The Soulful Songstress
BY MAIJA JOHNSON - MAY 19, 2023
Tonya Boyd-Cannon is a singer-songwriter and international recording artist who has made it her life's work to promote mental health awareness and healing through music. Her experience with mental illness and the transformative power of music has inspired her to help others discover the healing potential of music therapy. In this story, we'll explore Tonya's life and the importance of healing through music in the context of mental health awareness.
“I was born into music,” says Tonya Boyd-Cannon.
Cannon has come a long way since her days singing in the church in Mississippi and Louisiana. Her journey in music has taken her from the national spotlight of NBC's The Voice to the soulful stages of the New Orleans Jazz Festival. She has poured her heart and soul into multiple albums and singles, captivating audiences with her powerful voice and soulful lyrics. Even as her career reaches new heights, she continues to perform on big and small stages, sharing her gift of music with the world.
Cannon hails from Jackson, Mississippi, where she grew up in a musical family. As a child, music surrounded her, particularly in the church, where her father serves as a pastor. Her mother was a recording artist and singer. After many years in Jackson, her family relocated to Greenville, Mississippi, where Tonya spent the rest of her formative years.
Tonya Boyd-Cannon has navigated a long and complex journey through mental health and music, recognizing the vital role that a healthy mindset played in her life. Music had always been present for her growing up in Mississippi, but the level of that understanding changed when she moved to New Orleans. During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, she fully grasped the significance of mental health in her life. Before the hurricane, she struggled with sadness and stress and sometimes resorted to harmful behaviors.
In 2001, Tonya suffered the loss of her first child, leading to depression. Music provided a much-needed healing space for her, but further trauma was on the horizon. She gave birth to two more children before Hurricane Katrina landed, unleashing a new level of devastation that affected her in ways she couldn't fully comprehend. The hurricane resulted in sleepless nights and prolonged periods of not eating. It wasn't until she wrote a song inspired by an episode of Boondocks that she realized the extent of her depression and began to focus on healing through nature.
Boyd-Cannon knows the importance of building momentum in her music career. "If you build this momentum," she says, "You better make sure that the record coming behind it fulfills those adrenaline levels of excitement."
Boyd-Cannon values authenticity and staying true to herself in each song she releases. "As a musician, it's like a sport. You have to carry your instruments and use every part of your body to release those notes into the air!” she says. Her dedication to her craft is evident in the notebooks she keeps at home, filled with lyrics that date all the way back to Hurricane Katrina and before. Though she has yet to share some of these songs, Tonya patiently awaits the perfect moment to unveil her lyrics.
"Music is powerful," says Boyd-Cannon. "And it has helped me through some of the toughest moments of my life. I know I wouldn't be where I am today without it."
Tonya's story is a testament to the healing power of music and the resilience of the human spirit. Her journey from struggling with mental health to becoming a singer-songwriter has inspired countless others to pursue healing.
To learn more about Tonya and her work, follow her on social media and join her in spreading awareness about the importance of healing through music.