We had the chance to sit down with the dreamy singer/songwriter, Odessa for an intimate interview after her show in Portland, OR at the Alhambra Theater last month. She was warm, genuine, funny, and absolutely beautiful inside and out…
Restore your faith in indie songwriting with her magical music!
Get to know this real-deal artist a lot better, and let yourself fall in love with her new EP, Odessa, here…
+ T H E I N T E R V I E W +
1. Before becoming a solo artist, have there been any other musical projects you’ve been involved in and/or toured with?
I played strings for Rayland Baxter, and played viola and violin for Abby Washburn. I did a little bit of singing, but mostly learned string arrangements. I’ve toured before with Gill Landry (Frank Lemon) of Old Crow Medicine Show, backing him up on violin and singing, as well as other one-off gigs, like Steve Martin for “King Tut” at The Met. My last stint with a band was playing violin for Edward Sharpe.
I did do a month-long tour on the west coast with Rayland and our friend Ryan in a 1969 Plymouth Valiant, with no registration, and we filmed a little documentary on the road. It was the most seamlessly easy tour… It was so much fun. We didn’t plan on anywhere to stay, we had the tour booked, but would then try to find the craziest looking motel, like the ‘Mustang Sally’ or something like that, so we had so much fun! This is the first time I’ve ever been out, just by myself, on tour.
2. Where are you currently based?
I lived in Nashville for five years, then moved to L.A. last October. I’m originally from northern California… I liked Nashville but feel like my roots are really deep here (on the west coast). My family is all from here.
3. What’s your writing process like, regarding writing music vs. writing lyrics?
It’s different every time… If I get an idea, no matter what place I’m in, I hunker down and record. I feel like every song has been written in a different place or a different time with different instruments… A series of events will lead to a song. I write melody-based because I’ve been playing violin for a long time, so I’m definitely melody-driven. I don’t really write words first.. I’ll write words separately and they’ll fit to a melody sometimes. But I feel like the music itself mostly makes the sound of words. That’s the way I listen to music, too.
4. How would you describe your music?
I usually just say “I write and play instruments and sing.” For a minute I was embarrassed that i didn’t have musical references, but if someone tells me what music they play and then they liken themselves to an artist, I might immediately judge what their music is like. I just feel like “why would you want to put yourself in anyone else’s pool?” Everyone is so different.
5. What kind of instruments and gear do you use?
I play an ’83 gold top Les Paul. I’m not a gear head at all, but I know what I want to hear, so when I was in Gruhn’s guitars, a legendary guitar spot in Nashville, after trying like 100 guitars, I picked this guitar based on the sound. Then my friend sent me a picture of Slash and was like, “look at the guitar you bought!” But I didn’t care, I loved how it sounded, it was beautiful! It sounded like a bell… I also play an older Gibson that my friend Gus loaned me, and I play my dad’s Guild guitar (which is on all of my records, and I write like crazy on his guitar. I think all of my songs have started on that guitar.)
This is a crazy story: The amp I play with is my dad’s amp from the 70’s, an old Princeton Reverb that I just got back… My dad is no longer living, and about two and a half years ago, I found my his amp buried in the garage and took it to a shop to get refurbished. But then I got into a really bad accident and was out for a long time and forgot about the amp, forgot that I dropped it off, because it was in the recesses of my mind after the accident, even though it’s very important to me. So a year to a year and half goes by, and a couple of months ago, I was playing the Les Paul at a show and was having trouble with the low end of it (because it’s kind of a bass-y guitar) and a friend of mine was like “you know what you need is an old Princeton Reverb amp,” and I thought, “Ding! My dad’s amp!” So I called the place I took it to and they said they had tried calling me for a year, numerous times, and had they sold it 3 weeks ago. I was devastated. This was an amp he had since he was a teenager, and it’s a sick amp, worth $1000s of dollars. I would have paid (I’m not kidding) $10 grand to get it back. I would have gone into debt to get that amp back. They gave me the number to Stanroy Music Center, where they sold it, which was the place I used to take violin lessons since I was 4 years old. I called up and asked for the manager, Steve, (and I remember this man, I could picture his face in my mind)… I just said “Hi Steve, this is Odessa, remember my dad, David? Someone just sold you guys his amp and I really want to buy it back.” He said “of course”, and that he was looking right at it! So I drove a day early before tour and he sold it back to me. I was rejoicing and was celebrating life again. And now the guitar sounds perfect.
6. That’s amazing! So you grew up in a musical family?
Yes, my dad was my #1 musical influence. He always played and wrote music all the time. I never wrote any songs when he was alive but he always encouraged me, and we would fight about it; he was so adamant about it. He worked at a post office but he was writing during lunch breaks, before work, after work, just constantly. And he had a little recording studio on the porch with his 16 track old digital recorder. I recorded all of my first music on that recorder. So he’s really musical, and his sister is a gospel singer… We started to connect again.
7. Are there any other artists or instances in your life that also inspired you to start making music?
When I started to really get deep into music, I was listening to Simon and Garfunkel and CCR. I remember the first time I was listening to Simon and Garfunkel in my room on the floor and was so fascinated by what was going on… It moved me. All of that music from that era did. But I listen to all different genres of music now. I was listening to Sam Smith for hours on the way here, it’s so beautiful. And Radiohead–I was listening to that incessantly. I was home schooled, so I was behind on everything. I discovered a lot of music way after the fact.
8. Did you have any particular inspiration for the music video for “I Will Be There”?
I love the use of lights and wanted them to create a landscape to the song. I also wanted a slower music video that made you still listen to the music but give you something visually beautiful to look at while you’re listening… I wanted it to feel like the mood of the song. A lot of my songs are so visual to me, so I see them in colors, washes of colors, and lights. I wanted to see what that would be like, and also just be able to perform it live with my friends. I really love simplicity… I’m so over-stimulated, there’s always so much happening in my mind, so I wanted to create a clearer picture of something. And the video lets your mind wander, unlike when you watch something and things are thrown at you and there’s no room in your brain for any original thought. I made another video in that same sort of mood before “I Will Be There” with my friend Peter that we’re going to release later… It’s the slowest.
9. We heard you like to draw… Do you have any of your artwork in your album art? Do you have art shows in L.A.?
I do like to draw, I didn’t do anything for this album, but when the vinyl comes out I’ll have a sheet insert in there. Sometimes I won’t even play music for a while and just draw. I’ve done covers for other people, but I’ve never actually had an art show. I like to draw lots of landscapes…. I always drew in the car on the road and sold them as bookmarks at the merch table and was killin’ it! It’s my favorite past time, driving in the car drawing, and if we have an 8 hour drive, it’s perfect! I’m trying to do that on this tour more. I buy old books (I’m obsessed with antiquing), and rip the front and back pages out to draw on. Old paper is so beautiful.
10. Do you have a particularly favorite or sentimental song?
Townes Van Zandt, “Highway Kind” from High, Low and in Between.
11. Who are you currently listening to on the road that you’re really into?
We were listening to Lansing Dreiden today and I’ve been listening to Kurt Vile a lot. There’s never a time I don’t want to listen to him. Childish Prodigy is so good. We love Sam Smith, Jensen Sportag, and I just played Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde, twice in a row. I always listen to Neil Young, too, but CCR is my favorite band of all time… I’ve been listening to them since I was born. I also love Kanye West’s (My Beautiful) Dark Twisted Fantasy–that album is layers deep. It’s is fascinating to me.
12. What can we expect from you after this tour?
I’m writing a lot of new music now, and I’ll be doing a live version of the EP this fall/winter, but mainly just touring. I hope to go to Europe next year… We’re looking at a lot of different touring options for next year, which I’m very happy about!
+ T H E M U S I C +
+ The Odessa EP features the engaging and entrancing single “I Will Be There”. Projecting an artful story through blissful guitars and endearing vocals, the track continues to amass buzz for the artist. Produced by Jacquire King (Tom Waits, Kings Of Leon), the four-song EP welcomes everyone into ODESSA‘s world. Here’s the tracklist:
1. I Will Be There
2. My Match
3. Hummed Low
4. Gather Round
+ Odessa’s single, “I Will Be There” was also featured on Red Band Society, Grey’s Anatomy, and in the film If I Stay…
+ Find out more about the single “I Will Be There”, the music video, and what the Press is saying here.
+ F A L L 2 0 1 4 T O U R +
ODESSA just wrapped a string of dates alongside LP, and she’s currently on the road with folk luminary Brett Dennen. Later this month she will be playing two special shows at CMJ Music Marathon in New York. Here are the tour dates!
10/1 Taos, NM KATO Solar Center+
10/3 Bellevue, CO Mishawaka Amphitheatre+
10/4 Park City, UT Park City Live+
10/6 Chico, CA El Rey Theater+
10/7 Grass Valley, CA Center for the Arts+
10/8 Crystal Bay, NV Crystal Bay Club Casino+
10/12 Omaha, NE The Waiting Room Lounge+
10/16 Tarrytown, NY Tarrytown Music Hall+
10/17 Wilmington, DE World Cafe Live – Wilmington+
10/18 Albany, NY Empire State Plaza+
10/21 Hartford, CT Infinity Hall+
10/22 Portsmouth, NH The Music Hall+
10/23 New York, NY CMJ Music Marathon – Communion Showcase at Glasslands
10/24 New York, NY CMJ Music Marathon – Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2
+ w/ Brett Dennen
+ F O L L O W O D E S S A +