“Everything in my life has brought me to what I’m doing now,” says Odessa. “Putting out this record that I’ve lived to make for so long is going to feel like the best thing in the world.”
It has been quite the journey for Odessa, a road well traveled that has led at last to her debut EP as a solo artist. A gifted violinist/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist with a CV that includes stints with such diverse outfits as Old Crow Medicine Show and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Odessa has now lit out on her own and crafted a rich and human sound that defies easy classification, born of folk and pop, blues and psychedelia. Produced by Jacquire King (Of Monsters and Men, Norah Jones, Dawes), songs like “Hummed Low” and “I Will Be There” – famously featured in Subaru’s 2014 “Flat Tire” ad campaign – are melancholy, evocative, and strikingly original, fueled by Odessa’s instrumental prowess, passionate vocals, and utterly unique perspective.
“My dad would always tell me, Write your own songs,” she says. “At the end of the day, if your music isn’t your own, you don’t really have anything. I’ve always held that in the back of my mind.”
The Santa Rosa native was immersed in music from her very start, toddling among her musician father’s surf band rehearsals before beginning classical training on the violin at the tender age of 4. The next 10 years saw Odessa performing with chamber ensembles and symphonies, even making her debut on the legendary stage of New York’s Carnegie Hall. She traveled to Japan for a brief stint as a high fashion model but soon returned to Santa Rosa where she plugged in her violin and joined a local rock outfit.
“I just decided then and there that this was the kind of music I wanted to play,” Odessa says. “It was the first time I wasn’t reading music, I wasn’t following a chart of any kind – it was my own expression and it was so exciting.”
Odessa learned her way around the studio and the stage, schooling herself in the canons of classic rock and Americana. Inspired, she made early attempts at songwriting, composing her first song on her dad’s acoustic – an instrument she plays to this very day. She spent time in Denver and Europe before settling in Nashville where she rewired her skill set to include fiddle and lead vocals. Odessa was soon fronting a hard touring Nashville bluegrass group, spending considerable time on the road in the US and Europe. From there she traveled north – far north – and spent still another year touring and recording with a popular Alaskan folk group.
“That was all I was doing,” she says. “I was with one band for a while, I’d get home and someone would call asking if I wanted to play with them. I went from tour to tour, I was never home for more than a week at a time. It was really fun, but it wasn’t satiating me. I think it was at that point that I started thinking along the lines of recording my own music.”
Sadly her father passed in 2007 and Odessa resolved to focus on her own songs. With her dad’s beloved Yamaha 16 track recorder in tow, she headed to Asheville, North Carolina where she spent the next six months writing and recording on her very own, experimenting with layered vocals, unusual guitar tunings, and other outré ideas far outside her comfort zone.
“I was writing twenty four hours a day,” she says. “Really, around the clock. I was having so many thoughts about my own music, about building my own songs and making my own record. I had a vision for my songs. I wanted to make my own music, I had to make my own music.”
Despite this non-stop creative awakening, Odessa accepted an offer to join another band, this time as both lead singer and contributing songwriter. Stepping up to the front of the stage proved exciting and energizing, but ultimately just added fuel to her own individual goals. Odessa eventually landed back in Nashville where she finally tracked her first real deal studio demos.
By now her prodigious talents had gained widespread attention from such Music City based acts as Old Crow Medicine Show, whom she accompanied on 2011’s now legendary Railroad Revival Tour with Mumford and Sons and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (captured for posterity on the GRAMMY® Award-winning documentary, Big Easy Express). Upon tour’s end, Odessa proved busier than ever, playing violin and vocalizing with Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and Old Crow Medicine Show’s Gil Landry, and criss-crossing the country in a ’69 Plymouth Valiant with Nashville singer/songwriter Rayland Baxter as both fiddle player and solo support act.
Determined to concentrate on her own music, Odessa began teaming up with producer Jacquire King for sessions at engineer Brad Bivens’ fully equipped home studio in East Nashville. Bivens especially proved an important collaborator, guiding Odessa through the complexities of recording while also engaging her ambitious creativity.
Alas, a near fatal bicycle accident put a hard stop to the proceedings. Time stood still as Odessa healed from her injuries and she was thankfully much improved when the call came to join Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros as full time violinist and backing vocalist. The next two years were spent touring the world as a Magnetic Zero, not to mention contributing strings to Edward Sharpe leader Alex Ebert’s Golden Globe Award-winning score to director J.C. Chandor’s acclaimed 2013 film, All Is Lost.
Now based in Los Angeles, Odessa is at long last poised to devote herself fully to her own songs, even putting together a backing band of her very own to help tour the “ODESSA” EP and its even more diverse full-length follow-up.
“I’m in such a different physical and mental place from where I was when I began all this,” Odessa says. “I’m drawing inspiration from different places in myself now. Everything is connected, nothing is separate from each other – it’s not like I have my life and then I have my music. It’s just existence and it takes you down all these exciting and unknown and terrifying paths. Sometimes creation happens along the way and that is the most beautiful gift.”