"There is an almost palpable joy that comes from connecting with each other."
In one of Daisy The Great's earliest interviews, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriters Kelley Nicole Dugan and Mina Walker seemingly just enjoyed the name:
"I don't think we ever actually had a moment of being like, this is it, we've cracked it." After making a list of potential band names, it seemed that Daisy The Great was just what sounded best. Now, as the group has evolved, Kelley told me, "It was more like divine intervention" and that the name now emphasizes "what it means to be vulnerable, what it means to be powerful." As the band has grown (both in membership and popularity), Kelley and Walker still maintain the idea that vulnerability and honesty are what foster strong creative growth. I was able to chat with the ladies about their creative process, their latest album, and opening for the Indigo Girls this Spring.
What is the process of songwriting like for you guys, and how do you maintain that balance of honesty and humor when talking about such heavy emotional topics?
Mina: Our process varies from song to song. We both keep notebooks and text documents and voice memos of different songs and pieces of songs we want to write. We have days when we get together and dig through all of those ideas and turn them into songs. We always start with honesty, and I think that humor comes naturally from that. I think when you're dealing with the most vulnerable parts of yourself, they can also be the funniest parts of yourself.
You pride yourselves on writing music that connects people through joy and positivity. Judging by the current political climate, do you find it hard to find positive things to write about? What positive things have you guys really held onto amidst all this negativity?
K: We aim to create shows and make records that embrace honesty and specificity (which can be funny or heartbreaking or probably both), and there is an almost palpable joy that comes from connecting with each other in that way. To me, in what can be a very scary time, it's not about writing about positivity. Even just as a matter of personal necessity, you have to write about things that are important to you somehow. Thinking in spheres of attention, this album is quite focused inward on the self, which means recognizing your feelings, investigating your secrets, finding your power, calling yourself out for your bullshit, questioning your actions, reckoning with your growth, and sitting with not knowing what to do all the time.
So how do you feel sharing your personal growth has further connected you to your art?
K: It's about honoring everything and falling in love with the questions, to sort of crudely quote Rilke. It's about how you respond and about finding your perspective. Art has always opened our eyes, lifted us up and connected us. It's always amazing when we feel like we're sharing something that feels really weird or specific to us and then that thing totally resonates with a crowd. In that spirit, we hold onto seeing how much love there is in the world, to youth culture celebrating differences and equality, to family, to action, and music. There is hope in music, which is so powerful.
It seems like resonating with your fans is a driving force behind your creativity.
M: We try to foster connections before anything. I think that finding connections through music, even if it's heavy or sad material, can bring out a huge sense of belonging in someone. Sometimes that manifests as happiness and sometimes it manifests as feeling heard. I think there is a lot of negativity circling around us all the time, and I don't think that we aim to turn a blind eye to it, but rather face it head on and take it apart for what it is and shine a bright light on it. When you bring the things that tear you apart and keep you up at night to the surface and put them on display, you expose yourself in a way that also exposes the people watching and listening and thinking "oh my god, same," [which] gives you something that you can share and laugh about, cry [and] dance about.
So how has being in a band together fostered your friendship with each other? Are there any creative differences you guys have had to balance out when trying to achieve this connection to your art and your fans?
M: Like in any collaboration, there will always be some creative differences. We are lucky in that we have very similar tastes and writing styles, so when it comes to writing we have a really good flow, and we trust each other. We try to stay very open and honest with each other. When writing with a partner, it's important to be confident in your own choices, but also flexible and open to new ideas because everyone brings their strengths to the table.
What about writer's block?
K: Sometimes I write a song in ten minutes and sometimes I let things marinate for a long while until I know the right way to complete it. It doesn't really feel like writer's block though, it just feels like the idea needs time to work itself out in my brain, and I move on to something else in the meantime. I think that true writer's block often comes from second-guessing your ideas, so I try, increasingly so, to just write down or create everything that I think of without judging it first.
M: Sometimes the best songs come from the tiny ideas that sit in your brain forever and one day you find the perfect place to put them. If I find myself trying to muscle through a song, I'll step away from it and come back to it another day. There's also no shame in working through an idea with someone else. A lot of amazing songs come from collaboration.
I imagine writing about such vulnerable stuff must be emotionally cathartic as well as exhausting. What self-care things do you guys do that are just for yourselves?
K: Telling all your secrets is really scary sometimes, but it's also empowering. I definitely need my own time to recharge so I like hot yoga for that. Also Netflix and the super bizarre corners of Youtube. Otherwise — singing and playing music, hanging with friends, getting out of the city with my mommy!
M: I really like to read novels and take long walks/runs, have dinner with friends, watch TV, take baths, all the good stuff!
So with all this in mind, where do you see the band heading in 2019. Any drastic changes/events you want people to know about?
M: We're opening for the Indigo Girls for part of their tour at the end of March (28-30), and we are so stoked we can't believe it! We'll also be playing at The Wild Honey Pie's music festival/summer camp for grown-ups, Welcome Campers, on Memorial Day weekend with a lot of other amazing indie bands! The Wild Honey Pie is also hosting a Dinner Party with us at Le Fanfare in Greenpoint on April 17th. Tickets for those events are available now. We're also working on new music! We've been experimenting in the studio to explore what the next Daisy record is going to sound like, and we're so excited. So stay tuned. We always like to try out new songs live, so if you've been to a show you've probably heard some of the songs we're working on.
Mackenzie Cummings-Grady is a creative writer who resides in the Brooklyn area. Mackenzie's work has previously appeared in The Boston Globe, Billboard, and Metropolis Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @mjcummingsgrady.
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