Daisy the Great are among the lucky bands whose song went viral on TikTok. Today, the New York duo of Kelley Nicole Dugan and Mina Walker released their second album All You Need Is Time. An album full of heartfelt harmonies and intimate, sensitive lyrics.
I had the chance to meet Kelley before the release and talk to her about the band's genesis, creativity, social media and their attitude towards time.
You met in college, where you both studied acting. Daisy the Great didn't come about until you were writing a musical about a fictional band. How long did it take for you to realize, that you could do this in real life?
We probably have been working on the musical for a couple of months, but we wrote the whole script before most of the music because we were just trying to figure out, where it was gonna go. And then, when we were working on the band's music, we started by pulling from songs, that we'd already written on our own.
In working on those songs, we - that day - forgot about the musical and made a video of an arrangement for the both of us (laughs). We just put it on Facebook and then all our friends commented "Wow, this is great!". Right after that, we thought we could do this.
Within a couple of days of working on that music, we knew, that we wanted to play it independently of the musical. Soon after, we just stopped working on the musical (laughs) and started corralling some friends to be in the band with us and emailing venues to ask, if we could play there - so it went pretty fast after the musical.
When did you discover that harmonies are your "thing"? I think that's what sticks out in your songs immediately.
My mom was an opera singer. When I was growing up, we would sing in the car all the time. She loved harmonizing on top of the songs, so I would make up my own harmonies too and I was very proud of that skill.
Then, I was in a chorus in high school, which worked on really complicated harmonies. In the middle of being part of the chorus, I started to arrange some pop- and rock songs for it. I did an arrangement of the song "Hide and Seek" and a Lady Gaga song. After that, I started naturally incorporating the harmonies into the music, that I was writing and wrote "The Record Player Song". I just had that song, but I didn’t know what to do with it, because I only played shows by myself and it’s for more people than just me. So that’s one of the songs that I showed Mina when we started working on the musical band project.
"The Record Player Song" that you mentioned went viral several times on TikTok. What do you think about the development of music and the dependence on algorithms?
It feels like something, that you cannot have any control over and it's like a world completely outside of us. "The Record Player Song" was the first song, that we've ever released. It came out in 2017 and we were definitely proud of it: The song got some attraction on Spotify, which is another algorithm moment, right? Like getting on "Discover Weekly" - I think that's really powerful for bands that don't have access to a big audience. It can be life-changing. I think in that way, it's so expanding for a young band.
With TikTok, it was so interesting, because Mina and I didn't have TikTok, so a fan put the song on there and messaged us saying: "I put this on here, I hope that's okay, it's doing really well." I feel like TikTok is a big algorithm moment, where people are just seeing anything fed to them even more so than someone they're following. You're able to discover a lot of different things.
In the beginning, the song was going viral with a lot of POV tracks, and I think Mina and I were just like, what is this? We didn't get super involved until it went viral for a "One Breath Challenge", and I loved it. It's been amazing to have so many opportunities opened up from having that access to a larger audience.
It's also interesting because it naturally feeds you a smaller portion of music. So, it can also be challenging because it's only this short clip of one song. We're about to put out an album and in an algorithm-focused world, I hope that people return to loving an album. Sitting with a large piece of music is important to understand the artist's point of view and also expand what the song could mean for you if you're listening - but yeah, it's cool.
How does it feel when your very first song goes viral? Do you feel any pressure following those big steps?
There's definitely pressure, but it felt like an older song is having a big moment, while we've already written the album, that we're putting out now. We already knew the sound, that we were gonna have. So being steps into that project was helpful. But there's pressure to just know that you have potentially a wider audience, but that's also really comforting too in a different way because there are people that are wishing you well and waiting for the record, which is exciting.
Then let's talk about the album. What was your intended message by the title?
Mina and I are generally very concerned with time when we're writing. A lot of our records have been about growing up or finding yourself in a place, where you don't know, how to be the next version of yourself. The title can be understood in many ways and will make sense through different songs. I would say, two main ways are a sense, that time can be healing and that over time you can relax because in time, things will change, and you'll naturally grow and learn.
The other side of it is the feeling, that you have time to figure it out. But time is limited and there's no better time to live the life that you want than right now, because waiting for something to change can delay you. So it can be a positive and judgmental feeling, but I think it's still like undecided. That's the beauty of it, that we have no idea, what we're talking about (laughs).
You are both very creative people. You're obviously both musicians, actresses, directors, and Mina is a painter. The single artworks were all paintings by her, right? How do the different art forms influence your music?
Every part of an artistic personality flows into different mediums. Mina has once created a piece of art, that was two people hanging upside down and kissing, that we did make a song about, called "Last Kisses".
We also - all the time - will be imagining the music videos before the song is even written (laughs). And I am grateful for our acting training as well because that informs us as songwriters in a unique way, especially for finding the emotional center of something. Our school was very focused on script analysis and reading in between the words and that comes into our writing process a lot.
And I also have a weird history of having a song be a color in my head. So far on the record in every music video, I get my nails the color, that I think the song is. I'm so annoying about it because when Mina is making the art, I'll look at it and be like, "Oh, but it's not the color in my head" (laughs). So I've swayed some album or single arts before to be a different color palette. because I feel so strongly about my need to be represented (laughs).
That's interesting! I think, there's a name for the phenomenon, that some people see colors, when they hear music.
I don't think I have them. I think I make up my mind about it and I'm too stubborn to see any other way (laughs).
So let's talk about the songs on the album. I feel like your lyrics create a safe space within your music because they are very honest and relatable. What is your intention by writing those introspective lyrics?
I think our songwriting process a lot of the time involves just opening our journal or writing stuff down in an emotional moment and coming back to it later. So the seed of what's interesting to us a lot of the time is a personal introspective moment, if it feels like something, that we can easily connect about with the two of us. So it starts from a point of relating to each other, which opens the door for other people to feel like they can find themselves in the song as well.
I think it's interesting that Mina and I automatically have each other as a first audience and automatically have to collaborate, because it helps us with the fear, that nobody else feels that way. By having a partner writing with you already, you know that it's okay and even if it's scary to say something, by involving someone else, you just naturally open it up. And that process of other people relating to the music is the reason, why I love it.
In "Cry In The Mirror" you are singing about, how mental health is dealt with on social media. Do you think mental health problems are being romanticized on social media?
It's looked at through a few lenses in the song, but one of them definitely is romanticizing struggle, and one of them is feeling the popularity of performed vulnerability. I think the flip side of that, which we also talk about in the song, is, what is happening at that moment. When you look at yourself in the mirror, when you're crying, it's easy to turn to post it on Instagram and that changes the moment for you. But what is that moment when you're alone? If you don't open your phone and you see yourself crying, what is that to you? Sometimes you really can't understand yourself, and you just have to accept you are having this time and find love for yourself at that moment.
In "Time Machine" you sing "If I go back, would I do it all the same?" . What is your answer thinking about your career so far?
I generally feel like everything happens for a reason. I would never have thought that the path to where we are now would be this way. I think, going back in time is a risk, because a lot of the time you get to a place, that you love, by accident. If you had awareness, I don't know if those beautiful, random things would happen. If you were trying to make them happen, I don't know if it would happen in the same way.
The way that our band has come together has been based on what's been fun and in building a community of friends. If I could go back, I would just try to do the same thing, but I think, that the danger is, if you know, that you're trying, is it the same?
So now I already have the last question for you. Because I'm from Germany, I obviously have to ask: Are there any plans on touring Europe and Germany?
We don't have any Europe tour plans, but I'm excited about it when it happens, I think that would be the most fun. So, if anyone wants to send us to Germany, let me know…