Yoga music superstar Donna De Lory has led an unusual life. As a Hollywood kid, she lent her angelic voice to Disney records. At 22, she began touring the world with Madonna, working for the next 20 years as the queen of pop’s backup singer and dancer, and even performing in the iconic documentary Truth or Dare. In the late ’90s, she walked away from her own big record deal with MCA Records/Universal, reinventing herself as a spirit-inspired indie artist so that she could make more personal music that resonated with her heart and soul. Since then, she has been creating devotional music for listeners around the globe.;
Her latest offering is , an album that has garnered press attention across Europe and in the U.S., Canada, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates since its release last year. Mixed by Kevin Killen (who has worked with U2, Peter Gabriel, and Kate Bush, among others) and featuring musicians who have recorded with Ray Charles, David Bowie, Madonna, Peter Gabriel, and Pink, Here In Heaven is an uplifting soundtrack for practice and everyday life. World music and pop grooves blend beautifully with De Lory’s inspired songwriting about nature, love, and the importance of yoga-inspired practices such as listening to your heart and finding truth within.
Recently, De Lory sat down with Yoga International to talk about her new music video, her years with Madonna, and what’s next for her as an artist.
You’ve just released a dance-worthy music video for “Heaven (Atom Smith Remix)”—a remix of ’s title track We love the pop hooks, the cinematography, and the devotional, gender-positive storytelling. The dancing-in-Joshua-Tree scenes are awesome, too. . .
Thanks! The director, Nick Spanos, is a great photographer and music video director I’ve been working with since he shot my video for “Sky Is Open” in 2007. I kept telling him about the interplay I was seeing between the masculine and the feminine. And I had this vision of Kuan Yin, the Buddhist goddess of compassion, standing like a statue and then coming to life to dance with me. She shows me that we both reflect the goddess in each other. In a way, the video is about female empowerment and about tapping into my own strength by finding the balance between the masculine and feminine.
The lyrics were inspired by a Bill Moyers interview I watched with Joseph Campbell, which was filmed shortly before he died. Campbell was explaining his realization that heaven is right here, right now. And if we don’t get it here, we are not going to get it anywhere.
Now, more than ever, I feel like we have to go within and find heaven inside ourselves, so that we have the peace and strength to stay positive, despite everything that’s going on in the world, and make a difference.
You recently recorded a remix of “Sat Siri,” a mantra track from with prolific solo artist and former lead singer of The Go-Gos, Belinda Carlisle, who has practiced kundalini yoga for nearly 30 years.
Our fans are so excited that we’re working together. I sang on her late ’80s records, Heaven on Earth and Runaway Horses, and toured with her in 1988. But in the early ’90s, we lost touch.
Recently, we reunited as friends. She’s part of the soundtrack of my life. She’s expressed to me how much she loved my albums when she got into devotional music.
How did you and Belinda Carlisle get reconnected?
My brother, A.D., is a waiter in a restaurant in West Hollywood and he waited on her a few years ago. He said to her, “My sister’s Donna De Lory!” She said, “Oh my God, I love her music!”
I think that if we nail it on this remix, in terms of bringing mantra more into the mainstream, it will be really impactful. We’re planning to do a music video, too.
“Sat Siri,” which I first discovered on Sada Sat Kaur’s album Shashara, is the top downloaded song from my Here In Heaven album. I changed the chords, added English lyrics and a bridge, and used the mantra from her recording.
When did you first get into yoga?
When I was 18. Rod Stryker was my first teacher in Beverly Hills. He was 20-something at the time. Nowadays, I practice ashtanga vinyasa flow.
So you were into yoga before Madonna was?
What was it like to work with Madonna for 20 years?
When I started working with her at the age of 22, I was a kid with stars in my eyes. I left my own band project behind and got totally caught up in the whirlwind of Madonna’s fame. When we arrived in Japan for the Who’s That Girl tour in 1987, it was mass hysteria. It was like the footage I had seen when the Beatles first arrived in America.
I respected Madonna so much because she was so talented, disciplined, and on such a healthy path. I could ask her about anything, because she was right there like an older sister.
She was very instrumental in my life. Years later, when I got pregnant with my first child and decided to have her on my own, Madonna was so supportive. She said, “This is a miracle!” Because she’d chosen to be a single mom, too.
Being around someone like Madonna, who is such a strong person, it can be challenging to find out who you are. I remember when I went to visit her in the studio to introduce her to my baby and I asked her, “Is the big career all worth it?” I saw how hard it could be to balance family and work with that kind of fame. She looked into my eyes so deeply, and said, “That’s something you need to answer for yourself.”
Over the years, I found my own music and my own values. When I was young, I always associated success with being rich, famous, and adored by everyone. But at some point, you have to go inward, love yourself, and love what you’re doing.
Now, I feel success is going into my studio, making music that I love, and feeling that I’m giving something to the world—whether I’m teaching kids at my daughter’s school how to write songs that inspire them, putting out a new video, or working on a healing record inspired by the sounds that fulfill me.
How would you describe your state of mind now?
I feel so grateful for my health, for all of the gifts I have been given, and for every minute of my life. I know now, more than ever, that the way I can serve the world is with my music and my voice. In some ways, I feel like I am moving slower than I did before I had kids, but there’s more of a (focus) and more mindfulness in my life now. There’s the knowing that, if I have a dream, like creating this music video or making a new album, I don’t need to worry. I just set my intention, stay focused, and know that it will happen.
That’s the great thing about maturing and gaining wisdom. You realize what is most important: to breathe in deep gratitude and to be here now. In heaven.