I met Doe Paoro recently at a SofarLA concert in Culver City. The room was so crowded that I stood literally right next to her as she sang –any closer and I would have been dodging her elbows. Turns out that was a great place to be because I got the full range of her impressive voice and clearly heard every word of her magical lyrics. As a songwriter and vocalist, Doe Paoro moves easily across genres and creates new ones on the fly. Her 2012 debut album Slow to Love was influenced by her study of Tibetan folk opera. Her follow up album, After, as she puts it, “built an entire world with the sonics alone.” Her videos, “Walking Backward” and “Born Whole” are visual enchantment. Paoro has travelled the world by herself, studied in India, moved from Brooklyn to LA, released her first album at the age of 15 and at one point, quit music altogether. Fortunately for us, she is back in front of the microphone and the video camera making stunning music and exquisite images. I was able to talk with her about her music, her move to LA and her plans for a new album in the Fall.
Patrick: I have to confess that I did not know your music until I sat next to you at Sofar-LA and listened to you create an alternative reality inside of a music agency office. I am now a very big fan. Each of your songs is different, yet they are unmistakably yours. The song “Born Whole” makes me think of nights at a meditation center. You create a feel of nothingness as a frame for loss. Did that derive from your study of Tibetan folk opera?
Doe. Yes. Part of Tibetan folk opera training is access to these otherworldly sounds I have never heard in the west. I wrote that song as soon as I got back to the States. I was also doing 10-day meditation retreats, so I was definitely empty in terms of the nothingness aspect.
Patrick. the lines, “we born whole, we become half/drumming through her soul as she plucks out the lemon grass”. “Born whole and aging to half” resonates with me, but lemon grass – that’s a key ingredient in southeast Asian cooking. Does it stand for something, or am I being too literal.
Doe: No, you are not too literal. The song was inspired by a woman I met while I was in one of the meditation centers. She was Cambodia and had lost her husband. She told me her story about losing him when she was pregnant and then she had a child. She said she felt like half a person and she would go to this river every day and pray for him to be alive and come back. When she said “half a person”, it really struck me.
Patrick. Much of your music is about loss. But “Hypotheticals” is about not worrying about loss. It is what I would call intelligent pop: it has beat, it has hooks, it has builds and bridges , but it is very thought provoking in its lyrics: guess there’s peace in cause and effect… well aware that nothing lasts forever, hard not to take it personal. Where did that song come from?
Doe. It is a collection of experiences and I am asking how do I make sense of my regret. There is karma, and sometimes that is the only answer and sometimes every action has a reaction and you can’t take that personal.
Patrick. Do you ever go on tour?
Doe. I do tour and I will be on tour this fall for this next record coming out this fall. and I usually tour in a four-piece band- a synth, bass, and drums and me on vocals.
Patrick. Tell me about the new record due out this fall.
Doe. I produced the record over the past year with my friend from Bonny Bear, Sean Kerry. It was created in Wisconsin over three seasons Fall, Winter and Spring and the seasonality of that part of the world is very present in the album. The album will be called After, and will include some previous songs. I will post updates on my website so people can keep up with our progress and knew when the album is ready to release.
Patrick. you have travelled a great deal by most standards. And you have moved from your home in Brooklyn – which you moved to from your hometown Syracuse – to LA. Some people would call your travelling wanderlust. I wonder though – are you looking for a home – or is home inside of you no matter where you are?
Doe. I think home is within myself and my songs. And this is a good medication for me – to be able to find home wherever I go.
Patrick. Where does the lament and loss and tragedy in your songs come from?
Doe. I think many songwriters have this problem that many of their inspirations come from those moments of loss because those are the most vulnerable times where you can’t escape yourself and you have to make something that is true. This is an interesting complex.
Patrick. When you meditate, do you hear music?
Doe. No, when I meditate I try to shut everything off because I hear music all the time. I feel like I need those pauses, those disconnections to get connections. With those silences I can channel a deeper sound.
Patrick. In the song and video “Walking Backwards” you sing I can’t find no eyes to lock with mine/no way we could thrive when the city is dying/dogs bark in tunnels/the shadows have gone to sleep. This is about a city, but you are in one of the most alive cities in the world now. Is the move to LA transformative?
Doe. One can only hope. I feel a stronger connection to nature here in California, especially the ocean. When I was in New York, I felt that nature was really hurting thee. I was wlaking along the river and seeing twirling patterns in the water. This song is about New York and these twirling patterns in the river and how I thought this is really out of balance.
Patrick. In the song “See Me Now” you ask the question What is Joy if is Joy alone?. Did you lose someone close to you is that the inspiration for that song?
Doe. Yes. This is a very personal song for me. For sure. I meditate on that question. I want to be a complete person outside of having anyone else, but we are all human and we love others
Patrick. What is your songwriting process?
Doe. I always come to songwriting with a question or a concept or an inspiration. In that song, I heard someone on a train in NY who was homeless and he was saying that he was totally alone but he has so much love to give. Sometimes I will be sleeping and wake up with a melody and record it on my phone,
Patrick. Thank you being with us today. People can follow you on Facebook and on your website, doepaoro.com.
Doe. Thank you, Patrick.
Patrick O’Heffernan. Host, Music FridayLive!
Doe’s music is available at
http://doepaoro.com/ and Soundcloud