Singer-songwriter Doe Paoro joined Whitney Moore for our Tower Livestream show on Instagram to talk about her time in quarantine and where her musical direction might be heading after 2018’s LP Soft Power, which she recorded at Abbey Road in the UK.
Doe Paoro laughed that asking people how you are is a “loaded question” these days and this whole period of time is making us “question” the script of what we’re used to.
What would it be like to answer that question honestly? So big! Both Moore and Doe Paoro are in the LA area and have had some fairly crazy times. Paoro has found it “reflective”, but it’s very much one day at a time.
What has been bringing her joy every day, and what good and bad habits has she noticed, Moore asked. Paoro said that she’s been very grateful for the “small things” and on the whole, getting to be “slow” has been an important experience for her. It’s been a “checkpoint” for her, teaching her not to “indulge in usual distractions”. It’s helped her “get clear” on what’s important to her.
Paoro has been working on music, and though she thought this would be a creative time, coping with things has also taken “creative energy”. The first month and a half was “heavy” for her and hard to create.
Paoro feels like the pandemic creates a “no excuses” experience for her, so she’s been learning to color her own hair and is picking up new instruments to work with. Moore agreed that “little things add up” and we should take pride in the things we’ve managed to learn to do during this time to be more “self-sufficient”.
Talking about her new song, “Universe Promises”, Paoro said she was “moved” to write it because she was at a place where things were falling apart in her life. Her “default” would usually have been to produce a sorrowful song, but instead she felt “curiosity” for what was coming next. She was aware that falling apart is sometimes necessary, and she felt “faith in a bigger plan”. The “mysteries” of life draw you to things and keep you looking for more. The song was written before COVID, but it seems so relevant now, Moore observed.
Looking at Paoro’s song library, Moore asked whether Paoro is a person who tends to listen to or create music to affirm their mood or to change their mood? As a listener, Paoro is definitely an “affirmer” who listen to music that can let her “wallow” in her sadness. With writing music, though, she feels that it’s changing. She’s able to “zoom out” a little and ask, “How do I want to see this?” Moore is also a “wallower and affirmer” herself, she laughed.
Everything that is happening now is so “big” that it’s hard to find words to write about it. Paoro is not at a loss for words but feels she doesn’t know the words for this time. She asked a friend, who is a producer, about what people are writing about in quarantine and he said that people don’t want to hear about politics in music right now. Doe Paoro does not agree with that at all, and she’s trying to write in a way that addresses her times right now. Moore agreed that there’s always a place for political commentary, but it is important to be “gentle” on yourself in a hard time and decide what you’re ready to say.
Is there an unfair pressure on artists right now to be creating because their voice is needed, Moore asked? Paoro said that our current culture demands immediate responses on social media, but that’s not always the way our “brains process”. There needs to be “space for silence” and we need to allow for us to both speak and listen.
Moore observed that Paoro’s music is very lyric-based, and Paoro said that the length of time for song creation is different every time for her. John Mayer has a Berklee talk about the fact that songs are not built on previous songs. Writing a hit one day does not mean that you’ll write a hit the next day. One of her best songs took 15 minutes and some songs have taken years, Paoro confessed. Sometimes Paoro “punishes” herself a little bit forcing herself to work on songs, but in the last few years, she’s allowed herself to do other things if the song isn’t “coming” to her.
Moore noticed that Paoro has a “spirit of experimentation” in genres and methods of recording and asked what she’d still like to try. Paoro said that “every time” it changes for her, and she follows what she’s attracted by. She’s jealous of songwriters who can focus in more, but something orchestral would really interest her. She’d like to do an album of “healing songs” and create “instrumentations” that bring peace to people.
Moore asked about Doe Paoro’s use of singing bowls and mantras, and Paoro explained that she’s gotten really into “sound healing” in recent years. The short version is that she’s always been interested in healing work and has been leading a “dual life”, going on retreats, traveling, and studying with teachers about healing, as well as working in the music industry. Eventually, she felt it was too hard to keep them apart, and that “suppression” was “problematic” for her.
Moore asked about how Paoro may merge them to create a unified life. Paoro said that she definitely wants to merge them, but she hasn’t come across anyone in recent years who is merging “spirituality” and music in a way that is authentic to her. Maybe Alice Coltrane went that way, Paoro said, and some of the Lilith Fair women of the 90s like Natalie Merchant. She’s trying to “figure it out” at the moment.
What songs has she been listening to lately, Paoro said “Gracias a la Vita” by Violetta Parra has been playing all year for her.
Paoro collaborated with Misty Boyce on “The Clearing” and Paoro had seen her perform at “The Standard” in West Hollywood. Paoro performs there a lot and also goes there a lot and was really moved by Misty’s performance. They spoke after the show and started writing together to create the song.
Livestreaming is new to Paoro, but she recently did a benefit for the people of the Amazon Rainforest. She’s “figuring it out” like everyone else and enjoys it when viewers comment on the videos. She’s learning how to feel a “connection” with video work, and the comments really help, to be able to respond to fans.
Asked if she has a personal matra, Doe Paoro says, “This too shall pass”. Which may be obvious, but it’s from her grandmother, and really works.
What does Paoro think about this idea of “returning to normal” since people seem divided about that? She thinks it’s a “delusion” to think we can go back to normal, and the people who will “win” this time are those who will “adapt” most easily, like a Darwinist approach. If the structure of the world, and the way we were living were solid, it would not have crumbled so fast, Paoro observed. Society has been “unnormal”, disconnected, and “psychically unwell”, and so this is an opportunity to change, Paoro said.
Paoro finds astrology interesting, and accurately guessed that Moore was probably a Cancer. What Paoro likes about astrology is that it gives her a sense of comfort in the idea that some things are meant to happen. It’s a “story” that she finds “helpful”, and that’s her take on it. She feels we are connected to other planets and astrology can help, even just with knowing other peoples’ signs.
Asked about Tower Records’ motto, “No Music, No Life” and what it might mean to her, she said, “If the music stops, the life force stops. To be alive is to be creative and excited. Music is our collective joy and our collective grief. As long as we have music, we’re doing ok.”
Doe Paoro’s message to fans is that she wants to give people hope, like through her new song. As bad as things are, there will always be “more joy” and we need to have some “trust” in that. “Time is not just linear.” Even if it feels horrible for you, something “amazing” might happen tomorrow.