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 time we spoke, you mentioned you had applied for grants. Have you heard back?
I heard back from them and I didn’t get any of the grants I had applied for. I specifically applied for the performing arts worker relief fund from the Theater Bay Area and the SF artists relief fund from the Center for Cultural Innovation. I don’t really know why I wasn’t picked and they didn’t give me an explanation. They literally said that because there were too many applicants, they couldn’t provide any feedback.
Have you received your federal stimulus check?
I haven’t been able to file my 2019 taxes because of the whole quarantine which means I probably won’t get the stimulus check any time soon. I’m in a sort of catch 22 situation because, sure, I can file them now but I’ll probably owe more than the stimulus check would give me in the first place because I’m an independent contractor. If I do it, I’ll be more broke. Although, I did get my first unemployment check and it feels good to have a little bit of a safety net. I applied for unemployment the last week of March so it took a month to receive the first check. The process to apply for unemployment was definitely pretty hard to navigate not so much because of the information that is required but the site was super hard to follow.
[Editor’s note: U.S. citizens do not need to file 2019 taxes to receive a stimulus check; they are still in the process of being distributed.]
Have you spoken to other artists to ask how they’re staying afloat?
I have spoken to a few and I think a lot of people are really struggling. I know some that have received grants and others haven’t, but I think a lot of artists I know are looking for ways to have concerts online. It seems like that’s the way to go right now.
Has anything made you feel hopeful since we spoke last week?
I had a productive conversation with my manager last week and she’s been telling me to look at the big picture and see what we can do. There seems to be a big emphasis on live stream/online stuff and we’re hoping we can work on some collaborations with other artists. So, I feel hopeful and excited that I can start making music with other people. In times of great discomfort, a lot of beautiful art does come out of it. I’m excited for myself. Also, I don’t feel that added pressure of, “Will this be a banger? Is this going to be a summer hit?” This time will definitely allow me to explore kind of the esoteric music interest of mine and that’s exciting.
How are the accordion lessons going?
It’s going well. My dad is actually popping on YouTube because he’s making tutorials for me that I can watch from home and they’ve been super helpful. Currently, I’m learning how to play “La Piedrera.” I’m getting the hang of it, so that makes me happy, and I was able to write some music that really like a couple of days ago.