Schenay Mosley's Powerful Vulnerability

 Photos by Michael Salisbury

Photos by Michael Salisbury

Schenay Mosley’s music balances the space between our most honest selves and our most manicured. Over the past two years, she’s slowly released songs fusing classic R&B with futuristic production. Her output and experience is built on a foundation of education from a young age, allowing her to detach from the tools of production and focus on emotion and experiences. The tracks are delicately powerful,  and she’s ready to let people into her sonic structures. 

Schenay comes from a rich musical background. Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Schenay reveres her city's musical history. She talks about Zapp & Roger and The Ohio Players as being groups from the area she admires, and the space between these two artists reflects some of her sound. The Ohio Players and their full-on funk explosion and Zapp & Roger’s synthesized croons were forward thinking, yet anchored in skill and tradition. Schenay’s music doesn’t sound like a Computer Love Rollercoaster, but those attitudes and techniques are the bedrock she built upon.

Curious about the art of production, Schenay began experimenting with computer software around the age of 12. Reflecting on her first forays into production, she laughs looking back at how “Whenever my cousin would leave the house, I would sneak in and make some shitty-ass beats.” Yet as she kept practicing, her cousin noticed fast improvements.    

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Schenay took these self-taught talents to the next level through deep training and formal education. She attended an art-focused high-school where she majored in choir and piano. She moved to Chicago, to attend Columbia College where her focus shifted to music business, journalism, and PR, three critical pillars of a popular artist’s career. Armed and ready, she entered the local scene first as part of the lauded all-woman group, Highness Collective.
Highness Collective was a supergroup in its own right, a rare amalgamation that was short-lived. Schenay herself felt the difficulties of finding consensus among 5 talented artists. Like the other members, Schenay worked on solo material and, after the group’s ended, knew it was time to get serious about defining her own unique style. “At first, I was like ‘what is my sound?’ It was the band’s sound and not mine. So I kind of had to figure out who I was.”

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Despite her wealth of experience and education, Schenay considers herself introverted, still hesitant to give her original music broader exposure. She doesn’t get nervous performing or working with other musicians, but she finds it challenging to present music that comes from a personal place. “I’ve always had a problem with shyness. To this day I’ll be so shy to share music. Since I create from a place of it being my world, sometimes it feels really vulnerable.”

That vulnerability is what has, ultimately, defined what makes her music special. She writes contemplative ballads that are deeply personal. She doesn’t rely on her full bodied production and gorgeous voice, but she turns inward to maintain authenticity and relatability. Her music brings the listener in with its universality, but is peppered with subtle notes and changes that create a place for them to explore. On the track ‘Fall’, she begins with just a piano and voice, showcasing her oldest skills. The track builds as banging, low drums wash in and delicately arranged snares provide a base for her gorgeous voice and electronic detailing. It’s relatable, emotional, and entertaining. 

The video for ‘Fall’, premiering today on These Days, is a visual uncasing that shows her overcoming vulnerability. It begins focused on her, projecting power in a chair and surrounded by three women making coordinated movements. It cuts to her in a bathtub, filled with purple water, the regal color magnifying her feminine energy. A shift occurs when she arrives at home and undresses, undoing her hair and removing her makeup. She sits in front of her keyboard and computer and starts singing to herself, likely showing the exact state her songs are conceived in. She takes a look at the camera for a second, giving the impression that it’s just you and her in the room listening. It’s poignant and effective, playing at the polarities of the presentation of the song vs the conception of a song. She's revealing herself in strength and vulnerability, and Chicago should greet her with open arms.