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 receiving the first installment of unemployment federal assistance. To get the unemployment check, do you have to call every week? What’s that process like?
Apparently, the system is so overwhelmed that they’re not requiring people to claim each week. I know in the past you had to call every week to report any new income. When I initially applied, they asked for a list of employers and how much you make. And, if you’re currently employed, what kind of work you do and how much you’re making at your current job. When I got approved, they sent me a debit card and it automatically loads so it’s gotten loaded at least two times now.
There are a few states opening again while California is entering phase two on Friday. How does that make you feel?
It makes me feel hopeful. I’ve trusted [Gov.] Newsom’s guidance and so that makes me think that the biggest threat has passed. Although, it definitely doesn’t make me want to do all the things I used to do nor do I think that will happen any time soon but it definitely gives me hope and I feel less fearful. Maybe I can get to see my family soon.
Have you thought about where or when your first live show would be?
I really haven’t and I stop myself from going down that road because there are so many uncertainties. But, I think once concerts resume, they will be small, private and intimate which is really not ideal for me. I mean, I’m used to that because I’ve played at private parties before but I’m not wild about that because I play dance music and playing smaller shows doesn’t let me so I don’t get to rile people up as much I’d want to or have that experience of a 10,000-person audience.
Because we don’t have a timetable for when concerts would resume, are you warming up to monetizing live at-home performances?
I have thought about it and I do think that it’s in my future but I feel guilty asking people for money right now because I know that nobody is in the greatest financial situation. That’s something that I feel sensitive about but I definitely think that it’s going to be a big thing for me. I actually found out this week that I got a grant I applied for. It’s the Theatre Bay Area’s performing arts workers relief fund and I’m going to invest the $750 I received into some equipment to actually have that capability of doing a better live session.
I know you’ve been working on new music. What’s been that process like?
I’ve started working on music on my own and also have been writing music with my partner and we’re going to track some music today which is nice because he plays a lot of different instruments. It’s been interesting. The situation is overwhelming and I feel dumb and sad because I can only write about coronavirus and think is there going to be a wave with a whole generation of music that is only about coronavirus so I try to not to get too entrenched in those themes. I mean I’m inspired and I have a lot to say but it’s all the same about missing your loved ones, being scared or being angry. So, I just think, ‘Is this really what I want to be writing about?’