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La Doña in San Francisco, in a Pandemic: I’m Opening Up ‘to the Idea of Touring Abroad’

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 the previous installment here and see the full series here.)

How’s your 2021 been so far? Any drastic change from when we last spoke?

I’ve been working on music and recording. I’m feeling pretty good because I have enough stuff that I really love and I’m vibing with to put out another EP. Before it wasn’t even on my horizon. I wasn’t feeling good about anything and I was just feeling pretty grumpy.

And another big change is that I bought a house in Oakland. I have a lot of family in Fruitvale, so, close enough. I get the keys on Feb. 1. It’s a crazy time to feel like celebrating something but I do feel really happy.

What changed in order for you to feel confident enough to think about putting out an EP?

My partner has been so instrumental in keeping my mental health together. Honestly, last year I would tell him stuff like, “Shit, I haven’t done anything while all these other people are doing video shoots, hitting the studio, and doing photo shoots.” But I just wasn’t prepared to do that. And he was like, “You just released an EP, you can let that EP do its work and you don’t need to be putting out an EP like every single month.” And that was really hard for me to hear because I’m an overachiever. So, he really helped me a lot to try to calm down and I feel like as soon as I accepted that and understood that I didn’t need to feel pressure to put something out there, I kind of felt more open to creating again. I felt way more inspired to reach out to people I have been wanting to work with or revisit stuff I had already been working on. That shift in perspective changed a lot for me.

Do you have a timeline of when you’d be releasing new music?

I love to release music on my birthday! I’m thinking that I could release a song around the beginning of March. And then an EP would follow the single shortly after that.

I know you’ve been wearing many hats lately, managing your career, creating music, teaching virtual music classes, so what will be your go-to strategy for this new year especially now that you’re ready to drop music?

My strategy used to be to do a little bit of everything every single day but now that I’m teaching four different programs at four different schools and working full time for Pandora and self-managing and writing, I realize that I can’t switch lanes that quickly. So, now I’m just like blocking out different days for different things. I teach Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and I do most of my analysis work on Tuesday and Thursday, and these are the days I also try to work on new music. That’s pretty much my time management strategy.

As far as a rollout strategy, I don’t really have a huge plan because I would release things when I was going on tour or have big gigs coming up but that’s not in the picture anymore so I can really just do whatever I want. I can look at it as a lack of structure or I can look at it as just having way more freedom – I’m trying to think about it in that way.

Have you visualized what your grand return to the stage would look like?

You know what, I have dreams probably like two or three times a week where I’m in a venue and nobody is wearing a mask or I forgot my mask or there are way too many people. In terms of an optimal return, I really am looking forward to doing something outside, like a festival. But honestly just based on how f–ked the U.S. is because of the pandemic; I think that there will be more opportunities for performances abroad before there are here. I’ve been trying to open up myself to the idea of touring abroad first.

Do you see these opportunities in Europe or Latin America?

Yeah. I think probably Europe or even Asian countries. Seems like most countries are doing a little bit better than we are.

Did you get the $600 stimulus check yet?

I actually haven’t received it. I don’t know where it is but I hope I get it soon. I had some money saved from teaching because I know that once I would start touring, I’d need to be flexible since I wouldn’t be making as much money for a little bit. But as soon as the pandemic hit, I was like, “Hell no,” so I just started taking all the work I possibly could. And so now with the house, I want it to be this place of refuge where I can be safe and creative but I also have to be making hella money. I’ll just be non-stop working and hoping some performance opportunities come my way that are well paid and worth it.

Do you have any livestreams coming up?

On Feb. 3 I’m doing a virtual conversation and a short live performance at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. I’m excited about that. It’ll be moderated by Rio Yañez, the son of a really prolific artist from the Bay Area named René Yañez. It’ll be an interesting conversation.

Finally, as the new Biden-Harris administration takes office are you feeling any type of emotion or what’s going through your mind?

I’m looking at this as more of a sigh of relief that the Trump administration is saying goodbye instead of a celebration of Biden and Harris coming in. I don’t have high expectations but I am looking forward to the Keystone Pipeline getting shut down, the closure of all detention centers, raising the minimum wage and another couple of items Biden said he would be addressing. I remember when Obama was elected the first time, I was just crying because I felt so much relief at Obama being elected, although now I look back and think that presidency was horrible too. I don’t think I will ever feel like that again about an inauguration because of the way that democracy stands.

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