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Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Gentlemanly Conversation with Elle Odessa

I’ve got a real treat for you guys!  If you asked me why I started doing these interviews I would say it was to get to talk music with people who make the music I love.  Hearing stories about where they come from, what inspires them, and where they dream of going can really help to give you a great perspective of what the songs mean. 
After hearing Elle Odessa for the first time I shot her an email, and before long we started talking.  Now don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the emails I have done thus far, but a lot of the guys were really busy, and, barring a few examples, our correspondence was pretty formal and terse.  Elle was very charming, clever, and not to mention gave some great answers.  We shared a couple of jokes, emoticons, and music suggestions, and came out of it with this:

When did you first start with music?
Probably in the womb, I just can’t remember. Ha. I started playing piano and violin when I was very young, but gave up on them pretty quick.  Then I picked up guitar when I was about 14.  

What inspired you to pursue songwriting?
I’m not sure I ever really ‘pursued songwriting’…it just sort of happened. I listened to lots of good music, surrounded myself with other musicians and it just sort of started happening.

You mention you surround yourself with musicians.  What other artist do you hang around with?
There's a guy from Oklahoma that puts about the last 60 years of American music together every time he picks up a guitar.  His name is JD Thompson. He’s cut an album called “Chasing Demons” with Grammy-winning producer Lou Adler, but you won’t hear much from him because he’s just not a self-promoter.  He did a lot of the production on my tracks, and I try to work with him in Oklahoma whenever I get the chance.  As for the rest, if I tried to name names there’d be too many!  I think I’ve learned the most from the really experienced players I have the privilege of jamming with at blues or bluegrass sessions. When you’re thrown into a situation like that you’re really forced to learn to listen to what everyone is doing, and it keeps you focused on the music and its message.

Growing up did you want to be a musician, or did you have other aspirations?
No actually, I wanted to be a scientist or a doctor.  Then I realized that there’s really no difference between art and science. And the science of music just turned me on more than some of the others.

How long have you been pursuing music professionally?
Professionally? Hmmm…What’s the difference between an amateur and a professional? If you mean pursuing music for money, I’m not sure that’s ever been something I’ve pursued.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice when you can make a living doing what you love, but pursuing music professionally …Music turns me on. So, let’s just say I’ve been in pursuit of getting turned on as far back as I can remember.

Where do you get your inspiration to write your songs?
From watching and listening to the people around me – paying attention to what they’re thinking and feeling.  I recently heard someone say, “Art exists to remind us of what there is to love, and also what there is to hate and to fear”.  I think that sums it up.

Like me Steve and John you’re a Philly resident (represent!)  Do you think that the city has affected your music?
Yes, definitely.  Philly has a really gritty vibe.  I’m drawn to certain rhythms and tones and I think it’s at least in part from growing up around the sounds of the city – the El, the traffic, angry people yelling at each other.  Seriously, I’ve lived a lot of other places, and no one yells like Philadelphians.  I mean that in the best possible way.

Are you a fan of any of the Philly sports teams?
A fan? As in fanatic? Uh, I think that might be a stretch, but ya’ know, I’m Italian so there’s that strain in me that has a little soft spot for the Coliseum. But I generally root for the underdog…whoever that happens to be.

Of your 3 songs is there one that’s much older, or were they all written around the same time?
“More” was written a couple of years before the other two.

If you had the chance to work with one artist who would it be?
I once heard that Lucifer was the angel of music. It was that same fallen angel that is supposed to have taught Robert Johnson to play, so if I had to choose one artist…well, learn from the best, right?

Please tell me there are more tracks on the way!
There are more tracks on the way.

 When can we expect this new material?
I’d like to tell you, but then my manager would have to kill you (and maybe me too). Just stay-tuned. I’m hopeful that the stars will have aligned and new material will be on ReverbNation by the Fall.

 Are you doing any shows in the area?
I haven’t really been pursuing a live presence lately. I played a bit around Europe and South America over the last few years, and occasionally I’ll be coaxed into an acoustic show, but I’m waiting ‘til my new material is where I want it. Again, just keep an eye on my site and expect more later in the year.

You've played around Europe and South America where was your favorite place to play?
Ireland.  Music is still a really ingrained part of the culture there.  There are live musicians in practically every bar you walk into, and everyone wants to help each other out.  Pretty much just how you’d imagine it.  Chile is great too.  The people are very aware of the connection between music and action, particularly political action.  A lot of musicians were exiled or killed under the dictatorship that ended only about 20 years ago.  It gives a really intense dimension to performing that’s pretty amazing.

           There you have it guys!  I hope you enjoyed the interview as much as I did compiling it.  This will hopefully not be the last time we hear from Ms. Odessa.  You can check out her bio and tracks here.

Still jonesing  from some interviews? Check out our talk with Kursed and Up the Chain

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