An Oral History of Daisy the Great
by luke shiller
Ferrars & Fields recently sat down with the songwriting duo of Kelley Nicole Dugan and Mina Walker, aka Daisy the Great, for a tele-interview before the penultimate show of their European tour at Badehaus in Berlin on Monday. Our conversation ranged from their thespian origins in New York to pandemic-era success and growing pains.
Here’s a snippet of Daisy the Great’s origin in their own words:
Kelley Nicole Dugan: We both grew up individually writing and playing music, as well as studying singing and playing some instruments. And we grew up doing theater and acting. We actually met in college. Studying acting at NYU in New York. Around the end of school we collaborated on a project in a class that wasn’t a musical project at all, but we turned it into one because both of us kind of wanted to do it that way. Almost as a way to not really do it, honestly. We were like “Let’s link up and write a song for this, instead of what we’re supposed to do.” And it was really fun and really silly! After that we started to write a musical together that was about a band. It kind of started in the same vein and it was really funny. We weren’t even hyper-focused on the music yet. Then after writing the whole script, we were like “Time to talk about when the band plays music.” Like, what are they going to play? And then both of us were like “I have these songs that I wrote, and we can put our voices on both of them and see what that sounds like.” And then that day we started to share songs and sing on each other’s music. We literally never talked about the musical ever again and made a real band. We were like “We don’t have to have a fake band in order to have a band, we could just actually have one.” So we made the band and started to play at friends’ events or parties, which was really, really terrible. [laughs]
Mina Walker: It would be like a house party with no mics!
Kelley Nicole Dugan: We would be playing in the middle of a room of people and they would come up and talk to us, and I remember Matti, our drummer, was at one of the first parties we played and somebody was like “Yeah you should come play.” … and it was the loudest talking ever, nobody was watching us. We were sitting in the middle of the room. Kelly was playing a keyboard. And we were singing as loud as we could and nobody could hear us. Before that party Nardo [AN: current guitarist of Daisy the Great] was saying that Matti should be in this band. I’m sure he was like “I don’t know If I want to be in that band.” [laughs]
Then we started booking shows locally in New York and they were really small, we would still play some parties and stuff, really whatever we could get into. We started putting music online as well. Our first single we put out in 2017 and since then we’ve released music pretty steadily. After that we started playing shows in New York and then in 2019 we went on our first DIY version of a tour where we all just piled into Matti’s Minivan.
Mina Walker: It was six of us in all.
Kelley Nicole Dugan: Yeah six of us with all of our stuff and all of our gear in a minivan. And It was like 14 shows in 14 days and we literally just emailed and called venues. We were like “Hey we swear we are a band, can you please let us play here?” and they were like “Uhhh… okay,” and sometimes they were like “No thank you.”
Mina Walker: We tried to do an Audiotree on that tour. I remember when we were in Chicago we emailed them and were like “Hi we would like to do an Audiotree.”—We honestly had no business doing an Audiotree at the time—they were like “Oh yeah can, you submit that you’ve played 100 shows?” So then we made a giant list of fake shows where we played, like living rooms.
Kelley Nicole Dugan: I grew up in New York. I was like, I’m gonna put at least five performances on here that are me playing for my mom. And I put: “New York House Show.”
Mina Walker: And they were like “OK! Perfect!”
Kelley Nicole Dugan: Then, during the pandemic, obviously, our performances were not happening anymore and we were writing over Facetime for a while. That’s when our songs started to really pick up online and we realized that even though we were at home and it felt like the future of music, especially, was really uncertain, we were having this growth online that we couldn’t see in real life. We would go on our phones and be like “Wow, it’s so crazy that this many people are listening to the music!”
We had previously been connected with a few labels because pre-pandemic we were writing an album, and then after some more online success we went back to those labels and created the album [AN: All You Need is Time]. So during the pandemic we worked on the album while this was all happening and then we were like “Okay everyone that we spoke with before, we have an album now.” We started talking to one person specifically that ended up becoming our label and then they connected us—this is kind of a weird thing—our first tour we did pre-pandemic was a few days with the Indigo Girls and a few days with some more local Brooklyn artists. But we hadn’t really done—other than our DIY one—a proper tour. And then coming out of the pandemic we got a support slot on an arena tour, so our first proper tour was on an arena tour, and it was really wild. Yeah. You’re like “Wow the stage is just so big!” That was definitely a shocking introduction to the industry, but since then we’ve been opening for more and more artists and putting out more music. We put out our record in October of last year. And then this year so far has been our headlining tours: We headlined the US in the spring, and now this is our European headline in the fall and yeah … and now we’re in Antwerp!
EDITED By LARA HELENA.
Tickets for Daisy the Great’s show in Berlin are available here.