Scene and Heard: Odessa
After years of playing in bands, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Odessa has gone solo with an eponymously-named 11-track album (Chop Shop/Republic Records) out on Tuesday, April 28. The artist, born Odessa Rose Jorgensen, wrote, arranged, and produced all of the tracks and recorded them in Nashville where she moved at age 18. The result is a haunting and delicate record with meandering songs that each tell a story or recount an experience. Born and raised in Santa Rosa, Odessa had previously played violin for such bands as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, but now she’s taken up the guitar. “I grew up playing violin,” she explains. “I bought my first electric guitar two years ago. I had borrowed them and fooled around with them, but lately I’m putting more time into playing it.”
Odessa jokes that she can cover all the parts in her songs except for the drums, “I play violin and cello on the record. And viola. I layer the strings. String sections are very expensive, so it’s very convenient,” she adds. For any part she didn’t play on the record, Odessa says she rounded up the neighbors. “There’s a wealth of great musicians in Nashville and I would just call on them.” Fair play. On the self-titled album’s first track, “I Will Be There,” Odessa’s voice is stripped down but there are also layers of voices behind hers. It sets the tone for the next ten songs.
“I started recording in an actual studio in Nashville,” says Odessa. “But it wasn’t feeling natural, so we moved the studio into a friend’s house,” she adds. Odessa notes that she likes to have the time and space to experiment. The album’s third track is a product of this method. “Hummed Low took me the longest to figure out,” Odessa says. “I wrote the melody in Vail, Colorado while teaching a fiddle camp there, but it took much longer to write the lyrics.” That happened much later in Nashville after her neighbor there asked Odessa to join him for the day. “We got in his truck for this road trip, and I didn’t realize we were going to drive to Kentucky,” she says. The two friends spent the day looking through a trove of antique stores. “I wasn’t even in a mood to take a trip,” says Odessa. “But we ended up on this long journey on back roads with no A.C. and only AM radio the whole time.” Odessa says it turned out to be a really great day. “I came home that evening and wrote the song all night long.” The lyrics conjure up the sounds and feel of the journey, and the tableaus visible along the way such as a barn burning beside the road. Such personal tales make Odessa’s melodic new album as hypnotic and striking as images of farms and meadows (both blurred and crisp) glimpsed out of a car window.
By Elizabeth Varnell
Pictured: Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Odessa.
Photo by: Neil Krug