La Doña in San Francisco, in a Pandemic: ‘The Industry Is Hanging by a Thread’

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Emerging Mexican-American femmetón singer-songwriter La Doña’s new album, Algo Nuevo, dropped March 12 via Human Re Sources just as the coronavirus pandemic intensified in the U.S. Concerts, festivals and other large gatherings across the country were canceled, including her planned South by Southwest debut, interrupting her early career momentum.

As part of Billboard’s efforts to best cover the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts on the music industry, we will be regularly speaking with La Doña — whose real name is Cecilia Cassandra Peña-Govea – to chronicle her experience throughout the crisis. (Read the previous installment here and see the full series here.)

It’s been a while since we last spoke, any major life update?

Not really. Well I guess the “biggest” update would be that I’m self-managed now. I’ve been on my own for a few months. So, I’ve been super busy doing my own thing, managing any new gigs the come up. It’s as if there is more responsibility on me because I feel like the industry is adjusting to the livestreams and we’re realizing that we’ll be doing much of that for the next few months, so I’ll have to navigate through logistics, COVID-19 precautions all on my own.

You don’t have a manager anymore but do you still have an agent?

Well I just started working with [Devin Landau] again a little over a month ago after he co-launched TBA, which does take a load off in terms of just keeping track of everything. I reached out to him after I stopped working with my manager and looped him in on everything I had been up to these past few weeks. But my distributor (Human Re Sources) still doesn’t have any A&Rs, so I don’t really have a project manager over there. Without a manager or a project manager, it’s really up to me now what I make of my career. Which is fine but difficult at the same time because I don’t have the same drive to put out new music as I did when I was touring and doing live shows.

And what are some lessons learned from being in that situation early on in your career?

Well growing up in a family band taught me many lessons early on, but I do think that because the industry is hanging by a thread. Because of COVID-19, I’ve realized that there is no security in any area in that industry. So you just gotta have security in your own creative process. That was something I knew going into music but it was very abruptly demonstrated during COVID-19.

You released your a new single for the first time this year earlier this month titled “Chuparrosa,” what’s the response you saw from fans and how have you felt since?

I’ve felt really proud but the day it was released, my partner’s mother died, so it’s been a lot. But going back to “Chuparrosa,” it was like releasing a collective grief we’ve all been feeling because of all the lost we’ve experienced. After releasing it, people have been sharing their stories with me saying they felt a connection.

“Chuparrosa” was also proof that you can put out whatever you want because as artists you get questioned so much about what your image is going to be, who you’re going to collaborate with but at the end of the day, you’re the artist and it felt good to release something I truly wanted to release.

You weren’t doing many performances at the beginning of the pandemic but you’ve been doing a lot more lately. Why did you start saying yes to these livestreams?

I think because there is way more support for livestreams. Before it was like, ‘can you self-produce this video for $50?’ and I was like, “I definitely cannot.” Now that these livestreams are more established and people who are producing them are more experienced and have clear rules, better budgets and know the restrictions that need to be put in place, I feel comfortable doing them once in a while. With time, one eventually adjust to the times.

What can we expect from you for the rest of the year? Any new music?

Right now I’m just preparing for the beginning of next year and working on a grant through the SF Arts Commission, an individual artist grant which can award up to $20,000. I’d want to use that funding for a project that features Black indigenous Latinx voices, I want to focus on creating something intentional and not just turning out music. I’m preparing to apply for that grant since it’s a pretty extensive process the deadline is Dec. 15. But, as you know, after the Latin Grammys it kind of quiets down for a bit so I’ll just work on this for now and really hit 2021 running.

Any plans for Thanksgiving?

No! I think my family and I are going to do a couple of drop offs and just taking it easy that day. Before I think we were like, “OMG we’re not getting together,” but now I know it’ll be fine. It’s more important for me to know that my family is safe and we can enjoy each other in the future.

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