On the 26th March of this year 25-year-old English singer-songwriter Dodie released her first full-length studio record, Build a Problem. The fact that it was her debut album was something of a surprise, given the range of work she produced ahead of it: from the very start of her career she recorded and posted original tracks on YouTube, quickly gaining a significant following; as she made a name for herself and her uniquely emotive, intimate singing style, she went on to score two top-ten EPs, and headlined and sold out London’s Roundhouse, the Hollywood Palladium and New York’s Terminal Five. Build a Problem, in typical style, rose in the charts to number three by May, but, like many other artists with new releases in 2021, it wasn’t aired to the public till much later.
Dodie has now embarked on a far-reaching tour for the record, covering much of North America and Europe, and stopping off early in London’s very own Hammersmith Apollo. The album’s title references a line from Hate Myself, much of the work in general exploring being alive, the bumps along the way, and looking back and learning from mistakes. The result is musically ambitious and dreamy, showcasing the artist’s realisation as an exceptional musician, who goes as far as writing in Lydian mode (a seven-note scale that originated in ancient Greece and underpins many Gregorian chants), and penning complex string arrangements.
The painful work on herself that went into the material is clear in the instrumentation, which is often sparse with poignant melodies. Dodie has related how, when she finally heard the 13-piece string orchestra playing her creations in the studio, she was overwhelmed by tears: “I was supposed to count them in and I just… couldn’t.” She is proud of the release but nervous to share it: “I listened to the whole album and I’m like, ‘Maybe this isn’t a great thing to share.’ But it’s a beautiful reflection of the dark things I feel.” Nick Bennett was at the Hammersmith Apollo to shoot Build a Problem coming to life.