Name: Daisy The Great
Members: Kelley Nicole Dugan, Mina Walker
Occupation: Singers, songwriters
Recent release: Daisy The Great's new single "Cry In The Mirror" is out via Hollywood Records.
Recommendations: Mina: I’ve been reading Alice Munro short stories. Literally anything by her is so good and sad. I’ve been having a pretty difficult brain time recently, and her stories are really hitting it.
Kelley: I’ll recommend Leith Ross’ album Motherwell.
If you enjoyed this interview with Daisy The Great and would like to find out more, visit the duo's official website. They're also on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Kelley: My mom is an opera singer so she was - of course - my first influence, along with all of the music that she introduced me to! I loved to sing and was always trying to copy her as a kid, so she taught me a lot really early on, like harmonizing or finding the time signature of a piece of music and we would always sing together in the car.
My earliest faves as a kid were the Beatles, Rodgers & Hammerstein and Tony Bennett. I loved it initially because it was so joyful.
Mina: My mom is a jazz singer who is obsessed with musicals. Growing up we would watch the Wizard of Oz and Singing in the Rain on repeat on VHS. My dad was a painter and he and my mom were always painting together, so I think from a young age I was kind of raised to be a creator of some sort.
When I was five I would make up songs on my porch and sing to whoever was walking by.
Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colors or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?
Kelley: I think it depends on the song or the moment I’m in, but sometimes music can be life-changing when you hear the right song at the right time for you. I also do associate certain songs with colors or color palettes — and that’s really fun to play with when deciding on the art or music video creation for a song, as another layer to convey the feeling that you’re trying to get across.
Mina: I experience music differently depending on where I’m at emotionally in life. I think when I’m going through really hard times or trying to answer big questions I really hear music differently and more acutely. Music can really help me understand what I already know in my gut and I notice the songs that stand out to me or the songs I gravitate toward are the songs that illuminate truths that are in me but maybe not quite fully worked out.
When writing music I try to get in touch with that part of myself and think “what do I need to hear right now?” and start writing the words and melodies that feel like that.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
Mina: I think for a long time I was afraid that what I was writing wasn’t “real” music because I never had any formal songwriting training and kind of felt like
a lot of the time I was just making stuff up and that everyone else knew how to make real music. Over time though I’ve learned to see that as a blessing and that I found my own entryway into creating songs.
I started making music mostly because I loved to sing and didn’t feel like songs that existed already really fit my voice, so it’d probably be best if I made some that did. Over time I learned how to play guitar and bass and was able to use those tools to expand how I approached songwriting. Also I’ve been very lucky to be able to collaborate with Kelley and the rest of the band. Making songs together has always felt like playing and putting a really fun puzzle together and I think working together for so many years, we have developed a language together.
We’re also constantly inspired by new music and it’s nice to see how our sound develops as what we listen to and share with each other changes. It really feels like there are no rules when we’re making Daisy tunes so I’m excited to see how we continue to develop and change.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
Kelley: One of the earlier songs that I wrote when I started writing music more seriously was “The Record Player Song”, which is ironically about feeling like you have no idea who you are yet, and I think sharing that feeling of being unsure and being in the process of finding yourself, while vulnerable, was really important for me to share as an artist.
It’s easy to imagine that you’re supposed to write music from a place of fully cooked wisdom, but I think the reality is that your identity and understanding of yourself and the world is always moving and growing and changing, and that potentially the most beautiful and powerful part of the process is to share your questions with the world rather than the answers.
Mina: It has been interesting tracking the music I’ve listened to over time and how it has informed my identity. Something that I’ve learned is that there’s always more, that I’m always in some kind of a transition and will never “arrive” at my truest self, but that my truest self is something that is always evolving.
Recently I’ve been listening to pretty intense hyper pop music and punk music that I never really thought I was interested in but it has really been hitting the spot and feels like what I need at the moment. A few months ago, the only music I could listen to was country music from the 60s, before that it was jazz standards, before that it was top 40 pop and sad indie ballads. I think it’s cool to find new pieces of self unlocked in so many different types of music and know there is so much more to explore.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Kelley: We try to let the song unfold to us rather than trying to force anything. I like to feel like I’m uncovering something in that moment of creation, and try to go towards it with curiosity and gentleness and patience.
Mina: Something I heard once that really stuck with me was the idea that we are vessels for creativity and if we stay open and available, creativity can visit us and move through us in different art forms. I like that idea because it takes some of the ego out of making art.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
Mina: I don’t think there’s much you can control about how a song exists in the world. I also don’t really think trying to make a song perfect is a good way to make a song perfect. Sometimes my favorite part of songs are their imperfections. Over time, I’ve learned that I can’t really make any music other than the music I can make, so I just gotta make that music. How it is perceived and received is not up to me even though it’s something I stress about, I try to let go of those things I can’t control.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
Kelley: My most important instruments / tools are my voice, piano or guitar, and journaling (stream of consciousness-esque word vom in my notes app).
As far as singing goes, I’m very into vocal training and healthy voice habits which allow me to have freedom and playtime when I’m writing or recording. I’ll sometimes also start writing just by singing out whatever I’m feeling. Sometimes words alone just don’t cut it and I need to use my voice and get out of my head in order to actually express myself. For piano or guitar, I’ll just sit and play for a while and sing along to whatever I’m playing until I find something that feels good. I’ll also sometimes play kind of randomly and sloppily in the hopes of making mistakes – sometimes that’s a great way to find an interesting progression or a weird chord that I wouldn’t find just by playing a normal shape or by following what I already know.
Lastly, a helpful tool for me for writing is journaling right when I have an idea. Sometimes, when I let too much time pass, I can get really fixated on one single line or phrase and feel like lightning struck with the perfect line and I’ll never be able to finish the song, but if I have more material to look back on, it helps me reconnect to that moment and pick out the ideas that I really love.