For Madonna Backup Singer, It's A Small Drowned World After All

Donna De Lory balances Material Girl's world tour with club outing of her own.

Like many independent artists, Donna De Lory needs a day job to support her musical ventures.

But unlike most, her day job requires working nights and taking arena stages around the world with one of the biggest pop stars of all time.

The longtime backup singer for Madonna is in the midst of two tours — the Material Girl's monster Drowned World Tour and a club outing in support of her own album, Bliss.

"The schedule with Madonna is not that hard this time around," De Lory said via e-mail from Europe. "We usually have two shows followed by two days off. That leaves time for me to promote my own music and get out to play with my band."

De Lory, who also toured with Madonna on the Girlie Show outing and the Blonde Ambition tour, said, "Playing my own music is ultimately the most satisfying, but I do love them both together. I love being part of something so dramatic and theatrical with Madonna. It's fun to put on another costume and be someone different."

De Lory has put on costumes and sung with other performers as well, including Bette Midler, Jewel, Barry Manilow, Santana, Enrique Iglesias, Ronan Keating, Kim Carnes, Vitamin C and Shawn Colvin.

With the exception of a handful of Madonna and Jewel ballads, De Lory's own music sounds nothing like the artists she has worked with. Bliss was written and recorded with a cellist and could be described as Tori Amos-like ambient electronica.

The tranquil Bliss may be what an Enya album might sound like in English, but don't go writing it off as background music. Like Madonna's hits, De Lory's tracks — including Junior Vasquez's remix of "On and On" — have also made it into the clubs.

Although Madonna had little involvement with Bliss, De Lory said the pop star has definitely influenced her career. "Her input to me has always been more of her sharing her own experiences as an artist and a woman so I could learn from them."

De Lory was raised in Los Angeles, where her father, Al De Lory, was a keyboardist and producer for artists like Phil Spector, Glen Campbell and the Beach Boys (he played on several Pet Sounds tracks). She made her singing debut when she was 8 years old and soon after laid down vocals that would be heard by more people than anything she would ever do with Madonna or anyone else. De Lory sang on "It's a Small World" for the Disneyland ride of the same name.

It was a landmark moment for De Lory, though at the time she was more concerned with her Knudsen yogurt commercial.

"In junior high school, every day while riding the bus to school it would come on the radio," she said. "I was teased, as you can imagine, but in a sweet way. It definitely set me aside from the others. The kids thought it was cool that I sang. I was always kind of embarrassed and proud at the same time."

De Lory released her self-titled debut in 1993 and scored a top-10 club hit with the Madonna-penned "Just a Dream." She didn't record her own music again until hooking up with cellist Cameron Stone in 2000.

The duo built a studio on Taos, New Mexico, and wrote the material for Bliss, which was released in February by Secret Road Records. "On and On," the album's first single, was written during an especially inspiring evening in the mountains.

"That song came out of a midnight jam session with friends," De Lory said. "It was inspired by being so close to nature, staring out at the stars in the night and thinking about the cycle of life and how nothing ever really ends, it just changes forms and keeps going on in time."

"I tend to write about the joys in the sorrow — looking for the light," she added. "I write about what inspires me and how a certain life experience has changed me in some way."

De Lory's solo tour includes shows in Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, but the dates have not yet been finalized.

Confirmed tour dates, according to De Lory's publicist:

  • 7/2 - London, England @ Borderline

  • 8/7 - Boston, MA @ Borders Books

  • 8/18 - Atlanta, GA @ Ground Zero

  • 8/22 - Ann Arbor, MI @ Borders Books