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With her emotive, dreamy vocals and soulful folk backbone, Odessa serves as a sort of musical palette cleanser, standing out in a sea of synth-pop and garage rock with her own quiet power. You might recognize the California native’s glimmery breakout single “I Will Be There” from a recent Subaru ad (it’s the first track off her self-titled EP), but she’s actually anything but an overnight sensation. The singer and fiddle player grew up home-schooled, played Carnegie Hall as a teenager, and then moved to Nashville after high school to pursue music. Since then she’s played with Edward Sharpe on tour, suffered — and moved on from — a near- fatal bike crash, and released an EP. Now she’s weaving all of these experiences together into her debut album, out April 28. Writer Jessica Hundley had tea with the L.A. transplant for the inaugural issue of POPULAR, where she filled us in on everything from picking up the fiddle, to how she turned an awful experience into something beautiful. Meet Odessa below.
On picking up and moving to Nashville: “I had never been to the South, I had never been anywhere. But I just had this feeling—something told me to head down there.”
On learning to step into the spotlight: “I didn’t start writing with the intention of being a songwriter or a singer. I always thought I would just play fiddle, be a background player. I’m not an ‘up front’ person—it doesn’t come naturally to me at all—but I wanted to do it.”
On the experience that changed her life: “I got hit by a car. I fractured my skull and my spine and knocked my teeth out and needed stitches in my face.”
On deciding to make a solo album: “It was an eye-opening experience. I felt like I was truly saying something, rather than helping other musicians say what they wanted. By the time I came back, I was ready to make a full-length record.”
On what music has taught her: “I still struggle being up in front of people, but I do love it. I can feel the whole thing growing now. It’s a very gratifying experience. In anything you do, when you feel like you’re giving the most you can give to something, that is when things really feel right.”