Put an angelic voice, a professional work ethic and bewitching good looks together and you get the phenomenon that is Dionyza (pronounced dee-on-juh).
The Los Angeles native was literally born into music as the daughter of songwriters Michael and Brenda Sutton. Though never pushed into the business by her folks, she inherited its finest points and practices to become one 2006’s most seasoned and diversified new artists. The proof is on brilliant display with her new Duet with emerging Bassist Mitchell Coleman Jr in a elegant tribute to Joe Sample called “ When Your Life Was Low”.
Dionyza’s soon to be released single “After All This Time” will be out late November. The new single was written for Dionyza by Grammy winning songwriter Pam Sawyer.
"I've been around music all of my life,” Dionyza states, “up to the wee hours in studios while Mom and Dad were working. My greatest memory is being at Motown where I got to meet Smokey Robinson.
And Teena Marie took my sister and me to the park while my parents were in the studio. I have two older brothers and one sister - I'm the youngest. As children we saw the ups and downs of the music business first hand, so they didn't have to ‘warn’ us about anything! Every one of us can sing…but I'm the only one taking it all the way!”
Thus far, “all the way” has included chops-building behind the scenes work singing demos and background vocals for top-flight songwriter/producers such as Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and the team of Soulshock & Karlin. Her extensive credits include singing on Christina Aguilera’s My Kind of Christmas album and accompanying singer Jon B on his Cool Relax tour (which included promotional stops on Soul Train and Motown Live). She sang on the best-selling soundtrack of the Disney TV movie High School Musical and provides the singing voice of the characters “Sasha” and “Jade” on the Saturday morning cartoon The Bratz. “I guess you can say I’ve been a busy lil’ studio rat,” she laughs! Now the time has arrived for Dionyza to step into the limelight as an artist in her own right. “I think I identify most with Janet Jackson,” she muses. “She comes from a musical family, dances, sings, performs and writes. And I love the way she matured over the years.” Recalling her own musical development, Dionyza continues, “I've known I could sing since I was 4…Mom was always singing to me. I was really shy, but music brought me out of my shell. I actually loved dancing more than singing as a kid. I was heavy into hip hop dance on my school’s drill team and cheerleading squads. And after school…I was sneaking out to hip hop battles!”
Her creative energies began to shift during Dionyza’s fateful junior year at Grant High School. “There was a Martin Luther King Day assembly,” she begins. “I was in choir and the teacher asked me to lead a Negro Spiritual, so I sang ‘Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.’ I didn’t think anything of it but later between classes, two girls stopped me to tell me how moved they were by my singing. I’d made them cry. That's when I knew I had something.” Dionyza started writing poetry at 12 and wrote her first song at 17: "You'll Be Running Back to Me.”
Not surprisingly, it was among family that she made her first tentative steps as a performer. “My brother Michael (Jr.) is a talented songwriter, too,” she shares. “My dad suggested that we start performing together as Mike & Dionyza. At one showcase, we got the attention of Sony Music Publishing. Later, I showcased alone and Deirdre O’Hara signed me to an artist development deal as a writer and artist. I was the only female R&B act they had at the time. They started pairing me with people like Larry Henley who wrote the county-pop classic ‘Wind Beneath My Wings.’ I didn’t understand it at the time but she was grooming me to be flexible in all genres.”
What Dionyza has ultimately become is a well-rounded creative artist of the highest order – a distinction in keeping with the classical literary character from whom she received her name. “I was named after ‘Dionyza from William Shakespeare's play Paraclese. The proper pronunciation is ‘die-uhn-eye-zuh’ but my mom wanted to make it a little different, so she chose to pronounce it ‘dee-ohn-juh.’” Either way you say it, it’s a mouthful that was sometimes tough to live with. “From first grade to now, it's gotten me a lot of attention,” Dionyza laughs. “I got compliments, but it also gave me so much trouble. I'd have to correct the teacher on spelling and pronunciation. I didn't like it at first. Then I realized no one else has this name and I should rethink my feelings. So I read the play and found that ‘Dionyza’ is a strong independent woman - the wife of the town mayor who comes to her for decisions to make. I was feelin’ that!”
Which brings us to Dionyza’s self-titled debut. She has wisely chosen to collaborate with several different writers and to not write everything herself. “I feed off of other writers’ energies,” she states. One intriguing example of her writing approach can be found on “I Told Myself,” which she co-wrote with Robbie Nevil (a one-time artist who focuses more on songwriting now). Describing the organic way in which the song came about, Dionyza says, “Robbie asked me, ‘What are you going through right now?’ I told him I was seeing a guy but I thought he was going to be a dog/player. I told myself to stop hanging out with him. I told myself I need to let him go. Robbie said, ‘That's it - I Told Myself - we've got a hook!’" What makes this song even more special is the music track. Back in the `70s, Motown vocal quartet The Originals recorded one of Michael & Brenda Sutton’s songs titled “Sunrise.” That song was sampled by producer Kanye West for rappers Scarface & Jay-Z’s “Guess Who’s Back” (2002). Bringing the song full circle back to family, Dionyza has sampled Kanye’s flip of the track for “I Told Myself.”
Along with several other original songs, Dionyza shows her allegiance to classic soul with a beautiful remake of Deniece Williams' 1980 hit "Silly." “Over the years I’ve constantly been told I sound like to people,’ Dionyza shares, “Niecy for tone and Randy Crawford for vibrato. I hear ‘Silly’ all the time on radio oldies shows. I decided to redo it for today’s generation.”
Now standing on the verge of “all the way,” Dionyza says the most important thing she learned from Mom and Dad was never give up. “They remind me that I'm already at a place where a lot of people are still trying to get. Sometimes I just want to stay in the background. It’s satisfying enough sometimes just hearing another singer's voice on a track that I wrote. Sometimes I don't want to deal with the politics of the business. Then I’ll go to a great show and want to jump on stage, grab the mic and go! On stage or in the studio, I think I just love bringing songs to life.”