MEB writer Sarah McGonagle recently caught up with Dazy the Girl, aka Lauren Wilhelm, to discuss her new project. They talk about her first single, “I Told You So” featuring longtime boyfriend Derek Sanders of Mayday Parade, old YouTube covers, her vocal influences, multiple personalities, and balancing motherhood with a promising new career.
MEB: Let’s begin by having you introduce yourself.
Lauren Wilhelm: I’m Dazy, and I’m a precious little flower from the Earth!
Tell us how Dazy the Girl came to be.
I’ve worked in several different bands, and I loved it. I love playing on stage. I have a lot of talented friends, so it’s very easy in Tallahassee to put a band together. There are a lot of musicians there to work with. So, I was in a band called Maradona, and a band called Man Out Of Me for a very short amount of time. When I realized it was just too hard coordinating everybody’s schedules, and I had been writing for bands and pop music, I thought to myself, “maybe I should do this by myself, even though I don’t really want to.” I don’t wanna play alone, I like having a band behind me, but I think the style of music that I sing the best and that I write the best, everything is incorporated in Dazy. It’s the attitude that I want, I’m able to write the songs one hundred percent by myself, nobody’s saying “that’s not good enough,” or “we should change this part”. Because when I write a song it’s a very organic thing, it just happens. For anybody to come in besides somebody who’s very experienced, like a producer, and give me an opinion – I don’t like that. I don’t. I do some co-writing and stuff, but mainly writing by myself is what I’m best at. So I started Dazy! And it’s workin’out.
That was around six months ago, right? When you announced Dazy?
I announced it in October or November, put the song up in December – just to put it up, I recorded it and was like, “this is amazing. I want people to hear this.” And I knew it would be a good open door, so people can hear what I’m going to do.
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never heard your music before?
I always like to go to referencing some other artists to give people an idea. Edgier than Katy Perry, a little more pop than Paramore, the soul of Adele; like the soul in my voice. I would like to put out a record that has a country song on it, and a jazz song, rock, I want to do everything. Why not?
With pop music being such an popular, yet exclusive, industry to break into, how do you feel you set yourself apart from other artists?
I feel like I’m completely different from all of them anyways, just because I’m a real life person. I mean, I started singing when I was young, but never really took it very seriously. I have a family, which is great. I think it shows that music is my true passion and talent, that, even though I have my family and even though I had a career as a hairstylist for a long time, it always comes back full circle to music. For me it’s not about making it, at all. I don’t want to make it. I want to make great music. And so far, the music that I make, people like. And the music that I make happens to be pop. It could be anything else.
You recently released your first single, “I Told You So”, featuring Derek Sanders of Mayday Parade . Tell us a little bit about the song.
I wrote that song on the way to band practice one day, in the backseat of my friend Steve’s car. It just kind of came to me. It’s always just a little melody, or a catchy wording will come to mind, and I’m like, “that’s really good.” That day, it happened to be the intro to that song, “Baby I’m nothing you need/I’m only just bad news you’ll see”, and so I started writing it down on my phone and it just all came out. I think I did write the second verse the week before I went into the studio, ‘cause I’m all over the place. (laughs) I showed Derek the song when I first wrote it, and he loved it. He said, “that’s the best song you’ve ever written.” I’ve written hundreds of songs, so I thought “okay! So if he likes it, I’m going to do this. Derek, you’re going to sing on it if you like it so much!” (laughs) And he was down.
What does the song mean to you?
To me, it’s hard to explain. It’s stories, you know? My songs don’t necessarily have meaning, although a lot of them do. Parts of songs come from different experiences and areas in my life, and it all comes together to make a story. This one, I feel like there are a lot of girls that aren’t sure that they want to be in a relationship because he’s no fun or for whatever reason. Maybe you’re attracting guys that are too serious, and you’re like “I’m just playing around!” And you tell them that! Sometimes they don’t always understand. It happens both ways. I thought the idea was fun. I love singing in that sort of bluesy register, so I created this character, named Bessie. I can sing one song in a million different ways. So I decided, “well, how am I ever going to remember that I want this really soulful tone?” So, Bessie! Bessie was my character inspiration.
How was it collaborating with Derek on a professional level?
It was easy! It was very easy. He’s really laid-back anyway, sort of along for the ride, so he would have sang anything I asked him to. So we got him there, and I asked, “do you want to sing this bridge?” So he wrote the bridge after we tracked the first day, and we recorded it the next day. Zack [Odom] and Kenneth [Mount] were really surprised because they record with Mayday, and they said “we have him up here for a month and we can’t get him to write a verse, like, ever!” Jake [Bundrick, drums] will end up having to write it, or he’ll write little parts. They’re like, “you got him to do that in one day?!” (laughs)
This week you’re releasing the music video for “I Told You So” with Derek. Do you have any juicy details you can share with us about that?
There’s going to be a lot of wigs. And there might be a very hot pregnant girl in a crop top stalking Derek. It’s gonna be good. We’re gonna do it in a bar in Tallahassee. I’m really excited that we aren’t going to shoot it at a different location, in another town. Everything worked out to where we’re going to shoot it in Tallahassee, so, like, all my friends are going to be able to come and be in my music video. I’ve never shot a music video before, so this is my first time.
You’re in the process of writing and recording your debut EP. What can we expect from this release?
A lot of different sounding songs. I think “I Told You So” is definitely pop, and the next song I’m going to release next month is very pop. But I actually have one of my friends, who is a producer, that’s going to do a remix of it, too, like a club version. I’m going to do a very slowed-down ballad… it’s going to be good. It’s going to incorporate all these different stories and songs and characters. Hopefully I’ll be doing a song with The Heavy Empty, he writes great music.
You’ve hinted towards some exciting collaborations on your debut EP, what can you share about that?
Besides what I’ve just shared! (Laughs) So I do have something very under wraps happening with Zack and Kenneth, but I can’t tell you yet, because it’s not finished. It’s going to be great. It’s a song that’s pretty popular right now. Also, I’ve had a good friend of mine and Derek’s over, Daniel Lancaster, and we’ve tossed around a few different ideas. I think we’re trying to just figure out exactly what style we want to go with for the song that we do. We have some really good ideas. I love Daniel’s voice so much! I really want him to explore a little more. I really stepped out of the pop-rock genre, I’ve really found where my voice actually sounds good. You can hear it, it’s a little softer, tuned-back with some soul. Daniel has an amazing voice. You should hear him sing, like, Bruno Mars. He kills it. Like super soulful with pop. I’m so excited. I feel like Stages and Stereos is so good, but whatever Daniel and I end up doing is going to be very different, and I want it to showcase his voice a little more.
So you two are really playing to each other’s strengths.
Yeah, I know, because there’s no reason to fight it. We’ve got a lot of people pushing for it. It’s the power and the stage presence that puts Daniel in between Derek and Jason [Lancaster] for me, but I think, vocally, he has the ability to be somewhere else and he doesn’t even know it yet. We’re gonna make it happen.
For fans of your covers on Soundcloud, how has your approach towards recording your own music differed from recording someone else’s songs?
Oh, I feel like it’s totally different! When I record covers, it’s usually in the middle of the night, and it all happens right there. I do have one I’m working on, it’s a Brand New cover and it’s, like, beating me up, so I’m gonna just trash it. I want to do the Brand New cover! And it’s so good. I played bass, I played guitar, I played piano on it. I wish I had it here to show you. But I’m frustrated with it, you know? I can’t get the sound exactly how I want it, but the song is so amazing. But I have a Drake cover I did. How I do it is I just go down to my basement, my little studio, put my headphones on, and if I’ve been thinking about a song all day, or I’m just vibing something, I go with it. That Pierce The Veil song I covered (“King For A Day”), was really easy to do. All I had to do was track the piano. And then I actually released that song because Daniel and some of my friends were coming over, and I was like “yo, I told you I was going to be doing this!” It’s twelve thirty at night, I’m almost done, I haven’t even mixed it yet, and I really want to put it up. I posted about it on Twitter, I want people to stay engaged and listen. But then they came over, and at that point, I was like, “fuck it,” and I put it up. Now when I listen back I’m like, “there’s a click in there! I hear a click there, too! This is not mixed, damnit!” (Laughs) But people don’t know. I think that worked really well because, obviously, Mayday Parade has a connection with Pierce The Veil from touring together, and I wouldn’t have those fans listening otherwise. That song gets just as many plays as “I Told You So” every day. They’re at different total numbers of hits, but they move up at the same pace. It blew my mind. I had no idea I would get that reaction to a cover. I thought, “hey, there’s maybe fifty girls that know this song who listen to my music.” But, I was wrong. It really worked out.
I feel as though covering artists like Kellin Quinn and Vic Fuentes, who sing at higher pitches, would be difficult.
Yep, and that’s why I decided to keep that first part that Kellin does, low. Then the next time I raised it up. I don’t always do the covers in the keys of the songs that they’re written in, so I get to choose whatever sounds good.
I read a post on Tumblr where a girl was raving about how you made it into a completely different song, that it was totally different from the original.
Yeah, yeah. And you have to! If a cover is the same as the other song, I call that a karaoke version of the song. It’s a recorded karaoke version. That is not the same. You have to completely dissect the song and get rid of everything, and for me, I relate really well to piano, and I incorporate that a lot on my covers. It all goes on in my brain, it’s a crazy world in there.
What sets Dazy apart from songs and projects that you had previously released? You have many older original songs on your Soundcloud from a few years back.
The ones that are all over the place? Those are songs and demos and things I try to use for other artists. When I decided to do Dazy, I had already written “I Told You So” and I felt like I needed people to hear something. I felt like they needed to get a feel for my voice, and hearing my songwriting, and see if they’re interested. Those songs up there- those are old, really old. Those songs would be totally different if Zack and Kenneth recorded them. I recorded them on GarageBand, some of them almost five years ago. I use GarageBand all the time! I used it for both those covers. I’m a GarageBand pro! It got me exactly what I needed, I was not looking for a great quality sound, or thinking of sending them to label people for myself. For a while there, I just wanted to write songs for other people, I still do. I feel like I want to write with other people more than I want to be on stage. I’m just seeing what happens now, going with the flow.
You’ve said before that your passion for music can be attributed to your parents and upbringing. As a mother yourself, is it important to you to provide a creative environment for your children at home?
It’s not even something you have to make sure happens, it’s just that they’re surrounded by it. We have, like I said, a studio, and when I’m recording stuff I’ll record my kids singing. I don’t know, they’re pretty creative, very creative in their brains. It’s not just musical creativity, it’s a way of thinking.
How do you balance motherhood and your increasingly demanding music career?
It’s not hard right now, I don’t have really that much going on. That’s also the point of having Dazy, is that I can go at any speed I really want to, because I’m not trying to push anything. Everything is just happening the way it’s supposed to. Nothing’s happened that I’ve had to think, “Oh I can’t take care of my kids today!” and I’ve had to run out the door. When it happens, you know, it’ll be slow, a very slow process. It just has to build. Whatever’s supposed to happen, will. I do not feel as though nothing will come from what I’m doing right now, even if it’s just people that I meet, or other opportunities that may arise. It’s the journey right now, I’m enjoying it.
Now that you’re releasing your own solo music, do you feel that many of your fans are being carried over from the Mayday Parade crowd, or do you feel as though you’re developing your own, new fans?
Oh, I feel it’s definitely mainly some Mayday Parade fans. Some of them already knew who I was, and if they didn’t, when I posted “I Told You So”, a lot more people did. I have a pretty big-ish following on Instagram. But I think there’s definitely going to come a time, since I’m not really branding myself yet, that my sound can be like that. It’s definitely not a Mayday Parade sound. It’s funny, one of the comments on Soundcloud said, “I can hear Derek’s influence on this song.” I was like, “I wrote this whole song!” (Laughs.) Well, besides the bridge. But I’ve been writing forever. It’s probably the Zack and Kenneth influence, is what it is.
How has your songwriting matured since working with your past bands?
My songwriting has come a long way, a long way. My friend, Leslie, knows. She hears the stuff I never end up sending to anybody, when it’s late at night and I get really into it. I’ll write something, and I’ll show it to her, and she’ll be like, “Oh, well, it sounds great.” I’ll go back to it the next day and think, “What the fuck ?! What the hell was I thinking?” (Laughs) I’ve written so many songs, and now, I’m realizing that as I write now I’ll think, “Well no, I can’t use that melody, because it’s in another song. Oh! It’s one of my old songs! And oh my gosh! This song plus that song – that’s a great song!” So, like I said, even bad things and bad songs, it all helps. It all happens for a reason. “I Told You So” is very polished now, but opposed to three years ago, I could never write a verse. I could write hooks all day long, I could write pre-choruses. I’m the pre-chorus queen. If it’s not good enough to be the chorus, but not catchy enough to be the hook, it’s a great pre-chorus.
After reading your Twitter feed, it’s very obvious how important it is to you to keep your fans engaged with both your work and personal life. Do you feel staying in contact with your fans keeps you grounded?
You can be a great musician, but if you don’t have fans, there’s nothing else there. I mean, unless you’re behind the scenes, doing soundcheck-type work. But you’re always going to have people getting involved, you’ll always have people who are fans of your music, so it’s important to keep them engaged. I don’t want it to get to a point where I can’t interact. I feel like it makes them feel important. And there’s no reason why, if I’m seeing it, that I can’t just go and reply to them. They’re all nice. But if somebody’s being mean, I will also reply. I mean, against my better judgment sometimes. If somebody tells me they like my music, though, I wanna know either how they found it, or say thank you, or tell them to show their friends so I can dance with everybody on tour!
Would you ever be interested in touring overseas as well?
Of course! Some people just really appreciate when you travel, because they don’t get music like that. People are saying I should go to the UK first! Imagine if, in New York City, a band – any band – came through only once or even twice every month. You’re going to go even if you don’t like them or know them. It’s something to do, it’s something different. Here, you have about five thousand shows a night. And in different places! It’s almost overwhelming.
What’s in store for Dazy the Girl in the next few months?
Well, what you probably got from this interview is it’s going to be whatever happens. I have the music video shoot, literally the day that I land in Tallahassee, and I’m going to do two acoustic videos. I just got confirmed for a few Acoustic Basement shows on Warped Tour, it’ll probably just be the Florida dates, but I will be playing in Camden (New Jersey), too. I plan to do a few Stage-it shows. It’s like a livestream of performances, and it broadcasts all over the world. Other than that I’ll just be recording music and having fun!
Check out two exclusive acoustic videos of “I Told You So” and a cover of The 1975’s “Chocolate” below:
See our photo shoot with Dazy the Girl on our Flickr page.