As she is set to drop her next EP, Human, we sit down with YouTube breakout star, Dodie Clark.
Dodie Clark is talking me through the stage of heartache where you start to feel like a “piece of jelly”. It’s a particularly fitting description that she’s used. Honest, slightly whimsical and extremely relatable, her choice of words conveys an easy charm that’s much like Clark’s own appeal as a musician.
She’s talking about the inspiration behind ‘If I’m Being Honest’, one of the songs from her latest EP, Human. “I had a crush on someone and I turned into an absolute mess,” she tells me, laughing in spite of herself. “I just felt like a pathetic jelly. I was like, ‘Could they like this back? Could they like this pathetic piece of jelly?’ I had to explore that feeling, so I started writing it down and it kind of just came out of me.”
Calling from her bed with the soft-spoken fragility of someone who’s just got back from a round trip to Los Angeles and New York, it’s moments like this where you can catch a glimpse of the YouTube of ten years ago, when it was a platform, as Clark puts it, for “outcast kids.” “It was a place where people could go and make their own things,” she continues. “It’s definitely become a lot more mainstream.”
In truth, “mainstream” is perhaps a bit of an understatement. Whereas YouTube was once a destination for the unknown complainers, gamers and makeup-gurus to share a part of their world in relative anonymity, it has quickly burgeoned into a platform that supports the DIY artist and the fully fledged celebrity equally. In 2019, it seems, vlogging is as much for Zoella as it is for Will Smith, both of whom will invite you to watch their respective Christmases or Valentine’s mini break.
Clark’s channel is less about the vlog and more about the music, although she does have a channel called doddlevloggle for confessional-style videos. doddleoddle, however, is her primary outlet which she founded in 2011, around the age of 16. “I was watching a lot of people and I really wanted to start uploading myself,” she says. “I was also writing a lot of songs, so I decided to put one online… it got no views at all!”
Views finally started to flock when Clark won a competition to cover a song by a another group on the platform. “They gave me a shout out on their channel and it kind of just built from there,” she adds casually, apparently unfazed by her current list of 1.7m subscribers. But I soon come to realise that this attitude isn’t nonchalance, but more so a general disinterest in stardom.
“I used to see fame in what I guess was a very black and white way,” she says, expanding on this. “I thought that you either had it or you didn’t. But along the way I’ve realised that if you just have a handful of people who watch you it’s rewarding enough.”
But to what extent are her fans supposed to watch? With a further million followers on both Instagram and Twitter, Clark’s place on the internet is under surveillance from every angle. And working out how much or how little to share online, she says, is a continual challenge.
“At first I was very open most of the time, but as the internet has changed and as I’ve changed, I’ve learned that it’s good to have some boundaries,” she explains. “I judge it by wondering if something could help people and whether it would be a good thing to put out into the world. I always say to my friends who are also online, ‘If you poke at it in yourself and it hurts then maybe don’t put it out there.’ I think it’s just a natural instinct that I’ve built up.”
Yet, somewhat ironically, Clark’s internet following has pushed her presence from the virtual world into the real one. You, her last EP, charted at number six in the UK album charts, and she’ll soon commence her European tour which includes a date at London’s Roundhouse that sold out five months in advance. “It feels good to be able to step outside of the world that I’ve known, but it feels frightening too,” she confesses.
But Clark’s reason for making music will always be driven by how she can help her fans, whether that’s by way of a musical announcement of her bisexuality, or educating her viewers about Depersonalisation Disorder, a condition that she suffers from herself. “I guess,” she begins, pausing before making a quick apology for the reference to the title of her third EP that’s about to follow, “I just want to be seen as ‘Human’. I think that’s the overall message of my songs. Saying that you’re human is very forgiving. I want to put it out there that I do have feelings.”
And that’s how she signs off. Not quite a vlogger, definitely not a “piece of jelly”, but as a normal, 23-year-old human who’s next task for the day is cleaning her room.