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Musician Emily Deahl Talks Dark Pop, Dating, and Being Ghosted

Musician Emily Deahl Talks Dark Pop, Dating, and Being Ghosted

Sultry, theatrical, and dark, Emily Deahl’s music captivates with its audacious, cheeky visuals and an addictively catchy sound. Inspired by the likes of Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, Deahl’s music often focuses on the toxic yet sugary elements of romantic dalliances and all the tribulations of modern-day dating, including the unique phenomena that defines this era’s online presence and social interactions: the practice of ghosting.

Deahl’s Music

Deahl has released several singles such as “My Baby Hates Me” and “Bloody Love Song.” Inspired by Britney Spears and Lady Gaga, Deahl often writes her songs about darker themes, and refers to her trajectory as that of a rising “dark pop star.” She often finds herself using songwriting as a way to process something she’s experiencing, and in that creative process, she finds the meaning and beauty behind things she once found to be painful.

Image: Emily Deahl

For Deahl, creating is a way to find happiness and meaning in life and its hardships. “So naturally the creation is something dark because it’s always something dark that I’m going through. Lately, in the past few years, it’s been about my dark, twisted dating life,” she laughs at her own melodrama

She knows her listeners can often relate to her satirical, self-deprecating way of singing about getting ghosted and horrible dating life. In Deahl’s second children’s book “The Ice Cream Girl Presents Ghost Stories,” she uses the semi-autobiographical titular character to tell the story of her first EP. It can be read two ways: for children it’s a moralistic story about self-love; for an adult, it’s full of innuendos and can be paired with her music.

Deahl uses the Ice Cream Girl to talk about being ghosted in her dating life, something she has experienced too many times. She opened up to us about the painful inspiration for this project: “If you were around at that time, it was almost unbelievable how much it was happening. And at the time it was really painful. Like anyone has ever been ghosted like knows that it hurts and it’s something we all laugh about, but when it happens to you over and over again, you always think, What did I do wrong? Why am I not good enough? 

I was so ashamed that I couldn’t create. It started to become a joke amongst my friends. Then, I realized that it does not have anything to do with me. But like I do have to take responsibility for it in a sense. Eventually, all my songs became about it. I had the idea that the book is going to be called ‘Ghost Stories’ and it’s going to be about getting ghosted.” 

She talks about ghosting in this era as being “a pandemic in itself.” With our digitized methods of dating and meeting people now, there’s an air of seeing people as disposable and repealable when communicating over text or social media. 

Image: Emily Deahl

Growing up in conservative South Carolina, Deahl started as a dancer, and at 10 years old told her parents that she was going to move to Los Angeles, set on pursuing a career in entertainment. “I would go to LA every summer for dance intensives, and I would go on auditions and get a feel for how life would be like.

This was the time that High School Musical was really popular and you saw all these dancers turn into actors and singers, and they were doing it all, and I was like, I want to do it all – acting, singing, performing.”

When she moved to LA at the age of 17, she learned singing and songwriting, and ended up going on a year-long tour in China. Deahl recounts her touring experience with both affection and a critical eye, laughingly saying, “I became a little Chinese pop star for a minute, dancing to EDM-y pop music, with a DJ and backup dancers the whole thing. But eventually, I got really sick of feeling like a prop and not an artist.” 

After moving back to Charleston, South Carolina for a bit, she worked hard to learn how to play instruments, sing live, and worked on songwriting. Now, as part of the Nashville music scene, Deahl has taken her art to another level in the past few months, working on her first album release, directing her own music videos, and going viral on TikTok. 

Image: Emily Deahl

At the core of her art is a heavy influence of musical theatre, in its drama and its performative aspects. She professes that musical theater was her first love, “it was the first thing I was obsessed with.” She tells us that when she was younger, her mother and grandmother remember her becoming spellbound during a Rockettes show.

Deahl tells us that “It was the art of putting on a performance, like a show with props and costumes, and telling a story in that way.” She values storytelling as a huge element of her work, and begins to tell that story through multiple mediums, from theatre, dance, singing, and lyricism. 

Her journey to settling on her multi-media approach to craft was not an easy one. “It was just dance at first, and when I first started writing songs I was just writing pop music which didn’t feel fitting, and then it was like doing that singer-songwriter stuff didn’t feel right either because I was missing this theater element.”

Deahl discovered a unique way to tell her story and communicate her ideas: through a children’s book, through rhyme, allegory, and what she calls “a pseudo-musical.” Every chapter of her book has a song with a corresponding music video. She explains the experience of seeing her work as “watching this musical unfold every time I release a song –it’s the only way I know how to truly tell the story is through incorporating all of it: the theater, the acting, the poetry, the script, the dance, and then putting on the costume and performing it all and tell the whole story.”

During the pandemic, Deahl has found time and resources to work on all the projects she’s been meaning to do. Though she notes the anxious environment and the catastrophic impact of the pandemic on the performance industry, she has also been grateful to be continuously inspired throughout the quarantine, calling mentality based on the idea of “creating through the darkness.”

Deahl has taken the time to build her internet presence and growing organically on social media, on Instagram and especially on TikTokShe uses her TikTok to make funny videos as well as address real problems she sees in the industry, including sexism, body shaming, and ageism. “I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about ageism in the music industry that specifically targets female pop artists, many of whom struggle past the age of 24 or 25 to get their break because the music industry values youth over experience.” 

She also talks about artists she looks up to like Billie Eilish and Lizzo who are changing the way female artists are allowed to look and dress. “Even though they look drastically different, both are powerful, proud, and bring important representation to ways women can and should hold themselves.

The age of perfect, cookie-cutter, sugar-coated blond pop stars is just over -I think people are tired of not seeing themselves on TV because we have Instagram now, we have all these things that we can cultivate what we see on a day-to-day basis.” 

Deahl’s unique approach to creating art in a way that captures her stories about growing from painful experiences is something America hasn’t seen from a traditional pop star before. From her dance talent, creative directing, and singing and writing careers, Deahl has a future full of projects and success ahead of her. Emily Deahl is on Spotify, iTunes, and her music videos are up on Youtube. She has just released her single “Bloody Love Song” and is currently working on her first album.