La Doña in San Francisco, in a Pandemic: ‘I’ve Been Feeling Like Two Very Different Sides of the YOLO Saying’

The Bay Area femmetón singer-songwriter says she’s feeling more excited lately and less apprehensive: “Right now, I’m on the ‘f— it, let’s just do it’ side.”

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.)

You’re in the Bay Area, how are things where you’re at with the fires spreading quickly?

It’s pretty crazy. Some of my family and friends who live closer to the area have had to evacuate but San Francisco, so far, is OK cause it’s still pretty far away. It’s very smoky here and it feels sort of apocalyptic. Fires this big have been happening for the past three years but never this early in the year and this time it came early because of the heat wave and thunderstorms, so that’s the scary part. We all thought we had a little longer to prepare but it’s here now.

What’s changed for you these past few weeks?

I am more productive and definitely working on more projects and new music. I’m going to go into my first production and we’re still figuring out the logistics of that so that’s exciting. It’s a mini documentary — more details on that to come — that I’m going to be part of and I’d have to travel down to L.A. to record the second week of September.

I definitely feel more inspired right now. Since the beginning of the quarantine I’ve been feeling like two very different sides of the YOLO saying. On the one side I’m like, well you only live once so you better do it all now. F— it. And then on the other side, I’m like but I only live once so I have to be careful. Right now, I’m on the “f— it, let’s just do it” side.

What’s the latest on the after school programs we talked about during our last check in? Are you teaching kids virtually?

We don’t have an update on that but we’ve had meetings and, so far, it seems like one of the main issues is that we’re not able to get instruments out to kids ’cause it’s not like we’re just teaching vocals, it really is about arrangements and the orchestration of it. We’re just trying to figure out what kind of instruction can take place.

Last week, your Instagram post hinted at new music. Are you planning on releasing something?

I still want to release the song “Chuparrosa” for Sean Monterrosa. I’m working on the arrangements right now for it so that’s the next song I’d want to put out. You know, I feel like a lot on my own lately like in terms of getting my music done and getting it out. Which is relieving in certain ways because I know how to do it and I’m used to doing it so it’s a lot less stressful. I’m also working on other new music that I’ve been sitting on that I didn’t want to release before but now I’m just like, well, what else can I do?

What is your financial situation like now that we’re five months into the pandemic?

Well now that the CARES Act ended at the end of July, that was definitely stressful for me. At the same time, I’m still working for Pandora and getting an unemployment check from my job at S.F. Jazz so I do have money coming in. I think I’m OK, for now.

Anything else you want to add?

I have a few things coming up. My family and I will be playing for El Tecolote’s 50th anniversary on Aug. 27. El Tecolote is a Latino bilingual newspaper in San Francisco.

In September, I’ll also be engaging in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus where I’m doing a talk on artistry and politics through the lens of standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. So that’s exciting for me because I do consider myself pretty radical. I do struggle with participating in like large-scale politics because well it’s a s— show but it feels good to have a space to present my ideas and engage with politics in a way that feels authentic.


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