How Damielou Found Her Community

Apr 22, 2020

When Damielou Shavelle began creating YouTube videos in her bedroom, she never anticipated the joy it would bring people. Sharing vlogs and performing cover songs from pop greats like Ariana Grande to Nat King Cole, her channel garnered millions of views across the world, reaching new heights in 2015 when she auditioned for The Voice Australia.

Singing onstage with Jessie J, it was a turning point for Damielou—she realised her love for music could empower her to do anything. Choosing to study Music Performance at Collarts, it was in her newfound community that she honed her craft and realised her calling; sharing her everyday with thousands of fans through avenues like VidCon, The ShareSpaceInstagram, and TikTok.

Celebrating her innate ability for storytelling, we caught up with Damielou to chat about creativity and how her time at Collarts has shaped the way she approaches music and collaboration.

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Hi Damielou, thanks for chatting with me! Tell me about yourself. When did you realise you wanted a career in music?
I realised I wanted to pursue music as a career after creating content on YouTube for a couple of years. I found I really loved making music and the joy it brought to people online. It wasn’t until my appearance on The Voice Australia that I decided to pursue it seriously.

Oh wow, how did you go from YouTube to performing on The Voice?
I started off as a vlogger, creating a lot of sketch comedy. Once I started sharing the music I was making in my bedroom, people were like “wow, keep doing that!” My YouTube channel morphed as a result, as music was never the main focus, and I found myself experimenting, trying not to put too much pressure on myself like many creators do.

Around that time, I was having a “yes” year, doing open mics and stuff with a very shaky voice. One day The Voice emailed me, telling me they wanted me on the show. I had a lot of stage fright when it came to performing and I really wanted to overcome that.

 

 

I love that you put yourself out there and had that all-or-nothing realisation. What did that experience teach you about yourself?
I was 22-23 around the time, still living at home. I feel I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to maturity. But because of that experience I had this intense battle within myself, asking who am I? I didn’t know who I was as an artist until I went to Collarts, where I decided to embrace that uncertainty.

I totally get what you mean. What was it like studying music for the first time?
Well at Collarts, one of the great things is that you perform every week in an ensemble. That was a huge deal for me, because before I’d go on stage I’d be so terrified I’d make myself sick. But my teachers were so inspirational and super cool. They taught me how to deal with those feelings and the vocal techniques I needed to be a confident performer. All that practice added up and I found myself in a community.


Damie performing with fellow Music Performance student, Riley Catherall.

That’s so awesome. How did it feel finding a community that accepted you and your creativity?
Being a YouTuber, interacting with people face-to-face felt so unknown to me in the beginning. But Collarts gave me that sense of community that I was missing. I always knew something was absent, but I could never articulate what. I remember thinking, I’m missing a piece of myself. Collarts filled that hole in my chest and since then, I’ve made real connections with people. They’re now my friends in my band and the people I live with.

That makes me so happy to hear. When it comes to your music, do you feel your history and experience in social media has informed the way you approach your work as an artist?
I’ve never really thought about it, but yeah it’s definitely helped. At Collarts, I had the realisation: I can be both serious but also have a laugh, as songwriting is storytelling. My “personal brand” is whatever I want it to be—and that’s okay! I feel like a lot of my peers become afraid to show different sides of them online, as they fear losing control of their brand image as a musician. But I think the best artists adapt and thrive because they build community.

Yeah, a sense of community is so powerful and at the heart of any creative scene. Do you feel like your popularity on TikTok and YouTube is because you aren’t afraid to share the success and failures that come from personal growth?
Yeah, in general the algorithm on TikTok it's super interesting. I don’t try and focus on growth, but it’s wild to me when I see one of my videos have over 2.7 million views. I think a lot of people just enjoy watching a journey. People love a story, and my story has grown while I’ve been online without me realising it.

I feel you. It’s clear to me that you've always been drawn to telling stories—whether it's about yourself or the things around you.
Yeah, even when I’m making content, those fragments build out who I am. Of course, nobody can plan out their whole life, so everything I post is very much this is who I am now. I’m a very creative person. I can't just be stuck doing one thing. Although music is the one thing that I'll always go back to, I’m always trying new things. People are complex, so why pigeonhole yourself into one thing?

I agree! I think that’s so important to always be learning and exploring your interests. When it comes to your music though, what draws you to pop?
I appreciate pop music so much because it’s designed to be timeless. I feel like there's a weird stigma in Melbourne where pop music is not really embraced, even though it’s so technically intricate. For me, pop music is such a flexible genre because it’s always a challenge to write—I love fusing it with indie, soul and even rap. Plus there are so many motivational women in pop music like Lizzo, Selena Gomez, Audrey Mika, and so on who inspire and make others laugh.

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I couldn’t agree more. I’m curious, what do you want your legacy to be?
I have this like motto on my wall and it says, "Being brave, doing what I love, and to inspire others”. I just wrote that down one day. I’m my happiest when I can inspire people to do what they want to do. You can see it in people's eyes when they're super passionate and there's nothing more genuine.

What advice would you give to people who are hesitating to like follow their creative dreams?
Just do it! Right now, I can't think of something better to say than that. It's like that old cliché. It's really hard to believe in yourself sometimes, at least for me anyway. I think you have to believe and be proud of what you make, and just remember that you're making something in that moment. It doesn’t matter what equipment you have or don’t have, or where you can improve. Because little by little you grow and sometime later, you’ll see how far you’ve come. 

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