dodie is a very modern DIY success story. After building a huge online following with stripped-back ukulele covers and intimate original songs – coupled with an open approach to discussing her mental health – she’s gone on to conquer the traditional charts. All three of her self-released EPs have cracked the Top 40, with 2017’s ‘You’ and 2019’s ‘Human’ both making the top 10.
dodie is now gearing up to release her excellent debut album ‘Build A Problem’, an honest and affecting collection of indie-pop songs which contain some stunning self-arranged string parts. “How can I be proud of what a million people shout at me?” dodie sings on ‘Rainbow’, a song which the Epping-born musician, who is bi, wrote about her battle to overcome queer shame.
Ahead of the record’s release NME caught up with dodie for our In Conversation series, where she spoke with typical candour about music, mental health and making sure she holds something back for herself. Here’s what we learned.
dodie thinks the song ‘Four Tequilas Down’ will change people’s perception of her
dodie’s friends questioned if she really wanted to release one of the songs on the album, ‘Four Tequilas Down’ – a deceivingly sweet song that depicts an illicit, alcohol-fuelled tryst – but she decided to go with her gut. “Maybe it will realign people’s view of me as this squeaky clean perfect angel,” she says of the song. “It’s more a view of me being human and young and in my 20s, and a hot damn mess as we all can be!”
For what it’s worth, dodie says she has no idea how she even got her “squeaky clean” image in the first place. “I talk about not being squeaky clean all the time,” she says. “But I think there’s only so many times you can say that.”
She has no time for YouTube and TikTok snobbery, but thinks it’s starting to dissipate
dodie says people are now looking at these platforms as simply “the new thing” in the music industry, rather than dismissing artists who use them as “not really a musician, or whatever”. Highlighting how ridiculous it is to sneer at someone for being a “TikTok musician”, she says: “It doesn’t really matter. It’s just the platform you do it on – like, no one’s calling anyone a ‘TV musician’ or ‘radio musician’.”
She also has no problem with artists who write songs with the intent of going viral: “So what if you write a song because you want it to be TikTok-famous? At least you’ve written a song!”
Her relationship with social media has changed over time
When she was younger, dodie says she was “so excited” by her online following that she “just sort of opened my mouth and my mind and spelled out everything”. But this didn’t always turn out for the best. “Going through a lot of mental health problems while I was being very, very open resulted in this really weird clash of everything hitting each other,” she recalls. “Like: my depression, talking to my audience of young people, people fighting back on that, and then it just being this big mess.”
Still, dodie says she’s “grateful” to have come through this difficult period because it taught her to take “a huge step back” from the apps. “And that really helped me to figure myself out by myself, without looking at myself through the lens of millions of people, which is just so unhealthy,” she adds.
She no longer minds being called “the girl with the ukulele”
“I don’t know when I said that, [but] my opinion has changed now,” dodie says. “I’m so grateful for the ukulele – I will fight for the ukulele because it opened the door [for me] into the world of music. It’s so accessible: it’s tiny, [it has] four strings and there are shapes on how to play it. A lot of artists laugh about it because there is a stereotype of the ‘little girl with a ukulele’ – but so fucking what? That doesn’t make them any less of a musician.”
In fact, dodie says she still has about 10 ukuleles hanging on her wall and sometimes likes to “take the strings apart and detune them and play weird chords”.
She’s learned to write in a way that’s deeply personal but doesn’t leave her feeling vulnerable
A lot of dodie’s songs are incredibly personal, filled with revealing, diaristic lyrics. Rehashing such intimate feelings and emotions could leave a song-writer feeling incredibly vulnerable, but dodie explains that she’s learned to write in a “sort of floaty way” which keeps her in a “way more safe place”, while still giving her the “fulfilment of sharing my inner soul”.
She also thinks the “floaty vagueness” of her lyrics makes them more relatable. “That way people can bring their own life to [the song],” she says, pointing out that “no matter what, people will always reflect their own experiences onto songs. I know I do.”