Mother-Daughter Duo Crafts Playlists Inspired by Strangers' Meaningful Songs During Cross-Country Adventures (Exclusive)

Delilah Harvey's parents instilled within her a love for music from a young age

<p>Delilah Harvey</p> Delilah Harvey and her mom on roadtrip.

Delilah Harvey

Delilah Harvey and her mom on roadtrip.

After graduating from American University in Spring 2021, Delilah Harvey felt the urge to embark on a cross-country road trip.

She phoned her mom, Jeannine Harvey, and proposed the idea of joining her as a graduation present, for a two-and-a-half-week journey from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles. Without hesitation, Jeannine agreed.

When early summer arrived, the mother-daughter duo set off on their adventure, starting with a route south to Georgia.

On the first day of their journey, they sat together in the car, immersed in music—a tradition deeply ingrained in Delilah's family. Her parents, avid music enthusiasts, and her dad, a professor of audio technology at AU, had instilled this love within her.

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As songs played through the speakers, an idea sparked between them: to curate a playlist featuring artists from each state they traversed. However, Delilah soon had a better thought.

"I was like, 'Mom, I feel like people have been so disconnected because of COVID-19, not really engaging with one another,' " Delilah recounts in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, recalling their conversation.

"How about we create a playlist where every person we encounter during our trip—gas attendants, waiters, waitresses, folks at grocery stores, people at restaurants—shares a song that holds meaning for them?" she adds.

"When Delilah first brought up the idea of this trip, I felt a rush of excitement and a resounding 'YES! Let's do this,'" Jeannine adds. "The idea of hitting the open road, with all its potential for new adventures and discoveries, felt like a breath of fresh air."

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<p>Delilah Harvey</p> Delilah Harvey and her mom on roadtrip.

Delilah Harvey

Delilah Harvey and her mom on roadtrip.

The first person the family encountered on their cross-country road trip was an attendant at a gas station. Delilah recalls how after posing the question, she noticed the worker's entire demeanor change.

"He looked up, we made eye contact, and he smiled, saying, 'I have the perfect song,'" she shares. "He proceeded to tell me about the song and its backstory. Then, he played it over the gas station's speakers, and we stood there jamming."

"After that, it was game over," she adds. "We knew that we just had to see the project out. So we asked every single person we encountered on that first trip the same question: 'What's a song that's meaningful to you?'"

<p>Delilah Harvey</p> Delilah Harvey asks stranger to share their most meaningful song.

Delilah Harvey

Delilah Harvey asks stranger to share their most meaningful song.

By the end of the trip, Delilah and her mom curated a playlist of over 70 songs, spanning four and a half hours.

She posted a video about the experience on TikTok, sharing behind-the-scenes clips of some of the conversations she had with strangers. To her surprise, the video went viral with almost 5 million views and led her Spotify playlist to surpass 50,000 downloads.

"It was just the most magical experience," Delilah says. "The stories we heard honestly spoke to the cliché, 'Don't judge a book by its cover.'"

"There were times when, for whatever reason, I'd make subconscious assumptions upon seeing someone," she adds. "But then, through music, you could connect with someone who might not seem friendly at first glance."

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Jeannine, who is in her late 50s, calls crossing the country with her firstborn and undertaking this project the "best experience ever."

"This trip reinforced what I already knew about Delilah—that she is an explorer at heart," Jeannine says. "Her adventurous spirit shone brightly as she eagerly embraced every new experience and sought out opportunities to learn and grow."

She adds, "Delilah has a profound love for community and an insatiable curiosity about the lives and stories of others. She doesn't just observe; she engages with a genuine interest in understanding what connects us as humans."

"It's been a really beautiful thing as I've gotten older and entered this cool new early mid-adult relationship with my mom," Delilah adds. "In doing this, traveling with her, and asking these questions, I've realized there's always more to learn even about the people you think you know best."

Since that trip, Delilah has curated eight playlists, three of which she collaborated on with her mom. She says she's kept in touch with people she's met along the way, many of which will stumble upon her video on TikTok.

"An artist who was mentioned on our Cross Country playlist, Gina Chavez, commented on a later playlist video of ours that the success of the playlist increased her listenership by thousands!" Delilah adds.

"Then a few years later, my Dad - who is the director of the audio technology department at a university - invited Gina to perform at the university, so it was such an awesome full circle moment of connection," she continues.

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<p>Delilah Harvey</p> Jeannine Harvey while on roadtrip with her daughter Delilah.

Delilah Harvey

Jeannine Harvey while on roadtrip with her daughter Delilah.

Most recently, the mother-daughter duo collaborated on a playlist during their two-hour drive to New Cuyama from Los Angeles. The theme of this playlist was, "What's a song that reminds you of your mom?"

Delilah shared how they encountered one man who shared how a Nora Jones song reminded him of his mom because she would make blueberry pancakes while listening to it.

Now, when she hears that song, she thinks about him and his story.

"I associate a lot of songs with these people and what they've told me," she says. "So it's cool that I almost feel as though they're borrowed memories. Even though I didn't experience whatever story was behind the song that they gave me, I think about them."

"We have these little capsules that anyone can hear, but in terms of the memories, only we can fully access together, and that will always feel so special, such a gift to me," she continues.

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