving her songwriting.

Nunes uses music as an outlet for her own experiences and emotions, as well as those of her friends. She writes songs to help her deal with her anxiety, past relationships and to make her friends’ feelings into music. Some of the songs on Legends reference relationships she had in first year, and how she’s grown since.

“Now that I’ve been away from those experiences for so long, I’m able to look at them from an external perspective and be like ‘okay, this is how I was feeling, this is what I learned…let me put that into a song now.”

To see more of Joyia’s music, check her out on SoundCloud or at her website.

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