The path of the artist and the path of yoga are often intertwined as a result of yoga’s boundless capacity to inspire creativity and awakening in those who dive unabashedly into its depths. Donna De Lory’s musical path has traversed the music industry’s sometimes treacherous landscapes, from touring with Madonna to pursuing a solo pop music career. The unexpected twists and turns of life’s path led Donna to a spiritual and artistic awakening that altered the direction of her art and has made her a favorite among the growing group of musical artists who have embraced yoga, chant, and kirtan.
Shiva for YOGI TIMES: I would love to start with a spontaneous chronology of songs that have pierced your heart from when you were a wee one, through your teens, your days on the road up to your first Kirtan.
Donna De lory: There is so much music that I have connected with in my life. The first musical memory is the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper coming from my older sister’s bedroom. My father played music on the piano all the time when I was a child, and I always listened to the records he produced and played on like the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations. The first mantra I recall connecting to was George Harrison’s, “My Sweet Lord.” Other influences from my childhood through high school were: Carole King, Linda Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac, Earth, Wind and Fire, Average White Band and The Police. After moving to Nashville at sixteen, my passion for rootsy country music introduced me to Patsy Cline and Hank Williams along with the soul singers, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and Janis Joplin.
When I was twenty-one, I began working with Madonna. My major influences at that time were U2, Kate Bush, Robbie Robertson and my number one favorite artist, Peter Gabriel. His world music influences on “So” inspired me in so many ways. My travels around the world also exposed me to different sounds and instrumentation than I was used to hearing in pop music.
I chanted for the first time at the Hanuman Temple in Taos. Later I joined Dave Stringer and his ensemble and found that I personally connected with many of the mantras. The first night I chanted Ganapati Om with Dave at his house in the Hollywood Hills was a deeply moving experience.
Shiva: For those of us who are kind of tone-deaf, love to sing but often forget to, what is it like to live a life oriented to sound? How does that change your experience of your body, your belly, heart, and throat?
Donna De Lory: Singing is a huge release for me, it opens me up, helps me to let go and feel more love present in everything. I am in bliss when I am singing. It is really the key to my own happiness and the healing of my body and soul. I love to sing during savasana after practicing yoga. I am so in touch with my breath and I can feel the river of sound resonate every inch of my body.
Shiva: I am always fascinated with the artist’s evolving journey. How did yours unfold from singing with Madonna to your own music and kirtan?
Donna De Lory: The combination of touring, world music, my interest in mythology and my spiritual awakening in Taos all led me to where I am now. Also working with cellist Cameron Stone (starting in 1994). My music became more open and ethereal and I was writing about my own spiritual experiences. I always felt I needed to keep that part of me separate and hidden. All songs are mantras, and if you are chanting something negative and small-minded, then you will stay in that place, saying it over and over. After I made “Bliss,” I saw that my music was lifting people up and opening them to feel more love, unity, and forgiveness. Recording “In the Glow” and “The Lover & The Beloved” has put me in touch with a greater purpose and sharing my gifts.
Shiva: What is your experience of nada yoga – the yoga of sound?
Donna De Lory: It puts me more in touch with listening to the rhythm of my breath. I am honored to make music that people can practice to.
Shiva: How do you connect to bhakti yoga in the LA experience?
Donna De Lory: I find every teacher and yoga center to be different. Some are more physical and some have more emphasis on the spiritual, devotional. I enjoy it all and I learn something from every teacher.
Shiva: What is your experience of the yoga of parenting as an artist?
Donna De Lory: When I was pregnant, I spoke to my dad about how I would find the time and energy to create and be an artist after having a child. My father told me that it would make me a better artist with more depth, experience and more to give. He was right: being a parent has developed in me more compassion than I could have ever imagined feeling. I am so thankful for this life and the new life I have created. I want to sing that out to the world!
Shiva: What are you passionate about? How do you rekindle your fire?
Donna De Lory: Whole living, connecting with my family, healing through music and growing our own food. I rekindle my fire when I dive into the river or ocean; also by hiking in the mountains.
Shiva: What makes you laugh, howl?
Donna De Lory: My daughter Sofia. Every day she is revealing more of her personality, becoming more of herself. She loves to make me laugh.
Shiva: What energy, deity do you feel the strongest through kirtan?
Donna De Lory: The Divine Mother, all of her names. I am always praying to that energy to embody more love and compassion, to identify more with nature, to feel her great strength and enduring power.
Shiva: What is your karma yoga?
Donna De Lory: Whenever I can use my gift to support causes, I do.
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