From Singing Backup for Madonna to Touching Hearts with Healing Music, Donna De Lory Has Found Her Voice
Donna De Lory performed as a backup singer and dancer with some of the world’s top musical artists for decades before she resolved to find her own voice, inspired by yoga, meditation, Nature, and becoming a mother. With a fusion of pop sounds, devotional lyrics and mantras, Donna’s latest album is “Here in Heaven.” We spoke with her about the courage to live and sing as her most authentic self.
Parvati Magazine: You worked with legendary artists for years. Are there any particular memories or qualities that strongly influenced “Here in Heaven”?
Donna De Lory: All of the artists that I worked with—Madonna, Bette Midler, Carole King, Belinda Carlisle, Leonard Cohen—I was very influenced by their masterful songwriting and production. A lot of those records had layers of vocals, string arrangements and everything. [It] set a high standard. Also, my father, Al De Lory, influenced me as a great musician, arranger and composer. I grew up sitting by his side while he was writing his string arrangements and film scores.
Parvati Magazine: After you started to have solo success with your debut pop album in the 90s, you expressed that you were not happy.
Donna De Lory: Because of the pressures of having to have hits on my first album, I didn’t feel I had time to develop as an artist. I didn’t know myself as a writer yet, I didn’t know my strengths. I had just begun to write songs when recording the album, but the producers picked [the] songs, trying to predict the hits. When I went out on a promo tour, I was performing at dance clubs to remixes I’d never even heard. I felt this isn’t the music I want to be doing. After that, I continued to tour with Madonna. She always taught me that you have to find your own voice and be true to yourself. Even though I got to stand right next to her and be so close to her fame, I had to go and find my own artistry, my own path.
One of those songs that wasn’t picked for my debut album is “I’ll Be There for You,” which I am re-recording now. I first wrote it when I was 25, about living the dream that my Mom couldn’t live as a singer/dancer. She died when I was 16. Now when I sing, “Can you see me now, I’m dancing on the world for you,” it has a new meaning about living a fulfilled life and following my bliss every day.
Parvati Magazine: All your songs are deeply personal. Two on this album centre around your father’s passing. Did you feel a shift after they were complete?
Donna De Lory: Definitely. [I had been] questioning where all my dad’s talent and music went. He had so much knowledge in him. When I recorded “Piano Man,” I felt my dad right next to me and I knew his music was playing through me now.
The other song is “Amor Amor” which I wrote with him many years ago. His original piano part was taken from an old demo when we first wrote the song. I felt, after recording those first songs, that every song on “Here In Heaven” was going to tell a story.
Parvati Magazine: The lyrics of “Heaven” were inspired by an interview you watched of the legendary mythologist Joseph Campbell. What struck you about what he shared?
Donna De Lory: Heaven is here right now. If we don’t get that here, we won’t get it anywhere. All of Joseph Campbell’s wisdom, especially the power of myths, rang true for me. I did not incorporate those teachings in my music at that time. When I started doing world music and devotional music, it was the perfect time to bring them back. The myths, like he talked about, were there to teach us, like guidelines for being human. It satisfied that part of me that was always searching for the truth.
Parvati Magazine: You have said, “I don’t need to worry. I just set my intention, stay focused, and know that it will happen.” How has this mindset helped you?
Donna De Lory: I know more than ever that my purpose is to make music that touches hearts and is of service to others for their healing. I used to be hard on myself that I wasn’t being productive enough. Sometimes I choose to spend more time with my daughters, family, personal retreats in nature to feed mysoul, and it can take longer for projects to get done than I originally planned. I don’t worry about that anymore. I trust that I am on the right path and they will all be realized in time.
A devotional world music singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist, Donna De Lory has drawn from her experience in the singer-songwriter medium for her latest release “Here In Heaven”. Her pop sensibility was honed by two decades of touring as Madonna’s back-up singer and dancer and growing up with her Grammy-winning father, pianist and producer Al De Lory.