Well on his Way: Baring the Soul of Chavar Dontae

Listen Up Toledo  |  09/05/2012

Chavar Dontae is no stranger to the local Toledo scene. In fact, he’s not even quite a stranger on the national scene either. A product of our little rust belt area, Chavar travelled to L.A. for a stint where he honed his songwriting skills and used his time reflecting back on home and life to write and record an EP titled, indiesoulrocknroll: about a girl from westland. The writing came with a fresh approach to style, incorporating inspiration from artists as varied as Jimi Hendrix, Prince, MGMT, and Cee-Lo Green, and began to include elements of pop, electronic, and, of course, indie, soul, and rock n’ roll. The result is a fresh, breathy, yet complicated and contemplative six-track record that evokes a look at both an artist exploring new territory and one looking deep inside to do the too rare work of sorting one’s self out.

The result of the work was a stand-out single, “On My Way,” for which Chavar filmed a video with director Nathan Elias and actress Stephanie Wandtke. Videos for independent artists aren’t as common as they should be, and that fact is proven through the success of “On My Way.” Within months of its release, the video racked up acclaim in print and online from the likes of The Blade, Afro-Punk, MUZU.TV, Clich? Magazine, Film Slate Magazine ? along with many more ?  and saw acceptance to the 2012 Texas Film Festival. (Scroll down to view the video below).

After a few years of hard work, writing, recording, and marketing ? doing most of it himself ? and playing a few sparse local shows, Chavar Dontae is preparing to celebrate his recent successes in a big way with an upcoming solo show at Mickey Finn’s. In light of the success of “On My Way,” the EP, and the show, we caught up with Chavar for a quick chat to talk about the what, why, and how of it all. Read on below.

Chavar Dontae plays Mickey Finn’s (602 Lagrange St.) on Thursday, September 6. Bassel & The Supernaturals open. 9 p.m $5. www.innovationconcerts.com   www.chavardontaerocks.com 


This is the first kind of big Chavar Dontae headlining performance in Toledo in quite some time, why now?
So many things have been happening for me recently it felt like the right time. The “On My Way” short film/music video was officially released July 22 and “On My Way (acoustic)” was released September 4th, along with the electronic version being released later this month.  It also gave me an opportunity to help out fellow musicians from Chicago [Bassel & The Supernaturals].  


“On my Way” has received some really nice press and awards over the past year. Which of the mentions and/or awards, etc. mean the most to you?
All of them are special but there are a few that really stand out. Cliche Magazine because it was the first, MUZU.TV which is huge in Europe, Complex Media Network, the WTOL broadcast, MRU, Afro-Punk, and Toledo.com was the first in this region to cover it, that is really special. There have been a lot mentions, but they are all special to me. The radio and all of the blogs as well. And definitely being reviewed Rouge Cinema, the Making Of On My Way by Film Slate Magazine and being accepted as a Texas Film Festival Official selection


A lot of people probably don't realize how hard you work for your career, doing the old school hustle of shuffling fliers and posters around, talking to people individually to get them to come to shows, etc. In your opinion, is this something lacking in the new scene?  How inter-twined are the hustle and the music?
All my role models in music and in business were not above working hard to reach their goals. Managing my own destiny has always been important to me. I feel like it's easy to fall into the trap of the digital realm and thinking that it replaces the old school grind. That digital-only hustle does not work if you're playing outside of your home town. Besides, I like getting out and meeting people. The hustle and the music totally go hand-in-hand. Having a product worth hustling for is important though, because it requires so much energy. It's about 90 percent business/hustle and 10 percent music but it's worth all of the hard work to connect with people.


The EP, indiesoulrocknroll, is a tight but grand little concept album. It is apparent that there is a lot being addressed here, a lot personally and emotionally, but to me the thing that comes across most is this record is about Chavar finding Chavar, both topically in the songs and in the sound, style and craft. Is that accurate? From going into this record to coming out of it and even enjoying some of its successes, do you feel like its kind of a gateway record for you? Or, is it more of an opus? I guess, is the door opening or closing here?
You are absolutely correct. indiesoulrocknroll:about a girl from westland was written all over the country and is part of the old me (“new day”), transition (“one more try”), finding my voice and the direction I'm moving in (“smile”), (“don't leave” and “on my way”). The bonus versions that will be released on vinyl as well, “On My Way (acoustic)” and “On My Way (Star Signal Remix)” give some hints about where I'm going. It's a gateway record in many ways. I'm on this journey, on my way, and this record is a snapshot of my journey.   


Lastly, we all deal with them, what do you have to say to "the haters?"


Anything else coming up you want people to know about?
People have the chance to get “On My Way” played on 92.5 KISS for sure if they call in and request it. Same with Star 105.5 and the acoustic version on 89X. These stations are having me on live and/or playing my music. I'm really hoping Toledo area people harass the stations until they put in rotation. I’m just trying to take the noise I'm making to the next level and having the support of your hometown is key. The same way Cleveland supports Cudi and MGK. Or the same way Detroit supported the White Stripes and Big Sean. The people just need to hear it and they will get behind it.