Doe Paoro Shares Her Healing Ceremony Approach To ‘Divine Surrendering’

[Cover photo credit to Max Wanger]

Doe Paoro has recently released the EP, Divine Surrendering, via Queen of Wands Records, and it’s been a full circle moment for her in many ways since it’s an album she’s always envisioned making, but was waiting for it to find its own time to come about. As a whole, the EP encapsulates a “healing ceremony” approach, with each song playing its part in the process. Doe Paoro has released several albums and singles, but has increasingly been exploring avenues for incorporating healing aspects in her musical work.

For Doe Paoro, also known as Sonia Kreitzer, the EP brings together many deeply personal and significant ideas and also helps reflect her own journey in recent years spending time between Los Angeles and the jungles of Costa Rica in touch with the natural world. Sonically, the EP represents a broad range of compellingly blended traditions, and thematically, the songs work with many universal ideas that audiences might easily relate to their own lives. I spoke with Doe Paoro about the journey into making the EP, the significance of the songs to her life, and why some of the ideas on the EP are so approachable.

‘Divine Surrendering’ EP Art, Credit: Meagan Boyd

Hannah Means-Shannon: When I spoke with you previously, right at the beginning of the pandemic, I know that you were heading in this direction, starting to do sound baths, and wanting to bring more therapeutic ideas into your music. I feel like I can really see that at work in Divine Surrendering. Did you always intend to make a complete collection of songs?

Doe Paoro: It’s definitely intentional in that, for years I’ve been wanting to make this collection of songs, just through my experiences working with music in more ceremonial settings. I think it was about waiting for the right place in my life and waiting for a time where, experientially, I could do these songs justice. I set out to make this collection.

HMS: It feels pretty intentional and I can see relationships between different songs. Do they reflect the time in which they were made as a specific journey for you?

DP: I’m not sure they reflect the time in which they were made, but I do feel that they encapsulate my own journey. “La Luna” is the only song that I didn’t write, and it’s one that I heard during a ayahuasca ceremony many years ago in Peru. Certain lyrics are things that I have been holding onto for years in order to give shape to them. So I think it represents my own spiritual journey.

HMS: I was recently talking with a friend about how things in music can be especially non-linear and pop up at different times. It’s like a plant suddenly sprouting or blooming. Sometimes it’s hard to say when something started or ended.

DP: I’m really resonating with that. That’s definitely how this feels. I think part of my path as an artist is learning this profound sense of patience because of the non-linearity of things. Everything comes in its due time, even the songs that I want to write but haven’t written yet.

HMS: It must be hard not to jump on an idea for a song when it seems to have some significance if it’s not the right time yet. Even if you have good intentions, you could go after things too much.

DP: Totally. As as creating takes proactivity, the paradox is that to create also takes receptivity. A lot of it in my experience. Some of the best creative moments happen when I’m not doing so much, but listening. There’s less pushing, but more allowing things to come through.

HMS: How do you tend to make note of ideas that come through?

DP: One thing I’ve learned to trust is that if a lyric or melody is really meant to be in a song, I’m not going to lose it or forget it. It will keep haunting me. I just kind of know it when I’m in a channeling state.

HMS: Are there ways in which you feel people can become more receptive?

DP: I think so. This might be really informed by my experience being in the music industries in LA and in New York, but in those cities, there’s a sense of having to grind, and do, and push out as many songs and do as much work as you can. I think some of my most productive moments have come when I’ve taken time to take a break. Then, when the pressure is off, you can get outside of the hamster wheel and see what is important. Taking inspirational trips where you’re not working, or meditating, can be important.

HMS: I can definitely relate to that, because I took a trip for the first time in a long time, and just being away revealed to me some things I was unhappy with about overworking. That challenged me to make some changes.

DP: Sometimes you have to feel the gunk to move to the other side of things. Unless you’re willing to address that, you’re still in it. It’s a very American thing to overwork, too. In Europe, they take time! Have you ever tried to get in touch with anyone in the music industry in Europe in the summer? They are off.

Actually, the context of this album is that I was trying to decide whether to go to grad school, or whether I should keep on my music path. One of the people who mentors me suggested I should do a ten day meditation ritual where I meditated twice a day. I wrote out all these big questions and sat meditating. Nothing was coming through at first, but on the seventh day, I had a missed call from my friend Devin [Gati]. He was asking, “I was wondering when you are going to make this medicine record.” I said, “I’m ready to, but I don’t know who’s going to Produce it, and I don’t necessarily have the resources.” But that was it, he Produced it for me. It was pretty mystical.

HMS: Wow! That’s incredible. My second reaction to that story is, “How on earth did you wait seven days for an answer?”

DP: I know from some of my experience doing meditation retreats that you have to give it the full prescription of time.

HMS: What were your first steps with Devin?

DP: Because of how that happened, it felt like a really trusting groundwork was laid. We picked a day to get together and were very intentional and witchy about the whole thing. We got together on Mother’s Day and it was a new moon, which felt really auspicious. I wanted to birth some really loving songs. I was living between Costa Rica and LA during that time, so every time I was back in LA, Devin and I would work for a chunk of time. Then we put it together over about a year.

HMS: How do you see the natural world as part of this EP? I know that in Coast Rica, you spend more time in the natural environment, but I gather that even in LA, being outside can be helpful for you.

DP: Spending time in nature was important to this. I had never been in the jungle before, and then I found myself living in the jungle, on and off for a year. What I found happening was this quite deep, interior unwinding. It was both physical and mental, unlearning a lot of things. I was really observing the way that nature works and the music in nature that happens all the time, a kind of epic, orchestral harmony of organisms singing together.

I could hear the frogs, the cicadas, and the wind. The music is reflecting myself at this particular time when I felt so cracked open, and it also reflects a deeper listening that includes listening to the natural world as seriously as I listen to humans. I’d say there was greater harmony within me from spending time in nature and I think the music is a natural reflecting pool of that.

HMS: It seems like being in nature could have an impact on the way that we think of music and build music because it’s such a tapestry of sound. I notice that when I spend time where my family comes from in the mountains.

DP: That’s true. Part of me is curious whether it’s related to oxygen, too. I noticed years ago when I was in India, studying Tibetan Opera singing in the Himalayas, that my voice was so much lighter up there. It was like I was tapped into a different frequently. I started thinking about drum and bass, and how denser vibrations of music usually comes from places that are more at sea-level.

HMS: Did you notice anything about your vocal approach on this collection in terms of the natural world?

DP: I notice that when I listen to it, I feel like I was pushing a lot less, and allowing more for my natural voice to just be.

HMS: There’s a big range in the vocals, and I thought it was really great what a range of vocal traditions you include on the EP. I liked the permeability of that. Was it hard for you to allow your vocals to draw on so many traditions?

DP: Yes, but going back to the natural world, it’s the great integrator where everything co-exists and has its place. I think, with this collection of songs, I was feeling more integrated as a human, and a natural byproduct of that was the songs reflecting the many different types of music that I’ve been exposed to and studied.

HMS: Has creating this album helped you bring together your own musical journey?

DP: Definitely, and if I know anything about my musical journey so far, it’s that it continues to change with every album. [Laughs] Who knows what it’ll be next? But this was definitely something that I needed to make for myself to honor the sacred experiences that I’ve had and the role that music has played in my life.

HMS: I noticed that when you released the single, “All My Life Is a Ceremony”, you said online that it was hard for you to do that because it was sacred to you. Is that true of the EP generally?

DP: I really struggle with giving up control and how private and precious the creative process. I knew the life experiences that it took to bring those songs through, then as an independent artist, to bring them form, and find the resources, make the time, and put everything together. When you share these songs, they either resonate or they don’t, and that’s the hard part. As a creative person, you carry all these things inside you. The last part is setting it free, and realizing, “It’s no longer mine to hold alone.”

HMS: I’m guessing that the song order on the EP is pretty significant as a kind of process for audiences, and it starts with “All My Life Is A Ceremony”, which I know has older lyrics.

DP: I knew that whenever I got around to writing this album, that song would have to be key one. The lyric actually came from an elder friend of mine, who I was city in ceremony with years ago. She was saying this exact thing, “I’m realizing that every moment of my life is a ceremony, and that we’re here to learn. This is a constant initiation in Earth-school. It’s beautiful, it’s sad. It’s all of it.” It really struck me. I didn’t need to write it down, I just knew that I was going to carry it like an amulet until I find the right shape for it.

HMS: Was it an idea that helped you in life to refer back to?

DP: Definitely. I can’t even remember how I thought about things beforehand, but it’s a framework I use all the time. Whatever is happening in a given moment, I try to zoom out of a good-bad dichotomy and realize that it’s all for my growth.

HMS: The following song, “Phases” is one that feels relatable wherever you might be in life. It has multiple vocal lines, which adds to the idea of multiplicity, too. That’s a great correspondence.

DP: “Correspondence” is a good word for it because I think of this song as a kind of dialog between me, and the moon, and the cosmos, really, asking those larger questions. It does feel that way. This one took me back to one of the songs I ever wrote for Doe Paoro, which is called “Born Whole”. That was another time in my life when I was feeling unbound by typical song structure. This song is like that, it doesn’t follow any tradition. It has that mantra quality at the end.

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