Dodie – the English songwriter Dorothy Miranda Clark – uploaded her first original song “Rain” to YouTube in 2011. “I’ve loved the attention since I was a kid,” she said on a video call from her home in London. Since then, the connection has been a driving force in her life.
By the mid-2010s, Dodie (her childhood nickname) had gained a loyal, fleeting audience as songwriters and vloggers – or videobloggers recently renamed “Creators” – on YouTube. Her three independently released EPs hit the UK pop charts and she toured the US, Europe and even Australia several times. Their main YouTube channel now has nearly 2 million subscribers. She maintains a second for more informal videos. And on May 7th, her debut album “Build a Problem” landed a decade after Dodie built her online presence.
Using her laptop camera, 26-year-old Dodie gave a 360-degree tour of her bedroom studio with acoustic and electric guitars, ukuleles of various sizes, and a cello (although she doesn’t play it) on the walls. A keyboard, a marimba she recently rescued from the trash, and a clarinet – her elementary school instrument that often appears on “Build a Problem” – were within easy reach.
Dodie’s songs radiate transparency. They’re usually based on plucked, syncopated patterns from her guitar or ukulele, infused with melodies that she barely sings over a whisper and often confides in her vulnerability. “They get overwhelmed by the feelings and then find nice little sentences to sum them up,” she explained in her 2017 memoir: “Secrets for the madman: obsessions, confessions and life lessons.”
While her lyrics are full of self-doubt and second guesswork, her music is precise. Orla Gartland, an Irish songwriter, toured with Dodie as opening act and band member. They now live in the same London neighborhood and are part of a quarantine pod that shares video mashups of their songs. “She’s just good at standing up for herself in a way that really matters,” Gartland said in a telephone interview.
“She understands harmonies in such a way that she comes up with these really complicated and amazing vocal arrangements,” she added. “She can read music, she can get everything. There’s this real determination in her that is cool. “
When recording, Dodie calibrates each note. “You can look at a song and the structure and see how it flows to create a feeling,” she said. “I’ve been told, ‘Oh, it takes drums’ or ‘Can you add a verse?’ And I say, ‘No, I wrote that. I loved to build this pattern the way it’s mine. ‘It’s not like Lego blocks. “
Like many songwriters in the social media era, Dodie often reveals new songs in skeletal, one-of-a-kind video form – some return as finished studio tracks, many others remain unpolished online. “I can’t help it,” she said. “I want to share things now – to finish a song and then get the instant satisfaction of sharing it. This is my instinct now, relieving the itchiness upon instant confirmation. “
Music is only part of Dodie’s extensive range of online content. In homemade videos, along with the occasional professional productions, she has not only revealed her songs, but also expressed her insecurities, enthusiasm, self-care, frustrations, goofs, giggles, knitting, career advice, and high school Grades, their sexuality, their mental health problems, their colds from the flu and their tears.
“What’s terrifying about how panic is how I can’t take it back now – none of that,” she said. “I want to share and don’t know where it’s coming from. Maybe I love empathy. I want to spread the idea that – I am convinced – anyone could be empathetic when shown this. “
For teenage Dodie, YouTube was an obvious option. She took theater and music lessons in school; She had her own camcorder. YouTube also beckoned with a career path. By the age of 15, Dodie was eager to pursue many vloggers, including Charlie McDonnell, known as Charlieissocoollike. After panicking at a meet-and-greet, she wrote and uploaded an uncomfortably serious song about fame: “Even though I know you are mine, I am a stranger to you, a fan, the whole Time is screaming. ”He replied and drew traffic to her fledgling YouTube channel. She duet with him until 2015.
As Dodie’s own audience grew, she responded directly to as many comments and fan messages as possible, trying to do justice to the compassion in her songs until her snowballing audience made it impossible. She dealt with everything teenagers see: high school, romance, identity. She also wrote songs and was constantly in front of the camera. In 2016, she felt the pressure to support her family and took on sponsorship deals that required more and more content.
It was too much. She had already had bouts of depression; in the spring she had a complete breakdown. It briefly stopped appearing online. Friends, family and eventually therapy helped her get her way, and in November 2016 she released her debut EP “Intertwined”.
But since then, she said, she has been dealing with what she quietly calls her “bad brain”. Although she presents a lively personality, Dodie often experiences depersonalization, feeling unreal, or disconnected from her body. she clears out. But she continues to share.
“There’s a way I can see what’s happened in my life as a twisted, sick joke,” she said. “It’s terrifying to go through everything that life brings with the added weight of the eyes – so many eyes, young eyes, and strangers. And sometimes I’m obviously like, ‘My God. I got exactly what I wanted and it’s brilliant, it’s so much fun. ‘”
Her growing audience made her rethink her songwriting. “I write very detailed, dramatic songs. But then I play live and I feel the joy of playing an optimistic song, ”she said. “I struggled with who I was with: Am I some kind of folk-indie-singer-songwriter in my bedroom? Or poppy seeds? I like both, I like the mix. I really liked the idea of a song with a darker theme that is just so poppy. “
Her original plan was to do the album as a series of interlocking songs; The second half, which begins with “Rainbow”, still does that, complete with instrumental interludes as transitions. (One of her videos shows how she constructs an interlude by singing over the drone of an electric toothbrush; the final mix doesn’t include a toothbrush.) And along with her self-recorded tracks, she brought a 13-part string section that was recorded in a pre-pandemic professional studio.
In “Hate Myself” Dodie sings over a subtle Bo Diddley beat of how she blames any communication gap. In the gently floating “rainbow” she recognizes the “rainbow” of bisexuality in order to overcome a homophobic upbringing. And in “Guiltless” she sings about being burdened forever with a person’s thoughtless revelation: “You have opened a door that a child shouldn’t go through,” she sings. “I’m not bitter, I’m just tired / There’s no point getting mad at the way you’re wired up.”
“Build a Problem”, which was largely recorded in 2019, will arrive after several delays related to Covid-19 and Brexit. In February, Dodie uploaded a song about the album’s first postponement, a sly, wistful waltz that rhymes with “an unfortunately nasty fusion” with “vinyl distribution”. Last year, when the album was essentially finished, Dodie went into isolation in quarantine writing more songs. in April 2020 she urged herself to put many of them online for what she called “Alosia”: “Lots of songs in April.”
Seven of these demos will be added to a deluxe version of the CD and its online release, and Dodie left some other standout marks for 2020 like “A song I wrote on Twitter” with the “Here I am, just another “starts screaming into the darkness. “
Social media shaped, promoted and promoted Dodie. She is fully aware of the pitfalls. “Right now the comment section on the internet is like a fire in another room,” she said. “All you have to do is close the door and hope it doesn’t spread. And every now and then you will check. “
So far, however, she has found a sense of community on screen. “I am afraid of being lonely and I am never lonely,” she said. “As a kid, I spent so much of my life feeling weird and naughty. And now I’m in a group of weird and gross people who are wonderful and I feel wonderful. “
Right after the interview, she would do her next video.