Experience songs from Odessa’s full length debut performed live at the El Rey on June 16 or 17. (Neil Krug)
How does someone like Odessa celebrate a successful monthlong residency at the Bootleg Theater and the release of her debut album all in the same week? Traveling of course. If there is anything that would rival Odessa’s love of music, it would be taking off to a new place.
“Traveling may be my first love,” says the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter as she is currently filling out paperwork for her upcoming trip. “I think anything I have written has come out of an experience that usually has to do with traveling and being in some new place.”
As I am on the phone interviewing Odessa, she is in the midst of purchasing her tickets for an African safari that she will be embarking on soon with her aunt.
“Ever since I was a kid I always wanted to see all parts of the world. There’s never been a time I didn’t want to go explore a new place,” she says.
She tells me that she cannot get a whole lot done when in one place for too long and thinks that it is important to be able to reflect on her experiences and be able to put it into words and create music from it. Well, it has been quite the journey for Odessa, a road well traveled that has led at last to her debut as a solo artist.
“Forging your own way can be exciting, but it can also be challenging because everything is riding on your own shoulders, nobody is telling you what to do next,” Odessa says.
A gifted violinist, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Odessa developed herself through gigs with such diverse outfits as Old Crow Medicine Show, on the band’s Railroad Revival Tour with Mumford and Sons as well as Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, spending the following two years touring with the group as full-time violinist and backing vocalist.
“It was a constant inspiration being on tour with them,” Odessa reflects on her time with the Magnetic Zeros. “It helped me realize that I want to pursue my own music. I really enjoyed playing with them, they are a massive band, and it is a big operation.”
It was during her tenure the Magnetic Zeros that Odessa began working on the music that would become her Odessa EP.
“As exciting as it was playing with them, I was really pulled toward doing my own thing. It was the time,” she recalls.
The Santa Rosa native was engrossed in music from childhood, beginning classical training on the violin at the age of four.
“I picked up on it quickly. That was my main instrument,” Odessa says.
The next decade saw Odessa performing with chamber ensembles and symphonies. As Odessa recalls, it was her father, a guitarist in surf rock band, who encouraged her to forge her own path with music.
“My dad always encouraged me to write my own music, we played a lot together,” Odessa says. “That is when I first started composing my own music. He would write instrumental guitar music and ask me to write melodies over it.”
Following her father’s advice, Odessa began toiling away at her own repertoire of music. She spent time in Denver and Europe before settling in Nashville and began teaming up with producer Jacquire King (Of Monsters and Men, Norah Jones, Dawes) for sessions at engineer Brad Bivens’ fully equipped home studio in East Nashville on a four-song EP that would eventually become her self-titled debut.
One song from the EP, “I Will Be There,” caught the attention of Subaru and was featured in their 2014 “Flat Tire” ad campaign.
“I was very surprised. I didn’t expect that at all. It definitely helped get things rolling for me, and I’m grateful for it,” Odessa says.
Initially the song did not stand out to her as being a hit or more special than the rest of her catalog. She maintains that all her songs mean just as much to her as “I Will Be There” does, regardless of the attention the single brought her.
“It’s a really flattering thing to feel like people understand something I’ve done. It’s cool,” she explains in a casual manner. “I feel like the song is a true expression of emotion, and that’s why it resonates with people.”
Many of the songs on Odessa’s debut album touch on a range of different experience and emotions. The music rides the line between introspective pop and folk that fans of Florence + the Machine, Bon Iver, Ryan Adams and Lana Del Rey could easily relate with.
Though the album has a touch of influence from some of her favorite artists like Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac, Odessa admits she was listening to a lot of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy during the recording of her album.
Although she would not actively call herself a fan of West, she points out how the album really was a collaborative effort showcasing a wide range of musical talent and production wizardry.
“The musical journey throughout the album is wild. It sounds like the sky’s the limit,” she says. “The album is a lot of layers. There are certain sections of the songs that I would listen to over and over because I wanted to figure out what was going on there. I think it was a pretty deep album, musically.”
In that sense, much of Odessa’s album is as musically rich and diverse as the West’s. Many of the tracks seamlessly blend melancholy and visceral lyrics with instrumental prowess, beautifully crafted melodies all packaged in a unique perspective that stems from Odessa’s past experiences and adventures.
Despite of her love of traveling, Odessa recently completed a month-long residency at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles where she had the freedom to choose her opening bands and enjoy some much-needed time in the city she currently calls home.
“It was attractive to me to be in one place and see how that felt and to be able to have band practice in town and go home. It [was] great. I am a huge fan of residencies now,” she expresses.
After her safari, Odessa is hoping to return to Nashville to continue working on music and hopefully get some more recording done.
Although she has made tremendous strides from once being in the background to being in the spotlight, she admits to still feeling nervous from time to time.
“It is a very different feeling to be the front person of a band. I can be pretty shy and I like being in the background sometimes,” she admits.
Despite the fleeting moments of unease, she has learned to accept the process and has been enjoying the transition.
“I’m having a lot of fun with it,” she says. “Maybe I’m just lightening up and deciding not to take it all so fucking seriously all the time [laughs]. That’s why I play music – because it’s fun.”
The Odessa album is currently available. Odessa performs June 16 and 17 at El Rey Theatre. For more information, visit thisisodessa.com.