HERE IN HEAVEN
Here in Heaven is more than just the most recent album from much-loved singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Donna De Lory. It is a grand summation of her musical life and journey thus far—one that has encompassed everything from touring the world with Madonna as a backing vocalist and dancer, to enrapturing audiences at yoga music festivals like Bhakti Fest and Wanderlust with her infinitely expressive, breathtakingly beautiful voice.
It all comes together on Here in Heaven. Over the course of nine resplendently realized tracks, De Lory weaves myriad strands of world music, contemporary pop, sacred sounds and introspective songcraft into one mesmerizing musical experience. It is her most personal, autobiographical record to date, and also the most musically ambitious.
“I wanted to tell a story with every song,” she says. “Having gone deeply into sacred world music in the past, I now feel like I should place more emphasis on songwriting and arranging. When I sit down to play music every morning, this is what’s coming out more and more.”
Donna references her background in world devotional music on the album’s title track, “Heaven,” and refers to it as “an invocation.” The meditative drone of an Indian harmonium and esraj draws the listener in. Sinuous strings weave hypnotically throughout the sonic fabric in a graceful dance with De Lory’s gorgeously layered vocals. Electronic pulses and arpeggios are like a gentle heartbeat.
The lyrics reflect on a quotation by the late scholar of mythology Joseph Campbell, that Heaven is always present—right here, right now. “For me, there’s a sense that everything is timeless,” Donna says. “In this moment, everything is happening.”
And in the songs that follow, she brings her past into the present, with heartfelt, well-crafted songs ruminating on her parents, her daughters, Sofia and Luciana, her beautiful, mountaintop home in Southern California’s idyllic Topanga Canyon and the wealth of musical styles and inspirations she has absorbed.
It’s been quite a journey. De Lory grew up in a musical family. Her grandfather was a musician in the Warner Brothers Studio orchestra, working on films like Casablanca and Gone with the Wind. Her father, pianist Al De Lory, was a member of the legendary “Wrecking Crew,” Phil Spector’s house band and a producer/arranger who crafted Glen Campbell hits like “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman.” It wasn’t long before Donna began singing professionally herself.
“I started singing as a child,” she says. “That’s when I first knew I had a talent for singing. I was eight years old and I would sing along with Fleetwood Mac records. I knew I had a voice, and I could sing harmonies with the records.”
The song “Go Talk To Mary” reflects on the death of Donna’s mother—a difficult life passage that occurred when the singer was just 16. Donna first recorded the song for her 2001 album Bliss; but she reinvents it on Here in Heaven with a wistfully glorious string quartet arrangement.
Donna recalls playing the song for Bette Midler—one of the many artists with whom she’s recorded—in 2002. “It was in Manhattan,” she says, “in a penthouse over Central Park. We sat down in her home and I played it on the piano for her and she was crying. She just said to me, ‘You have to know that you are a great writer. You just have it.’ She was one of my role models. So for her to say that to me was so beautiful. She was really giving me that encouragement.”
Along with Midler, De Lory has done session work with Carly Simon, Leonard Cohen, Selena, Belinda Carlisle and many others. In 1987, she became a part of Madonna’s touring ensemble, dancing and singing backup vocals on the now legendary Who’s That Girl, Blonde Ambition, Drowned World, Girlie Show and Confessions tours, also appearing in director Alek Keshishian‘s Madonna Documentary Truth or Dare. In 1993, De Lory made her debut as a solo artist with a self-titled album on MCA/Universal Records, hitting #1 in Japan with the single “Praying for Love,” and landing in the US top 10 dance chart with “Just a Dream.”
She was on top of the pops. But something was missing. “I wasn't singing my truth," she says. “I said to myself, ‘Here I am, traveling around the world, promoting my music. I should be happy.’ And in many ways I was, but I felt so empty. My soul wasn’t being fed. I thought, ‘I’ve got to shift this.’ So I wrote a prayer—‘I want my life to change, I want my life to change’—on a piece of paper and put it in my dresser. And my life really did change. I got pregnant, had my daughter, and started doing mantra music.”
De Lory’s aforementioned 2001 CD, Bliss. was the first in a string of albums that have become the soundtrack for the yoga and consciousness movement of the 21st century. These include In the Glow (2003), The Lover and Beloved (2004), Sky is Open (2006), Sanctuary (2008), Remixes (2010) and The Unchanging (2013).
De Lory’s masterful, heart-conscious way with a mantra is heard on “Sat Siri” from Here in Heaven. Her arrangement is based on a setting for the mantra by Sada Sat Kaur that Donna discovered while working on The Lover and Beloved. It’s one of three songs by other artists that Donna interprets on Here in Heaven. Another is “Listen” by Avasa and Matty Love, which Donna energizes with an uptempo pop arrangement driven by acoustic guitar strumming and a Brazilian-inspired groove. To complement her own glorious vocal harmonies, Donna recorded her daughter Luciana’s 3rd grade class at their public school auditorium.
Here in Heaven also includes a lavish, sensitive arrangement of “Never Be Mine,” by another artist De Lory has long admired, Kate Bush.
“That’s a song I’ve been wanting to do for the past 20 years,” she says. “Kate is another real inspiration for me. But my spin on the lyric I think is different than hers. For me, it’s about looking back on your life from another time and place and relishing it.”
Here in Heaven’s emotional heart-center very much lies with two mid-album songs addressing the passing of Donna’s father in 2012. “Piano Man” is a wistful ballad imbued with a swelling, cinematic string arrangement and one of De Lory’s most heartfelt vocal performances.
“Growing up, I knew my dad as ‘the piano man,’” she says. “He was always playing piano and I just loved watching his hands moving effortlessly up and down the keyboard. And when he died in my arms, I was looking at his hands, thinking they’d play no more. All that talent and skill gone—all the music that he had in him. How could it be? Then one day, the line came to me, ‘With my hands, you’ll keep playing.’
“So this song is the story of the piano he grew up playing, and which has been with me for all of my adult life. It’s telling the story of me growing up around this wonderful, incredibly musical father. The reason I’m doing this is because of him. Through music, I still connect with him.”
“Piano Man” segues into the lively Latin vibe of “Amor Amor.” Donna co-wrote the song with her father for his 2012 album Hot Gandinga. Because the album was recorded in Donna’s home studio, she was able to incorporate her father’s piano track into her new version of the song.
“I started with my father’s piano track,” she elaborates, “and built from there with my nylon string guitar and Luis Conte on percussion. My father had always wanted to record with Luis. So, in a way, now he has.”
Latin music is just one of the colors Donna weaves into the sonic fabric of Here in Heaven. For all the album’s reflective maturity, it is also clearly the work of an artist who continues to evolve at an astounding pace. Musicians on Here In Heaven include guitarists James Harrah (Jewel, Madonna, Ray Charles) and Gerry Leonard (David Bowie), percussionists Dave Allen (Michelle Branch) and Luis Conte (Phil Collins, Madonna, James Taylor), multi-instrumentalist Anthony Resta (Elton John, Duran Duran, Blondie) and strings player Stevie Blacke (Beck, Rob Thomas, Nelly Furtado), among others. De Lory herself contributes keyboards, harmonium and guitar. The album was mixed by studio wiz Kevin Killen (U2, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Shakira, Elvis Costello).
De Lory’s gravity-defying voice is both delicate and soaring, a fine instrument that she uses with great subtlety and sensitivity throughout this song cycle, which covers broad ground and touches the soul again and again with its beauty and honesty.
LISTEN -SINGLE BIO
"Listen" is the first single from the album "Here In Heaven" by renowned World Devotional diva and former Madonna backing vocalist/dancer Donna De Lory. With its sultry Brazilian groove and jubilant, multilayered chorus, the track is a four-minute bliss fix—a summation in song of one extraordinary woman’s journey from global Madonna megatours to motherhood, self-realization and the heart of the burgeoning yoga movement. A voice like De Lory’s —which has been heard on recordings by Bette Midler, Leonard Cohen, Belinda Carlisle, Carly Simon, Selena and many others — is a rare blessing.
The recording features De Lory’s daughter Luciana and her third grade class. The video has attracted over 12,000 views in a single week. “Listen” offers an uplifting message for our troubled times — an inspiring plea to simply open our hearts and listen to one another with compassion, love and acceptance.