If you have ever doubted the fact that YouTube holds the unique ability to transform lives, you have most likely never met YouTube’s #1 most subscribed musician, 20-year-old Internet boy genius, Dave Days. Since joining YouTube in 2007, the green polo-wearing, Miley Cyrus-loving Dave Days has risen from a childhood spent in relative obscurity in Pennsylvania to become one of YouTube’s top original talents.Famed for his comical song parodies, Blink 182-style original music and his career-launching Miley Cyrus obsession, Dave Days has garnered a throng of die-hard fans who have taken his channel to the top of the YouTube food chain. His whopping 1.4 million subscribers has helped him beat out top mainstream artists like Rihanna and Katy Perry.After an intense photo shoot that involved a bathtub full of primary-colored plastic playground balls and a pink blow-up guitar, we sat down with the YouTube sensation to discuss his new EP “We’re Just Kids,” how he felt about headlining YouTube’s DigiTour and how he managed to become YouTube’s #1 subscribed musician in only 5 years time.
How did you first get into YouTube? What inspired you to make your first video?
Dave Days: I started when I was in high school. I was about 16 years old, and I would go on YouTube here and there, and I saw a lot of people posting videos and kind of expressing themselves and doing silly things. It would get a lot of attention, and I found that really interesting, so I thought, “Hey, I am going to try this.” I just put up little videos of me talking about random things; DaxFlame and LisaNova were some of the first YouTubers that I ever saw, and I started making videos directed to them. I made a video about DaxFlame and how I was a big fan. Yeah, from then I just kind of continued it from there, tried new things.
Did you have instant success, or did it kind of build up?
No, it definitely built up. Yeah, it wasn’t like I just kind of happened over night. Everything was a process, you know. Different videos will gain more attention, and your fan base just grows. So yeah, it definitely takes time, and you have to really work hard and post a lot of videos, really.
Do you watch your old videos to see how your content has changed from then to now? How have you changed as an artist since your first video in 2007 when you were 15 or 16?
Yeah, I like to go back and watch it and just see like, how I used to be. But I feel like I am the same person; I have just gotten a new camera, I have changed rooms that I film in, I have upped the production a bit. Some music videos, I have a crew, different locations, so I think I have just upped the production value, if anything. I am still the same person.
Do you think covering Miley Cyrus in your videos and making all those parodies really helped your career?
Yeah, when I did the first parody it was just for fun, really. She was big, but mainly her music–I really liked her music, and I was like, “I will make this a rock version,” this one song. I was like, “How can I make this funny?” so I went online, found a cardboard cut-out and I made a video for fun. That really blew up because it was topical, but it also had my unique style like my music, the rock style.
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Where does your creative inspiration come from? Do you take a lot of viewer suggestions, or are the ideas primarily your own?
It’s usually a mix. Like, I can get an idea randomly, wake up in the middle of the night and just have an idea, but I love to Tweet and Facebook the fans, say, “What would you like to see me do?” to just get a reference of what they want, because they know me best, I’d say–other than myself. Yeah, I do a mix of just random ideas, and I try and get the fans involved too.
Are you good about making a video quickly if a fan submits it, or do you just wait and put it in the bucket?
Yeah. Well, I am trying to post more and more now. I used to post kind of randomly; I never really had a schedule, but now I am trying to post weekly. So if I get an idea, I like to just kind of knock it out and put it up that weekend.
At what point in your career did you know that this was something that you could do full-time and be successful at? What was the turning point?
I mean, it didn’t hit me for a while, but probably when I started getting these random checks from Google, and my parents were like, “What is this money? Blah, blah ,blah.” “Oh, it’s these videos I am making in the basement.” And then it kind of hit me that, alright, you can actually have a career off this and get views and get an audience and really market yourself to the audience.
What do you think it is about you and your videos that connect with audiences and encourages people to keep coming back and subscribing?
I do a lot of music. I try to keep it fun and entertaining, and I feel like if you make people smile or laugh they would be down to check it out again and come back. I just try and make entertaining stuff and make it unique and silly.
You’ve been a part of YouTube’s Digitour 2 years in a row. What was it like being a headliner on the 2012 DigiTour?
It was really fun. I love playing live, because on the Internet you just see the comments and the number, but you don’t really see their faces. Playing live, you can really get a feel for who your audience is, how they react to you live and in person. It’s important with the Internet to branch out and do live performances and kind of expand all around.
What was your most memorable moment from the tour?
Yeah, when I did the first parody it was just for fun, really. She was big, but mainly her music–I really liked her music, and I was like, “I will make this a rock version,” this one song. I was like, “How can I make this funny?” so I went online, found a cardboard cut-out and I made a video for fun. That really blew up because it was topical, but it also had my unique style like my music, the rock style.: It just feels great, like going on stage and playing the beginning of a song and hearing people cheer, like, “Oh my god, I love this song!”
Yeah, it’s probably surreal.
Yeah, it’s definitely an awesome moment.
Is it true you got left back on the DigiTour in New Mexico?
Oh, not really, no. I stayed back to stay with a friend, and I made it seem like I was joking with them, like, “Guys, don’t leave me,” and the buses just drove off. Well, they didn’t actually leave me, but they thought they did because I sent an email saying, “Come back.”
What kind of musical training have you had?
Well, my dad got me into guitar when I was really young. He bought me a little acoustic guitar when I was 5 which is somewhere around here. It was really small. He showed me the basic chords. Really, I never took lessons. Singing, though, I was in chorus class in middle school and high school. That was the most training I have ever had.
What kind of encouraged you to switch to making original content from just doing parodies?
Right. I have always been writing original music, but I like making people laugh, and I like experimenting a lot because I feel like I haven’t quite developed exactly, like the sound I wanted to go for. I do a lot of the production myself, so original music I’m more picky at compared to the parodies and covers, so–I don’t know–I just decided to throw them out there and do them. I have always loved doing original music, and I like doing a mix of all that.
Did you choose to share your original music primarily because you had such success with your various parodies? Did all the positive feedback encourage you to branch out musically?
Yeah, I used to put out my original music on MySpace or something, but yeah, the parodies and once I got an audience, I was like, “Alright, I can show these people my original music.” It was almost kind of scary because I would do parodies and covers, and I was like “Are they ready for the original music? What are they going to think?” It was kind of nerve-racking, but I loved doing it, and I feel like it was a great step in my career to put out a lot of original music.
Who are your musical inspirations? Who do you aspire to be?
What got me into guitar was Blink 182 and Green Day and Sum 41 and those bands. But after, who do I want to aspire to? I don’t know–I just want to be myself, my own style and have my own unique sound. I figure that out everytime I make a video or song.
You just released your newest EP, “We’re just Kids,” in March. How is this EP different from your previous album, “Dinner and a Movie”?
“Dinner and a Movie” I felt was kind of experimental with styles. I did one song with a producer which is poppier. There is an acoustic song on there. “We’re Just Kids” EP, the one I just put out, is more just rock-y and pop punk-y, like strictly that style. I just wanted to really do that style; I was really into it at the time. It’s what got me into music, so I felt like I owed it to everybody.
Your video/song “We’re Just Kids” has some explicit lyrics, which is a change from your previous music. I saw a lot of the comments, and fans couldn’t believe you said the f-word. Why did you choose to include explicit lyrics, and what do you think that says about you as an artist?
I just wanted to kind of try something new. Mainly, the way I wrote the song, it was really impactful with that word, and yeah, I know people in the comments were like, “Oh my god.”
Yeah, they were freaking out.
A lot of people were, yeah. I wanted to show people that I’m mature, and I can say these things and not like tied in with Disney, because people are like, “Oh, he can’t say anything.”
Do a lot of people think that you are because of the Miley Cyrus stuff?
Kind of, but I don’t know. I am willing to do anything, and I just wanted to show that there are a lot of different sides to me.
Do you want to do a full length album in the future?
Yeah, that is definitely one of my biggest goals–to do my first full length original album.
Are you working on that now? Or is that a goal you are eventually going to start working on?
Well, I am always working on original music. I have a bunch of songs that are half-finished or unreleased, so yeah, I am always in the process.
So you’re working on it?
Yeah, yeah, loosely. I am just trying to get back in the zone of making videos weekly, and while I am doing that, working on original music and planning to prepare for a full length album, yeah.
You have been a part of YouTube almost from the very beginning; how have you seen it change as platform for artists? What are some of the best and worst changes that you have seen YouTube implement over your career?
Yeah, I mean, whenever they change it, I always feels like it’s not positive because every one has to relearn the layout. I don’t know–there is good and bad. I like how now there is a store; you can have a store and playlists. When I started doing playlists, you can organize your videos a lot better. Yeah, just changes are kind of tough because it always flips how it works.
What do you think about the recent changes that have lowered subscriber numbers because of dead accounts?
Yeah, a lot of people are losing subscribers. I lost like, a bunch of subscribers during that.
So did you notice a substantial amount of lost subscribers?
Yeah, there was a pretty big amount. I was like, “What is going on?” and then I read that they were closing the dead accounts, so I was like, “Alright.” Yeah, a lot of people got hit hard, like everybody was losing subscribers. It was unclear at first.
Have your views and subscription numbers been affected by Vevo taking over the music scene on YouTube?
Not really. Vevo is kind of a separate thing, the whole music side of that. I haven’t really seen it affect me though.
So you haven’t had to adapt your formats or anything like that?
Not really, no. But it’s like it would be good to get in with Vevo that way, because I know they do a lot of promotion; their artists are always kind of looped in.
Is that something you are working towards? Or have you spoken to anyone?
I mean, here and there. We’d reach out, but I don’t know. I am not sure what is up ahead. We are working on it.
You’re up against Rihanna and every other pop star, but you’ve managed to maintain your status as #1 in subscriptions. What’s your secret?
I say just post a lot of content, be yourself, have fun, connect with your audience, like talk with them, make them know you’re there for them and really just post content that they would like. Just be yourself and have fun.
What is your favorite thing about being a new media artist, and what opportunities has it opened up for you that maybe you wouldn’t have found in traditional media?
It’s definitely been fun being this whole new media wave. I meet a lot of great people, and it’s a lot easier to get meetings. People are like, “Oh, you have a this Internet presence. Okay.” Yeah, so I enjoy it, and I kind of skipped some steps too. You can get more meetings, and I skipped a few steps because of the whole Internet thing. It’s nice because you can grow from it and learn; there are more opportunities that arise.
What else have you been doing besides your channel? Have you expanded outside of YouTube?
I sell music on iTunes. I have, like a merch store. I mainly just do music on my YouTube I am focusing on.
When did you know that it was a good time to start selling shirts? When’s a good point to put your face on something or put your name brand on merch?
Oh, you mean like when you feel like you are popular enough already? I don’t know. For me, it was just I just wanted shirts. Like, it’s always cool to have shirts, and I feel like even a lot of people who don’t have a following want shirts, but it’s like their name or an idea they have. I feel like whenever you feel you have people start to care about your shirts and start to ask about shirts then you are allowed to do it.
Did you get a good response? Do a lot of people buy them?
Yeah, I try and make shirts that have cool designs and are fun. If they like me and want to buy shirts then that’s great.
So what’s next for you? What can your fans expect in the future?
Just a lot more videos, a lot of fun, new, fresh content. Trying to post more, so new videos, new music, mix of originals, parodies, covers. Just everything.
Are you working towards any collaborations YouTube or otherwise?
Yeah, I am working with a bunch of YouTubers on collabs for the future, and I’d like to work with mainstream artists. I feel like it would be cool to do like–because I do a lot of Miley stuff–to do a song with Miley Cyrus, and that would be cool to top it all off.
Yeah, that would be really cool. Do you want to add anything?
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Photography by Melly Lee