For London-based musician, Dodie (born Dorothy Miranda Clark), to be an artist today means to be bilingual. But that’s not to say that Dodie is fluent in Spanish or French (though she may well be). What it means is that Dodie, as a producer of her own original songs, must be able to navigate and speak to both the internet and analog interfaces to be successful. Dodie, who grew to prominence online via the social media platform, YouTube, has since crossed over into more traditional, mainstream recognition. But that, of course, doesn’t mean she will abandon her nearly two million YouTube subscribers. It means that she should continue to increase that audience while also acclimating to and growing a new in-person one, which the 25-year-old has been doing diligently for the past few years. On Friday (May 7), Dodie is set to release her new LP, Build A Problem, which will likely win over more fans while also showcasing Dodie’s signature sense for the theatrical.
“I was writing a lot of quiet, introspective indie songs,” Dodie says. “But I was also trying to balance writing pop songs for the stage, for shows. It was a real conflict around the time of my last EP. But then I realized I could do both and I love doing both. So, this [new] album is an amalgamation.”
For a while, Dodie says, she didn’t feel “valid” as an artist. While she didn’t exactly know why, she couldn’t shake feeling like she didn’t belong, even though, at the same time, she knew she had talent. Somehow, she never felt accepted. Nevertheless, Dodie continued to put her head down and create. She released a series of EPs from 2016 (Intertwined) through 2017 (You) and into 2019 (Human), all of which charted in the U.K. Still, it took time for her to feel on solid ground.
“There was such a huge line,” Dodie says, “between the internet community and the ‘real industry’ and I think releasing my own music blended over that line. I think the world also grew to accept the internet.”
On her new LP, Dodie says she gave herself new opportunities to shine during production. Feeling more and more confident in herself and in the fact that she’s gained praise and attention over the past few years, Dodie allowed herself the chance to spread her wings sonically and aim for new, perhaps even more elevated creative ground. Dodie achieved her goal in spades. For example, on the album’s song, “Sorry,” Dodie juxtaposes her soft, whisper singing with large, swooping and prominent string parts.
“I gave the opportunity to myself,” she says, “to really pull out the big guns and show everyone what I can do. The opportunity to score all of those string parts and build that intensity was so fun. I sing very quietly. I was never allowed to be loud. But I knew I had that drama in me.”
Dodie says she wrote much of the new record in 2019, but during the 2020 pandemic and shutdown, she wrote several more tracks, which she’s including as a bonus on the record’s deluxe edition. She likes this pairing and in a way, it’s indicative of her aesthetically bilingual sensibilities. That fans will be able to enjoy two sides of the songwriting coin (highly produced tracks and bedroom-produced ones) shows just how hard Dodie works on her art. For someone who often talks about her mental health and the struggles of what it takes just to wake up each morning, the effort shows just how much faith she continues to place in herself.
“I can’t hate myself that much,” Dodie says, “if I’m celebrating all my feelings in my music. I think there’s kindness and processing in an album.”
Dodie’s ability to talk openly and candidly about her mental health comes in waves. Her new LP is especially vulnerable. The record’s second track, “Hate Myself,” displays Dodie’s intimacy as a writer. Her songs force you to lean in and once you do, her prowess as a composer is immediately evident. She has touch, a strong sense for melody and a natural understanding of rhythm. The songs chug along, even if they do in whispers. Dodie, who first came to music as a young person playing the recorder before her two front teeth grew in, learned clarinet. She loved acting dramatically too, pretending to be in her own music videos in the backseat of her parents’ car. Later, as she wrote more and more songs, she grew a large following online and even collaborated with some of her fans. Dodie, who grew up in the “sheltered” town of Essex, later moved to London to keep up her work.
“I wanted more,” she says.
Her career progressed naturally. From one step to the next, Dodie got better, earned more fans and grew. A song led to an EP, which led to a YouTube video series, which led to more recording. Now, along with forthcoming release, Dodie says she has begun a new job scoring a new Netflix show. She’s come a long way and with each step, she’s become more and more accepted. By following her intuitions, she’s landed where she’s always wanted and she can speak the language of music with the best of them.
“Music is a form of therapy,” Dodie says. “A form of spirituality. It can reach into your subconscious. It’s magical. I’ve processed so much through music, through writing, through performing and by watching performances. I feel like music is my religion.”