"I'd like more people to open their minds and give me a chance": dodie talks YouTube, mental health and finding a balance
It’s an exciting time for Dodie Clark. Fresh off the back of a US tour in September, the YouTube sensation - best known simply as dodie - announced a new EP, Human, and an accompanying European tour for early 2019.
The tour includes a string of UK dates, with the final show at London's Roundhouse selling out five months in advance - not bad going for a DIY artist.
Clark’s musical beginnings were less than traditional, kicking off her career via YouTube back in 2011. Her natural talent combined with a sense of humour and openness drew in a legion of fans which has grown tremendously; at time of writing dodie boasts an impressive 4.6 million followers across her online presence, with her music amassing 350 million streams across YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music.
Her first two EPs both made it on to the Official Albums Chart Top 40. The second, You, reached Number 6, which the artist described to us as a "turning point" for her music. Since then she’s been solidifying her live shows which now feature a full band – complete with a dazzling string section.
The video for If I'm Being Honest, dodie’s latest release from the upcoming Human EP, has just been released – check it out below:
One of dodie's many draws is that her fans have carved out a welcoming corner of the internet in which you can see a strong support network – even between strangers. Clark’s content has always been pretty frank – her honesty about her sexuality and mental health has been lauded, as well as helping to form a bond between herself and her followers, though the same fans haven’t been afraid to tell her if they think she’s over-shared.
Hello dodie! You’ve spent much of the year touring and recording, and now you’re about to embark on a massive European tour culminating at the Roundhouse – things are going pretty well, aren't they?
“I’m good! It’s been a ride. One or two tours ago I was still kind of struggling with my sound and what I wanted from my show, but I think with the last two tours I’ve definitely solidified it a little bit more. I love playing with strings, and I love my band and crew - they’re just so great. I love it so much.
"I can’t believe I’m playing the Roundhouse, it’s going to be such a big, big show. I’m very excited [but] I don’t ever want to pin too much excitement on one date, otherwise I’ll just be terrified until it happens. I can’t think about it too much or I’ll start screaming!"
Your last EP, You, reached Number 6 on the Official Albums Chart; did that change things for you?
“That was crazy. So cool. I think that was the moment where industry people started paying attention. They finally started thinking, 'she’s kind of legit - not just a girl on YouTube playing a ukulele’. So that was very cool - definitely a turning point."
Do you have chart hopes for the next one?
“Honestly, no. I’m not going to try for anything better because if I don’t reach it then I kind of give the impression that I’m doing terribly and will feel terrible about myself, so I have to ignore that stuff and just believe people will listen to it - if anyone’s listening to it then that’s good enough.”
So far you’ve focused on EPs, are you planning a full-length album?
"It’s definitely on the horizon because I’ve always wanted to do that. With my EPs I’ve just collected the songs that I’ve naturally written and bundled them all together, and they do seem to form a narrative of some kind because that’s just my life. With an album I feel like there’s more consideration and planning and arc of structure and I don’t know how to do that! But yes – definitely planning it!”
What’s your favourite song that you’ve written?
“It changes but I think at the moment it’s If I’m Being Honest because it’s the most blurred line in-between commercial and accessible enough to be mainstream and well-received by everyone but also very personal and still allows me to include all my personal affairs. I love playing it, especially with my band with all the strings and everything. If I’m in a darker mood maybe one of my ones about bad mental health so I can be like, 'I’m so right! I know exactly what I’m singing about, I’m so relatable.’”
Your fanbase are very honest and accepting as a collective; how does it feel to be role model?
“Yeah, I guess you collect the audience that you naturally collect. If you treat people how you want to be treated, then everyone wants to do that too. It does feel weird to be a role model, a mother figure or whatever I am. I do try and preach what I believe in, though that often shifts because I’m a human being, so I try and preach that as well. It’s a difficult thing to balance, but overall it seems to have worked because my audience are really nice.”
We live in a time when celebrities can be as open as they like. Having found success through social media, how do you have a private life?
“I definitely communicate – though everyone knows I have my boundaries and close off the parts of me that I want to keep safe, which is something I’ve learned very recently. But overall, I share as much as I can and speak about what I’ve learned. The coolest thing is I’ll go through something and feel alone and isolated in it and then talk about it online and sing about that feeling and everyone’s like, ‘Woah, did you just read my mind?! This is happening to me right now - you couldn’t have picked better timing!’ and I’m like, ‘Wow I’m not alone in this feeling, everyone feels this together.’ In writing about pain and mistakes or whatever I’m feeling, to see people relate to that and all be part of this thing is really cool.”
You have posted in the past about oversharing with regards to your mental health, do you think you’ve managed to achieve more of a balance recently?
“Yes! I’m not depressed anymore which absolutely helps, because depression messes up your perception of what is acceptable and what is truth. That helps me to look after myself and everyone else a bit more because when you’re depressed you self-destruct.
"Going through that whole thing and questioning whether what I was doing was “Right” - with a capital 'R' - taught me a lot. Even now I’m like, ‘Was it that bad?’ because I definitely did show the most truthful representation of depression which is that I was hella depressed. Maybe saying those things online in the moment is not a good idea. Maybe I should have held on to them and returned when I was feeling a bit healthier, so I could put a positive spin on it… You live and you learn.”
You’ve said in the past that producers didn’t take you seriously and were surprised at your talent because you came up through YouTube. Is that something you still experience?
“Definitely. I also think because I'm a woman that both of those things go hand in hand. I feel a perception of being a Little Girl On YouTube - a silly little girl - especially if I stamp my foot down 'no' and say ‘I know what I want’ and ‘I know what sounds good’ and ‘I know this will work’. Sometimes I worry it comes across as me being like a toddler, or whatever. A lot of that, though, is just because I felt that feeling for so long. Sometimes it can feel like people are attacking you when it’s just very internal.
"I do still think there’s a stigma in the industry. I’d like more people to give me a chance and open their minds because I’m good! Just because I started on YouTube doesn’t mean I’m not. It’s tough, but I’m okay with it.”
Where does YouTube fit in to your plans now?
“I’d like to still be there. When I get emails where people say, ‘In your dreams, you’re just a YouTuber’ a part of me wants to abandon it - and then I’m like ‘No!’ YouTube is still very much my home. There’s so much good stuff on there and it’s the best platform we have for uploading content and connecting so fast and so well. It has its problems but I’m still proud of it. I think it’s ultimately still a good thing and I don’t want to ever leave it behind.
"I’ve left some things behind like vlogging and talking openly about certain things – personal things – is weird to me now, because there’s just so much happening in my life that isn’t appropriate to share. However that doesn’t mean I want to leave it behind, I still want to return to it whenever I feel like I have something to say, or to share, or to make.”
Now you’re working more with producers and band members, do you still enjoy the creative freedom that you’ve always had on your own channels?
“It’s definitely different. It was easier and more creatively free when I was doing it myself because I would just change things, but in producing and creating by yourself you’re limited by your own talents and experiences.
The stuff I’ve been working on now with different producers and other musicians I wouldn’t have been able to make without them. But obviously that does come with limitations. You have to find a halfway between your idea and their idea, even though sometimes it’s like, “Argh let me-!". I think working with other producers and musicians, and putting yourself out of your comfort zone is a good thing. I’m still very firm and know what I like and don’t like. I think it’s cool to work together and make some things that you wouldn’t otherwise have made.”
The Human EP is out now, and tickets for dodie's European tour are currently on sale. For more info, check out dodie.co.
Article image: Kyle Jones