“I think one of the most true things I know about relationships is what makes it hard to walk away from a person is that you know from experience that every person you’ve ever met is 100% unique. When you walk away from that person, you’re giving up that window to the world. It’s that singularity that’s painful to say goodbye to.”
Doe Paoro pauses to take a sip of tea and gauge my reaction. She is petite, but has a strength of presence that clearly stems from her unique intelligence and talent. Paoro (a taken name that references a Maori myth about female creation), is a graduate of Oberlin, an avid reader, a health food advocate, and, most recently, a successful musician.
She describes her music as “pop,” yet also acknowledges the persistent influence of Tibetan opera, which she studied on a year-long odyssey around the world. She exists in the sphere of bands like Wet and London Grammar, with strong and distinct vocals and evocative instrumentals. Her first album, Slow To Love, is complex: it is a breakup album, but also an exploration of what it means to love, where attachment lies, and how to communicate loss, an experience that is at once completely alienating, and wholly universal.
The album is haunting, thought provoking. “It was a complete thought,” says Paoro.
Now, three years later, Paoro has moved to Los Angeles, and is preparing to release her second album, After. “In my ideal state, a record would take a pregnancy-length amount of time. Things still seem relevant within a nine month period, but beyond that it’s hard to rekindle feelings. And I don’t know if I want to be able to relate to a song I wrote more than nine months ago. I want my life to move,” she says.
The music industry doesn’t function like a female body, though, and Paoro has spent several years moving record labels, narrowing down the album from 40 songs to ten, and, in the end, moving across the country. After is about “rebirth,” explains Paoro. It’s about figuring out what it means to discover who you are, while also developing relationships with others.
“Part of me understands love as a merging of sensibilities and perspectives, but is that also codependence?” She asks, “At what point do I trade myself for you?”
We talk Anne Carson, Roland Barthes, Jeanette Winterson; Paoro is interested in desire, triangulation, art in the abstract. Paoro criticized the music industry for its lack of female producers, and tells me that she tries her hardest to find talented women in the industry to work with. “I’m nerding out on this conversation so much,” she laughs.
As much intellect as goes into Paoro’s songs, though, it is ultimately the rawness of the songs, the pure emotion that they portray, that makes them so irresistable. “For the first time in my life it was like I wasn’t even writing songs, it was like they were writing through me,” she says. And it shows.