Ghost in a Melody: An Interview with Doe Paoro

Interview, Main Navigation, Media, Music Business, Press

“Doe Paoro” represents a few compromised myths about women.

This is explained to me during an interview the artist herself. I am meeting her at a coffee and sandwich shop in Midtown Manhattan, and am greeted with bright eyes and a warm smile. Following the success of her single, ‘Can’t Leave You’, and joining the SXSW Music Festival, I am excited to learn what is coming up for the artist.

Photo Credit: Emily Ullrich

Farah Joan Fard: What was your musical background before going overseas?

Doe Paoro: It was very DIY…if you listened to the music I did before, it was very different. So I was pulling from that, [with blues]. After traveling, it was about not imitating…creating something from my experience, and melding the blues from before.

FJF: Hearing your track, “Can’t Leave You” brought me to a specific place and time…and then more so when I saw the video. I read an interview later about the development of the song, and was impressed by how well you drove a specific combination of memory and emotion into that piece. You did an incredible job at pinpointing a personal event. Nothing else had really hit that chord for me, aside from Bon Iver’s ‘For Emma’. How did you compose it? The sound really moves it in a certain direction.

DP: I had been so out of touch with culture. When I had traveled I had never even heard of Justin Vernon.

She explains that her brother introduced her to the album after she had returned from traveling and studying Tibetan folk opera. Listening to Bon Iver’s songs, she had never felt so absorbed by anything. She went to the woods to write and record and tried what (Vernon) had conveyed by manipulating her voice.

FJF: Do you find Western music to be lacking something that is in Eastern music? Rhythms or scales?

DP: It’s a really good question. I think there is, and I don’t know what it is exactly. I felt I was unlocking something in me, something both primal and ethereal…and a spiritual element to a certain extent. There are so many aspects…something in it I can’t capture from what I’d known before. What’s fascinating about the voice, too, is that we all have it. (They) are using the same thing I have in such a different way!

FJF: I know you’ve been described as ‘Ghost Soul’, and I definitely hear some soul in your vocals. I also looked at some older videos of you singing. I like that you’ve created your own sound from various musical genres. Can you elaborate?

DP: I’ve always loved soul music. Growing up close to my grandparents in the Bronx, hearing Billie Holiday. I was getting to a point with my old band…I was feeling most inspired when getting into a melancholia. I was coming to a crossroads, there was not enough to express and I couldn’t push any further.

She elaborates that when she left the Unites States, she originally did so to study yoga in India. She then dropped out and traveled and eventually studied Lhamo, Tibetan folk opera. When she returned she was introduced to artists like Justin Vernon and James Blake. She began writing and recording, layering the sounds and vocals.

DP: It was haunting to me…it was haunting me. It was about attachment–that lingering, that eternity.

FJF: How did SXSW come about? This is so exciting!

DP: We just recently booked our tickets! When I applied, I didn’t even have a video out. One of the planners wrote…that he didn’t have the final say but that he liked our stuff. We got the acceptance letter after playing at Pianos.

FJF: And how long have you been in New York?

DP: I’m from upstate New York, and came back in August. Total over-sensory. I’d been doing so much meditation and yoga, feeling on a different level. I couldn’t stop writing.

FJF: So I read you were in Egypt during the protests. How did you end up there?

DP: I didn’t mean to. I had planned four stops on my trip: Israel, India, Egypt, Greece. It was just the timing. I’d pre-booked the flight from India to Egypt. I got in two days after (the protests) had started.

She goes on about how everything started to shut down.

DP: I went back to Israel, I flew out of there. All these revolutions at the same time, all this change. I got out at the last moment I probably could have. It made me think of the positive aspects and the power of the people and the power of change. The scale of the revolution in Cairo made that apparent.

FJF: Why did you decide to come back to the US, and when?

DP: I came back when I was out of money, and I had only planned to be in India. Everything was serendipitous…coming back to New York, too.

FJF: And then you posted your song to Youtube and…

DP: Yeah, the universe is really working for me. I was just inspired by how much you can accomplish via the web. I posted this song to see if anyone wanted to work on it with me. I called my friend, Uri, to see if he wanted to work on it. He and I had waited tables at the same restaurant. We thought we should get someone to mix it.

This led to getting in touch with Lasse Marten, producer, and inquiring about rates. Eventually an agent wrote back. The Youtube video of Doe Paoro’s solo performance of “Can’t Leave You” had caught their attention. He wrote back personally, said he loved it and would work on it.

By the end of the interview we are chatting about various topics, but then return to her newest single, “Born Whole”, and more upcoming videos. When asked about her songs being released, she replies, “I gave the songs for free, because so many people gave to it”.

The other musicians involved in the collaboration are Uri Hart on cello, Adam Rhodes on keys, and Sean Hutchinson on drums and programming.

You can now listen to “Born Whole” here. I can definitely hear more Lhamo/soul fusion on this track-it’s all in good balance. It includes vocal twists and turns, droning bass notes and electro-percussion driving it home.

The album release party for the entire album, Slow to Love, is on February 14, at Glasslands Gallery in Brooklyn and I am itching to hear more. Tickets for the release party can be found at this site.

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