(Global Heart | Esther Haasnoot) “Gone beyond” by following her bliss. An interview with Donna De Lory about her new album.
Mantra Melody Queen DONNA DE LORY Releases GONE BEYOND
“Faced with the fears and uncertainties of pandemic isolation, De Lory found solace in her voice—her constant companion from even before she began singing professionally at age eight. Recording vocal tracks in her home studio became a daily practice for her, a type of meditation in its own right. And while singers typically layer their voices over an instrumental backing, De Lory decided to take a different approach for Gone Beyond—basing the music in the spontaneous truth of her daily vocal improvisations, jettisoning time signatures, click tracks, chord charts, and all the usual apparatus of music production. Sacred mantras and heartfelt lyrical themes began to emerge spontaneously as Donna built sparkling edifices of layered vocals.”
An Interview with Donna De Lory about her new album: “Gone Beyond”, by Esther Haasnoot
Esther Haasnoot: Donna, you worked as a backing singer for Madonna through the 90s. You’ve probably answered this one a million times already but can you share your memory of what it was like meeting Madonna for the first time? In what ways was this a pivotal point in your life?
Donna de Lory: I was at an open call audition with every other singer in Los Angeles trying to get a spot on the tour as a backing vocalist/dancer. When I saw Madonna walk in the rehearsal studio, she didn’t look as I had expected. She had so much style with her short haircut, John Lennon styled glasses, and wearing a tailored suit. We were asked to come down from the balcony of the rehearsal room where we had been waiting to be called and sing with her in groups of 3. I had been working with the musical director, Pat Leonard so he suggested that just Madonna and I sing together the bridge to “La Isla Bonita.” Our voices blended perfectly and she even stopped the band and turned around because she thought that I wasn’t singing. Pat said that our voices had an amazing blend together. I knew this because I had sung along with all of her records on the radio and knew that we had a similar sound to our voices. It was so great to see a woman my size with so much power and running the show. She has been a great role model to me in so many ways.
Esther Haasnoot: In 1990, you recorded the song “Always Thinking of You” for the film Three Men and a Little Lady. Debuted as a solo artist in 1993 with a self-titled album on MCA/Universal Records, hitting #1 in Japan with the single, “Praying for Love,” and landing in the US top 10 dance chart with “Just a Dream.” Later, your adventurous spirit was pulling you in other directions—deep into world music and the spiritual life. What is the main difference between your musical ambitions then, during the time with Madonna, and now?
Donna de Lory: In the late 1980s, I was really driven by a dream of being extremely successful and being a big star like Madonna and other singers who were popular at the time. This was part of the culture that I grew up in, being around my father who was a successful musician and Grammy-winning producer. Now I realize that it is the soul of music that has always been in my heart, and I don’t need to put so many conditions on it to be an artist. The act of creating is a journey in itself and so satisfying to me now. I also realize the true gift I have been given with my voice as a healing instrument.
I feel inspired more than ever to help other people sing, heal, and bring them closer to their heart’s desires and ultimately to their own truth.
Esther Haasnoot: Your newest and gorgeous “Gone Beyond” album was produced during last year’s lockdown in your own home studio. You took a different approach while composing and writing. How were you inspired to create this album? Share a little about the genesis of this album.
Donna de Lory: I always wanted to make a meditation album that can take people to a transcendent place in their consciousness. I wanted to layer my vocal textures and have them be able to disappear into the landscape of the music. I experienced so much healing and bliss while recording. Recording every day became my meditation and breathing practice. On so many of my albums, I usually add many musicians; this album was so much more simple with the production so that more of my energy and my heart is embodied in the music.
Esther Haanoot: Your bio says: “You are an artist who never stops innovating and re-inventing herself stylistically while staying true to her heart-centered message and her dedication to the highest standards of musical craftsmanship.” How do you stay true to your inner voice and keep the clearest vision of creating a healthy and vibrant world?
Donna de Lory: I envision the best for everyone and believe that there is always a creative solution to difficult situations. I see music bringing people together to understand one another by practicing deep listening. When the stars align, I can imagine offering opening vocals at the United Nations along with other like–minded world musicians to play positive healing music and a guided meditation for the world leaders to meet. An invocation such as this could be so beneficial to set one intention, wanting what is best for all.
I have experienced firsthand how healing sounds can break down barriers, help people drop into their hearts, and guide them to hear the voices of their souls.
Esther Haasnoot:You have a track on the Gone Beyond album called the “Forgiveness Prayer.”Ho’oponopono is an ancient Hawaiian practice for forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s more than the prayer alone. The philosophy behind this practice is that we’re each responsible for what shows up in our reality. That means we own our feelings and our experiences. The essence of this practice is unity: an unbreakable bond connects you to everyone else, even though we seem so separate. The Ho’oponopono’s mantra works through the intentional repetition of four powerful phrases, they are:
Please forgive me.
I love you.
Experiencing and exercising acceptance and forgiveness means choosing to see absolute perfection and beauty in all manifestations of reality. You wrote the Forgiveness Prayer based on this mantra. What were some of the most important challenges you had to overcome, and lessons that you learned, on your musical or personal journey, that you like to share with us?
Donna de Lory: When I first started to record, I thought of my father and how sorry I was that I wasn’t able to do more for him before he passed. I was really the only family member taking care of him and I had two small children to take care of, as well as a busy travel schedule. I know in so many ways that I did my best by moving him to Los Angeles and visiting him as much as I could as well as having him in my home in Hospice where he made his transition in my arms. I was so close to my Dad and I had so much compassion for him suffering from dementia. Then I began to think of others from my past and present and I realized that forgiveness is a daily practice in every moment that helps us ultimately forgive ourselves.
Esther Haasnoot: If there is complete and meaningful forgiveness and acceptance of absolutely everything, then there’s nothing to judge, nothing to discriminate against, nothing to condemn, nothing to criticize, nothing to label, nothing to defend, etc. After this realization is experienced, what is left is the feeling of inner peace and ecstatic bliss. Everything simply is. Bliss is a part of our essential nature. You encourage others to “follow their bliss.” What does this mean to you?
Donna de Lory: I know that when I am making music and singing that this is my bliss, as I am 100% in the moment and free from thoughts. I thankfully had this feeling since I was a child~it is something that you feel in every cell of your body that brings you the most inspiration, love, and joy. I encourage others to breathe into this feeling of their own bliss; no matter what it is and to not judge it or put so many conditions on it (like this has to be my career or I have to have a certain amount of success doing this).
Esther Haasnoot: Donna, you formed the band Bliss together with cellist Cameron Stone in 1997. The name Bliss came from the saying “follow your bliss” which is from one of your favorite authors, Joseph Campbell. Bliss is a part of our essential nature. Joseph Campbell, a famous teacher of mythology, described bliss: “If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.” When did you start doing what you are most passionate about, and how did you find your bliss?
Donna de Lory: I was 8 years old when I had my first singing job which was for a radio commercial. I joined a professional youth singing group and we studied in workshops to read music as well as to perform. I remember riding to school on the bus and one of my commercials that I sang as a solo would come on the radio. It made me feel good about myself when my friends would say, “Listen, that’s Donna singing”! It was amazing to know that I was good at something at such a young age. I was blessed to grow up in the business around artists and I shared that passion with my father who was a great musician. When I was on tour with Madonna and reading “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell, I read his words about following your bliss. I knew that this is something that I was so fortunate to have found at such a young age and knew that I needed to keep making music to follow my soul’s calling.
Esther Haasnoot: The first song on your new album is called“So Hum / Breathing In.” According to many Vedic scholars, the So Hum is a phrase comprised of two Sanskrit words. The literal translations are:
The translation of So Hum is “I Am That.” This mantra symbolizes that we are all connected to the universal energy, which continually nourishes and supports us. It is of the same concept of “oneness,”of being one with the Universe, and all that is. What is your hope and wisdom for this world we live in?
Donna de Lory: I love this mantra because it is so simple yet brings such calm and peacefulness to me when I sing it. I also added the English words in this song, “may we all ascend to know the truth”. I hope that humanity can unite and wake up in every moment to the miracle of this life while we are here. To realize that we all need the same things. To know that we hold the potential to take care of each other, our planet and all living beings and find ways to resolve our conflicts out of deep respect and gratitude for the miracle of life itself.
Esther Haasnoot: ‘Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life, bringing peace and abolishing strife.’ – Kahlil Gibran. Music can transcend nationalistic, religious, racial, and cultural divides to the oneness of humanity. Another beautiful song on your album is the mantra “AsatomaSadgamaya.”
Lead me from the untruth to the Truth.
Lead me from darkness to light.
Lead me from death to immortality.
Om Peace PeacePeace.
Do you see music as a path to love, wisdom, and peace?
Donna de Lory: Absolutely. It is the language of the soul. We are moved by the vibration of music from different cultures when we don’t even understand the words. It transcends language, culture, time, and space. What inspires me every day is to continue to create conscious music that has the infinite power to heal.
ABOUT DONNA DE LORY
Donna De Lory is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, and producer whose artistry spans the world music, devotional and pop genres. Her voice has graced recordings by Bette Midler, Carly Simon, Leonard Cohen, Selena, Belinda Carlisle, and many others. Between 1987 and 2006, De Lory crisscrossed the globe many times as a touring back-up vocalist and dancer for Madonna.
De Lory made her debut as a solo artist in 1993 with a self-titled MCA/Universal album that yielded top 10 hits in both the US and Japan. She has subsequently emerged as a premier artist in the world devotional/yoga music genre. Her most recent album, Gone Beyond, is her 17th solo recording to date. She is an artist who never stops innovating and re-inventing herself stylistically while staying true to her heart-centered message and her dedication to the highest standards of musical craftsmanship. For more information or to connect with Donna De Lory: Website, Facebook, Spotify, YouTube, Amazon.