Downs is the daughter of Mixtec cabaret singer Anita Sánchez and Allen Downs, a Scottish/English-American professor of art and cinematographer from Minnesota. She grew up partly in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, partly in the U.S. state of California as a teen, and Minnesota as an adult where she graduated from the University of Minnesota in voice and anthropology.
She later returned to Mexico where she learned to weave. Later, she began singing in the club scenes of Oaxaca and Philadelphia along with Paul Cohen, an American-born saxophonist. They began collaborating together on songs that would slowly evolve into Downs's subsequent recordings. Cohen went on to become both Downs' husband and her artistic director.
In recent years, Downs and her band have toured widely in Mexico, South America, the US and Europe. She was also heard in the soundtrack to the movie ''Frida'' in a song, ''Burn it Blue'', that was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song and that she performed at the 75th Academy Awards. Other songs that she performed on the soundtrack are "Benediction and Dream," "Estrella Oscura," and "La Llorona." Other movies with a Lila Downs song are ''Tortilla Soup'', ''Real Women Have Curves'' and ''Fados'' by Carlos Saura. She was also invited to the Twelve Girls Band's concert in Shanghai, where she sings in French and English. Downs is currently based in Coyoacán, a borough of Mexico City.
Lila Downs released an album of new material as well as a few cover songs, including "I Envy The Wind" by Lucinda Williams and "I Would Never" by the Blue Nile. The album was released on September 2, 2008 and is called ''Shake Away''. Downs also collaborates with artists like La Mari (singer) from Chambao (band) and Enrique Bunbury from Héroes del Silencio. In 2010 she appeared on the Chieftains' album ''San Patricio''.
Label: Narada | Released: 2006 | Length: 51'46"