La Doña in San Francisco, in a Pandemic: 'I Have to Be More Innovative'

La Doña
Thalia Gochez

La Doña

With the shelter-in-place order entering its second month in California, the Bay-Area femmetón singer-songwriter is forced to reevaluate her collaborations.

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 speaking with La Doña -- whose real name is Cecilia Cassandra Peña-Govea -- each week to chronicle her experience throughout the crisis. (Read last week's installment here and see the full series here.)

Last week, you mentioned you were writing new music with your partner. I saw on Instagram that you were recording too. Any new songs born from that jam session that could potentially be released? 

Yeah, definitely. It’s really interesting to work with him because we have very different musical backgrounds and very different styles but we’re both flexible and trained so it feels really fun to make music with him. We’re working on some new stuff and working on learning other types of songs. It’s been refreshing too.

We're now entering nearly two months of the lock down. Is there anything from your 'normal' life that you miss the most?

I miss playing, performing, that was my favorite part of the life of an artist. Being able to share my music with people in person. I also lived a very active lifestyle so I miss my students [from the after-school mariachi program where she teaches them how to play instruments], there’s no more residencies, after school programs so I don’t get to see my kids. I also definitely miss partying with my friends.

What's the next big show you're missing because of the pandemic?

After South by Southwest, the next big thing for me was going to be at the end of this month and that was San Francisco’s Carnaval, which would have taken place May 23-24. That's been canceled as well. Right now, I would have been preparing for that show. It’s like really the most lit weekend in San Francisco with a big parade and everything. There's also a music festival so they invite different bands and have multiple stages. Huge bands come out to play, all the local bands and then they hire bigger names like once they had Los Tigres del Norte. It’s a big community event and this year, I was going to sing on the main stage and that’s what I was most excited about this year.

Do you think the way you work or approach collaborations will change after all of this?

It has to. In the past, most of my inspiration comes from collaborating with other people and just being out so it’s definitely challenged me to draw inspiration from other things. I also think about collaborations in a different way because I can’t physically get together with many people to play music. It’s also made me focus on the people that I can play music with. So, on Friday we’re going to be reconfiguring my household situations to be able to play with my partner and I'll see what kind of sound we can get with our instruments. I have to be more innovative and flexible.

Financially, how are you holding up?

I feel pretty good. Besides rent and food, I don’t have too many bills right now because obviously I’m not traveling so I'm good.

What's cheering you up these days? 

My sister and her son singing an original composition on a weekly program they do for kids in the San Francisco Unified School District. [Watch it below at minute mark 1:08.]