Our first artist feature of 2022 is here. Opening up for us is the wonderful Hope Dodge with her track, I'm Not A Man. I caught up with her to talk about lesbian love stories, coming out and how songwriting helps Hope to process emotions.
Your newest track, I’m Not A Man, is a very open and emotionally fueled song about sexuality, specifically dating someone who isn’t open about their own sexuality. How did the song come into existence?
I think it can be a difficult topic to talk about, but something that is fairly common in the gay community, as it is agony for all involved. During lockdown, I was consuming a tonne of media, basically any lesbian love story I could get my hands on, and a common theme was having to hide their relationship for one reason or another. Inspired by these stories, I created this character, that I feel like I now know almost as if they were a real person, who is tired of being kept a secret. In my mind she is extremely confident, even a little bit arrogant and is certain that she is way better than this guy that her girlfriend is dating just to keep up appearances, and struggles to see past her own desires to understand why her partner won’t just come out and be open about their relationship as she herself is so desperate to. It was really fun to write from someone else’s point of view as it’s not something I do often and definitely not a person that I’ve made up. I found myself getting quite emotional while writing as I know this is a reality for a lot of gay couples, so I made sure that at least my song had a happy ending, even if that does not happen often in real life.
The key thing is that not everybody’s coming out experience is the same for a number of reasons, I’m lucky that my family is very loving and supportive, the main reaction I got was “You think this is a surprise?” as they all seemed to know before I did, but I know that is unfortunately not the case for everyone. I’ve got friends who were completely cut off by their family when they found out they were gay. That is not to say that it’s not the same stakes for everyone and while coming out might not be a huge deal to one person, it could be earth shattering for another.
“I made a conscious decision to work with a female producer as I became aware of how underrepresented they are in the industry.”
You're brave with your songwriting, laying your heart on your sleeve in terms of sexuality and identity. Is it important for you to be open in your songwriting?
Definitely, my songs for the most part are like my diary. Ever since I was little I’ve struggled to communicate how I feel to others and even to myself, but songwriting has allowed me to work through my emotions. Growing up I was an outsider and one of the ways I coped with that was through music and whenever I found a musician who was like me in some way, or who wrote about the emotions I felt, it gave me hope that things would get better. It’s really important to me to be open about who I am to show that it’s okay to be different and things do in fact get better, which is something I wish I could have told my younger self!
“Lyrics are always the most important part of a song to me and as such, my biggest inspirations are all incredible songwriters.”
Your music has evolved from indie folk to a more pop-rock sound. I can definitely hear some Alanis Morissette, The Cranberries and No Doubt in your music. Do you think that you’ve found your sound?
I love all of those artists. I grew up listening to them in the car with my mum! For sure, I’ve been experimenting with different sounds over the last year, during lockdown I collaborated virtually with a load of producers from around the world, in all kinds of genres, and it showed me that literally anything I could conceive of was possible! Before then I’d felt as though I was constricted to folk (although I do still love listening to folk music) as I wrote all my songs on acoustic guitar, but now I see my acoustic demos as a jumping off point rather than the finished product. With ‘I’m Not a Man’ I feel like I’ve found the style of music that suits me best and all the songs I’m working on at the moment are in a similar vein.
You were produced and mastered by women in music. It’s refreshing and empowering to see women working together, especially when there are so few female music producers (3% of producers in the UK are female). Was it important to you to include women in the process?
Yes, most definitely. I made a conscious decision to work with a female producer as I became aware of how underrepresented they are in the industry. My music is all about female empowerment and it was very important to me to work with other women, firstly from a feminist perspective but also as a lot of my music is specifically about the female experience I wanted to work with women who would really understand and connect with what I was writing about.
“Don’t let anybody make you second guess yourself, everybody has to start somewhere and the sooner you start, the faster you learn and improve.”
Who are your biggest inspirations?
Taylor Swift, I have been in love with her music since I was 11 and I saw the Love Story music video on TV. Her songwriting skills are otherworldly. I could honestly talk about her all day! Lyrics are always the most important part of a song to me and as such, my biggest inspirations are all incredible songwriters. I love how open and honest Alanis Morissette’s lyrics are. Her music showed me that I could be matter of fact in my own lyrics and I could be candid about my true feelings. Tracy Chapman is another big inspiration. Her music is so beautiful and her lyrics are incredibly powerful.
If you were to design your own festival. What artists would you have playing? What would the theme be, and where would it be?
Ooh good question, Taylor Swift would definitely be headlining, that’s for sure. I would have it somewhere warm and sunny. I am not built for cold weather. Medellín is one of my favourite cities, so I’d probably pick there, plus I can speak the language which would come in handy! As for theme I’d pick Grrrl Power and have artists like Destroy Boys, Dead Sara, Willow and Avril Lavigne.
What female artists are you listening to right now?
I just discovered BXB LOVE the other day and can’t stop listening to Ignorance Song especially, but the whole project is amazing. I absolutely love Cherym and their song Kisses on My Cards is actually one of the reference tracks for a song I’m working on right now! Also Honey Revenge, they just have one song out at the moment, but it is on a loop. I can’t wait to see what they do next.
What piece of advice would you give to a woman starting out in the music industry?
I think my advice would be to just go for it and don’t let anybody make you second guess yourself, everybody has to start somewhere and the sooner you start, the faster you learn and improve. You have to believe in yourself and have your own back because there will always be naysayers. The world is very quick to try and knock you down, especially if you’re a woman, so don’t do it to yourself!
Stream I'm Not A Man here: