La Doña in San Francisco, in a Pandemic: 'I've Analyzed What Type of Risks I'm Willing to Take'

La Doña
Thalia Gochez

La Doña

After two months apart, the Bay-Area femmetón singer-songwriter reunited with her family in a social-distancing gathering and had her first group rehearsal since shelter-in-place orders went into effect. 

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.)

What's changed for you over the past week?

A few things. I'm settling back into our house after spending some days down in L.A. I got a COVID-19 test over the weekend and got the results back. I tested negative so I feel way more open to being out and doing ground work. We were also able to get a group rehearsal in. It was four of us and I asked everyone to have a song they wanted to work on and we started working on a couple of different songs. It was fun to start working like with a full band again. Also, I had my parents over at my house. We had a social distancing gathering in my backyard and it was the first time they had visited since all of this started two months ago. My family has been super strict about not being in contact with anyone and the separation does take an emotional and spiritual toll on you. Over the past few weeks, I've analyzed what type of risks I'm ready and willing to take and what will they look like and do them in a responsible way.

These weren't like huge things that happened over the week but it feels monumental.

Were you doing some sort of volunteer work earlier today?

My partner and I volunteered for the first time with Mission Meals and Carnaval San Francisco to be part of their food distribution this morning. It felt good to be active and involved with what they're doing. The lines were probably like three or four blocks long with people waiting to get their bag. I believe we distributed around 500 bags of food.

I saw you had a virtual jam session with your dad...

I had been feeling like really sad because playing with my family is something I do all the time and not to be able to do that for a couple of months has been really heartbreaking and I know that it was hard for them as well. My dad has been using the Acapella app to send me songs and I was finally able to sit down with my partner and try to record a cover of "Nada Soy" [by Los Kipus] with my dad via the app. Even tho it is still virtual, it almost felt like we were in the same room playing together and it did feel like we were able to share energy on that piece and so it was very special. Especially because my dad went on tour with me last year and that's also when I met my boyfriend and it took me back to those moments when we were on tour and spending time together.

Have you received the money from Theatre Bay Area's performing arts workers relief grant you got approved for? I know you were waiting on that to buy new equipment.

I did, actually. It was super quick. I got it like the next day. I also received my federal stimulus check. So, now that I have a couple of grand, I am able to make progress on making that purchase happen. I've been talking to my producer about what new equipment I should get.

How’s life in San Francisco right now? 

San Francisco for me is very community oriented and very close and so that's why the first few weeks of the pandemic were so scary because there was an environment of fear and people were more individualistic oriented. Whenever there's something happening in our community, we organize and come together. So, not be able to do that was hard on a lot of people. Since we entered phase two, it does feel a lot more relaxed and people are still being really good about wearing masks. More people are willing and excited to start volunteering again and do some ground work. All the volunteers today seemed in good spirits and it was mostly all the people that typically volunteer for Carnaval San Francisco or are part of the parade that are now packing bags of food. It's impressive to see how we can still use all of our collective energy wherever it's needed.

Anything else you want to add?

I know I mentioned my sister and nephew's performance last week but I'll be part of this week's performance along with them and my parents. Again, we used the Acapella app to finish writing a song that my sister started writing when she was four years old. It's about healthy eating habits sung in Spanish and English. You know we're just trying to get this knowledge and art to our kids in San Francisco even if we're all struggling. We're all trying to do our best and be collaborative. (Minute mark 34:30)

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