Singer Lila Downs grew up with the culture of her father, a professor from the United States, but eventually turned her back on it to explore the tradition of her mother, a Mixteca Indian from Mexico. In doing so, she has created a very individual strain of song that has indigenous Mexican roots and North American sonorities. Born in 1968, she spent her early years in Mexico, but after her parents split up, she was shuffled off to live with a relative in California. She grew to love music, specifically classical and opera, and began studying those in college. After two years, however, she experienced a crisis, questioning why she was singing and dropping out to become a Deadhead, following the Grateful Dead around the country in a VW bus and earning money by making and selling jewelry, and not singing at all.