La Doña in San Francisco, in a Pandemic: 'I Feel Totally Reborn'

La Doña
Thalia Gochez

La Doña

"Most of all, I'm enjoying just being able to get together with my band without fear anymore."

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?

I got the second dose of the vaccine so this coming week I’ll be two weeks out and fully vaccinated. Which means that I'm slowly starting to rehearse with my band again and looking into some outdoor summer/fall festival offers. Looks like things are getting popping again.

And you released a new song on Friday (April 9) titled "Setas y Ceros." What inspired it?

I went for an old-school bachata guitar style and after my producer sent me the beat, the rest just came to me. Superficially, it’s about making money and doing mushrooms but the message behind it is an exploration of how we function under capitalism. How do you spend your money? How do you rationalize still working in such a violent and crooked system? And then how do you heal from that and what kind of medicine do you use? It’s how I feel on the daily. I work hard and I save but it’ll never be enough. Although I’ve completed my main goal in life, which was to buy a house, I’m still working multiple jobs and 60-plus-hour weeks, juggling so much. When does that ever end?

It's the first single of the year and it follows a tribute song for Sean Monterrosa, who was killed by police on June 2 in the Bay Area, "Chuparrosa." Why did you feel like this was the moment to drop new music?

I feel like totally reborn right now. Especially with the rollout of the vaccine and new playing opportunities but most of all, enjoying just being able to get together with my band without fear anymore. I'm feeling that collaborative spirit again and feeling just like this yoke of hopelessness lift off my neck. I asked myself, why should I release music now? What is it good for? And realized that if it makes one person feel better, my job is done. And, if I have all this music then I might as well start releasing it.

In terms of your marketing and promotion strategy, how does dropping a new song at this moment compare to dropping a song pre-COVID?

When you drop new music you want to tour it. That’s obviously out of the picture. I can’t really tour or accompany it with a big merchandise roll out either so that’s the biggest difference for me. It’s going to be pretty strange. I’m going to try and give different type of live renditions of the song so I’m attempting to promote it that way.

Most of California is in the orange tier of the state's reopening framework, does that impact you at all as a performing artist?

I honestly haven’t booked anything indoors yet. So, it doesn’t mean anything to me directly. Probably the closest impact it will have will be on my teaching job. I haven’t been called into the classroom yet but most of my teacher friends are now doing hybrid learning which is really intense. So, I’m still waiting to hear if I’ll be going back to the classroom before summer and if so, what that will look like.

Do you have anything special planned for the release of "Setas y Ceros"?

Well I'll actually be on set shooting a music video for my upcoming releases that will be out in May, just in time for Cinco de Mayo since it'll be the first time I'm singing regional Mexican music. But I'll try to do something special for the "Setas y Ceros," maybe a livestream of some sort.

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