La Doña in San Francisco, in a Pandemic: 'It Feels Good to Have Autonomy'

La Doña
Thalia Gochez

La Doña

"I feel very hopeful and excited about the prospect of working with a label or a company that can service a diverse project like mine."

Emerging Mexican-American femmetón singer-songwriter La Doña's new album, Algo Nuevo, dropped March 2020 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 have been 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.)

Has anything changed for you in the past few weeks?

Well, after dropping my new song "Setas y Ceros" in April and filming a new music video for my upcoming single, I parted ways with my distributor. Since then, I’ve been meeting and talking with different labels and potential managers. At first it was really scary because I had high hopes for where I was at but now I feel very hopeful and excited about the prospect of working with a label or a company that can service a diverse project like mine. Everything is just pretty much wide open at this point.

Is that why you paused the release of your new ranchera song that was supposed to drop earlier this month?

Yeah, I’m going to wait until I find a new home just because it is very special to me since it's my first regional Mexican track. I want to give it the roll out that it deserves but if I find that it’s taking too long to negotiate then I’ll just put it out on my own. I want to get on with it and release music that I care about and put music out for the fans.

This situation with your distributor is happening just as everything seems to start opening again with in-person concerts and festivals being announced for the summer/fall. How does that make you feel? 

I needed everything in place because I wanted to release my material so that I can start performing it for these festivals coming up. I can’t really be doing negotiations and interviews and doing meetings like these when I’m in the middle of also planning performances. It's just bad timing.

But even then you're still booking shows. You have your first in-person show coming up at the Outloud Raising Voices Fest in L.A. next month. 

Yes and it's super exciting. You know performance is the part of this industry that I actually do love and value so much. I think that it’s going to be a short set and I’ll be able to bring out my friend San Cha for a duet because it is for PRIDE so I want to support and represent queer brown folks in the best way that I can. Despite everything that's going on, I'm inspired by having to embark on this journey again and talk to labels and see who might be the best fit. This time around, I know it’s completely my choice and it’s not that I have a manager who is encouraging me to go in one direction. This is all my choice so it feels good to have autonomy.

What are some lessons learned from having to navigate this on your own at this stage in the pandemic?

There’s a couple of big lessons learned. I've learned that while you’re creating your time don’t rush it and don’t rush into certain situations. It’s something that I’ve known but I’ve had to come back to learning in the past couple of weeks. And I have to constantly remind myself that I have the juice. I’m the one with the music and with the ear so I don’t need to sell myself short. Of course I need help on this journey but I don’t need to rush into anything that isn’t right for me. I can always say this isn’t working and find a different way. Considering that I work with integrity and work really hard.