Up-And-Coming Singer-Songwriter Conjures the City’s Sound
Photography by Kelly Ann Shuler
The picture quality of the camera-phone video posted to her Facebook fan-page is grainy, but the audio is crisp, which is all that really matters. It captures well the cavernous natural reverb of the empty, upper-level space at Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center where Harrisburg singer-songwriter Daisie Ghost-Flower sits on a chair between two large windows blackened by the night.
There are a million live-performance videos populating the Internet, many decent but most are mediocre. This one feels different though. There’s an eerie, almost haunting, quality to it. It’s clear that something special is being recorded as Ghost-Flower conjures a little musical magic.
Legs crossed, holding an acoustic guitar, she strums through the familiar opening chords of Weezer’s Say It Ain’t So.
Her voice echoes out just above the guitar.
“Oh yeah. Alright. Feels good. Inside.”
Cover songs can be tricky for musicians who craft and perform their own tunes, but she makes this one her own. Her singing talent instantly shines, growing louder and stronger as she navigates through the first verse. And then it happens with the chorus, that moment when the emotion of a song and performance resonates deep, touching that part of your psyche where the chills-trigger resides.
She belts it out, hitting each note, casting her musical spell over the listener.
“Say it ain’t so-oh-oh. Your drug is a heartbreaker. Say it ain’t so-oh-oh. My love is a life-taker.”
She stretches out that last syllable, driving home the moody atmosphere of the lyrics and the melody and her undeniably soulful musical gift.
At 32, Ghost-Flower (her stage name) rightfully sits on the precipice of a mass audience. Once a member of the midstate band Yellowday as well as a current member of The Passionettes, a local 1960s girl group, she recently caught the attention of Rusted Root lead singer Michael Glabicki, who invited her to open for them and Toad the Wet Sprocket on the East Coast leg of their 2016 tour. By the time this article reaches readers, she will have played nine shows in two weeks, traveling through Virginia, D.C., New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and then back to Pa.
She humbly skirts the question of whether or not this tour will be her big break in the music business, but she hints that there will be more of her music to come.
“At this point, I am just day-to-day – letting it evolve and take its own shape,” she states. “I hope that my music connects with people. I hope that I can do this all of the time. It’s exciting.”
The old saying, “An overnight success 20 years in the making,” rings true for Ghost-Flower. Early on, she was drawn to creating songs and performing.
“I started out in choirs and just doing solos in plays,” she remembers. “Then I started to get into creating my own original music. My whole family was super musical. My dad was a big influence on me, and he really taught us to express ourselves. I’ve been working with original music for a long time.”
Aside from her father, Ghost-Flower points to legendary singer-songwriters as her musical influences.
“I grew up with the classics – The Beatles, Bob Dylan,” she says. “As of recently, I’ve been very much into soul and Motown.”
In addition to singing, she also plays the keyboard and guitar.
“I minored in music in college at Marywood [University], and I’ve been training classically for years.”
She describes her own sound as retro indie pop – “a fusion of Feist, Lana Del Rey and Florence and the Machine, with a little rock in there.”
As with many talented artists, a far-away, dreamy expression spreads across Ghost-Flower’s face as she attempts to describe her creative process.
“Usually, I’ll have an idea on guitar or piano,” she explains. “I think in melodies, and melodies are usually what come first. Once I get some kind of melody I really connect with, the song kind of writes itself, and lyrics begin to come out. Recently, I’ve been trying to let the music help me understand it. You can’t really explain where the inspiration comes from or why it comes about, but the feeling is so beautiful.”
When it comes to penning the lyrics to her songs, Ghost-Flower focuses on and draws inspiration from the small details of existence.
“I like to write about things that are mundane and ordinary and then try to make them beautiful because there are so many simple things and moments in life that can be so enjoyable,” she says.
If song-writing is one side of the coin than performance is the other. Ghost-Flower says that she feels at home on stage.
“It’s liberating because you get the support of the people around you, and it’s so exciting to let that out. When you’re connecting with the audience, there’s nothing better. There’s a vulnerable moment, too, because these are my words and music, and you don’t know how it’s going to be perceived, but at the same time, it’s exhilarating that you don’t know. Once you’re up there, and you get a good response, it makes your blood pump, and you feel alive. …To be able to offer some kind of relief or escape for someone else coming to see a performance, it’s so significant. The arts are so important. In this technology-based world, where everyone is on Facebook, to actually go out and see someone expressing themselves artistically live, it’s just so human and healing.”
Though this will be the first time Ghost-Flower sets out on tour with her music, she has been connected to the Harrisburg music scene for some time, performing live as well as recording with different artists and bands.
“I have been a huge fan of the music scene in Harrisburg,” she says. “It’s grown throughout the years, but it’s always had that special spark about it. People have inspired each other so much around here. Knowing that there are so many musicians out there doing there own original stuff, it makes your artistic life worth living.”
She adds, “You’ve got the enrichment from an artistic view point, which has value in people’s lives. Then it’s also the economic component where you’re highlighting the small businesses of bands. It stimulates and enlivens the city, and I think it gives people a reason to be proud of the city. Personally, I’m so proud to bring someone here from out of town and show them all around – I just think it’s the coolest city. And to be part of something that keeps that going, I feel proud that I give my little piece to it.”
Music has been a significant part of Ghost-Flower’s life since she was young, but recently with the prospect of touring alongside two well-known, veteran bands, she has committed most of her waking time to the craft.
“Seventy percent of my day that I’m not sleeping is dedicated to music in some way,” she says. “Not only am I practicing and trying to technically work everything out, I also have to be my own marketing person, stylist. There’s so much involved in the music business that people don’t realize, and I’m learning that.”
It’s rare to catch an artist on the cusp of success. The music industry in its current downloadable, streaming state makes breaking through to the masses more difficult than in previous generations. For the artists of today, it has to be about more than a monetary reward or a large fanbase. It has to be about the love of it and the never-waning compulsion of it. It has to be about that moment when the magic of a song can induce chills.
“Music is my best friend, and it acts just like a best friend,” she says. “When I’m having a hard time, I can go to it, and it’s always there. It’s loyal and healing. It rights all of my wrongs. But you have to take care of it, too. You have to practice and maintain it. It’s a two-way street, and I have to be dedicated to it.”
For future show dates and updates on Daisie Ghost-Flower’s burgeoning music career, visit daisieghostflower.com or check out her Facebook page.
This article appears in the September 2016 issue of Harrisburg Magazine