Written by: Jen Dan
(Photo Courtesy Of Angela Cox)
Stereo Embers Magazine: Hello Kylie! It’s such a delight to connect with you and find out more about your recent soulful, acoustic-pop EP High Dreamer and see what’s next for you. You’ve been quite busy over the past 6 years, delivering one album and 4 EPs and performing your music at various venues. How has the journey been so far?
Kylie Odetta: It’s been beyond anything I deserve and so incredibly fun. I’ve had many trials and triumphs throughout these 6 years, but ultimately I just feel blessed to be able to continue to follow this path.
SEM: You’re not only an accomplished singer and songwriter, but a pianist as well. Am I missing any other instruments that you play?
KO: I can play the guitar and the mandolin too, but both not nearly well enough to play at a live show yet – haha. I use them mostly to write when I want to change things up from writing on the piano.
SEM: You’ve chosen to craft your music in the singer-songwriter, piano ballad style, and occasionally include percussion and acoustic guitar accompaniment. Why did you decide on this format for your compositions and not the ubiquitous “electro-pop” style?
KO: I just feel like this direction is so much closer to my heart and myself as an artist. For a while I was kind of floating in terms of style and trying to figure out what felt real to me and as I have grown and experienced and listened to all types of music and played all types of music, I have found that this is the vein I feel most honest as an artist in.
SEM: You layer in your beautiful vocal harmonies on certain song segments, giving them an airy uplift. When did you first realize that you wanted to be a singer?
KO: Thank you for all of the super-kind comments towards my music by the way, I really appreciate it! I realized that I wanted to be a singer after performing in my 6th grade school talent show. I was so incredibly stage- shy and shaking and nervous, but when I finished the song (I sang one that I had written, a cappella), I came off the stage and said to my mom “I want to do THAT for my life!” and she said “Um… What?!”. Haha, it was after that moment that I started asking to go into the studio for my birthday instead of getting gifts and started playing open mics around town. Playing lots of shows is what eventually got me over my shyness and made singing the fun and enjoyable thing that it is for me now, rather than nerve-racking.
SEM: Your song lyrics fit hand in glove with the EP’s title, like on the title track where you bittersweetly sing “It’s difficult to dream without losing hope.” and on “Can’t Erase It” where you wistfully pine “I don’t want to lose your memory.” The concepts of dreams, expectations, and reflection are powerful ones. What is the main lyrical intent of High Dreamer?
KO: I love that question. It’s one I haven’t been asked before. I would say that my intent for this EP, and my intent when releasing any of my music, is to evoke emotion in people and connect with them. I want my lyrics to cause something to stir inside people whether it be sadness, inspiration, nostalgia, hope, bitterness, desire, love. They stir up all of these things inside of me and I hope that when someone is listening to the lyrics or melody that they can know they aren’t alone in those feelings. One thing that is specifically intentional with High Dreamer was the idea of going after your dream and not giving up on it when it gets difficult multiple times along the way. We are all dreamers in some way and we need to encourage each other to keep going.
SEM: Your songs aren’t actually 100% acoustic in the stripped-down, bare-bones, girl-and-her-piano/guitar mold, but have been gracefully arranged and refined in the studio. Who did you work with to get your captivatingly polished sound?
KO: I worked with my producer, Matt LaPlant. We have been working together for 4+ years now and he is simply incredible.
SEM: When you describe your music as “acoustic-pop”, do you mean that you don’t use electronic instruments?
KO: I mean acoustic-pop as in not bubble-gum pop; not completely computerized sounds. There are organic instruments and no auto-tuned vocals; there is a pop edge in the melodies and songwriting, but a more natural and simmered down production. It is like being at a live show with a few added elements of “pop” so that, like you said, it’s not completely acoustic.
SEM: For some reason I’m hearing a frisson of synths in the background of “High Dreamer” and “When It Rains”, but maybe those are slowly pulled and processed strings instead?
KO: There are lots of distorted and compressed vocals and guitar parts that we used to make synth-type sounds.
SEM: Who played the acoustic (and a touch of electric on the bluesy “Can’t Erase It”?) guitars on High Dreamer’s tracks and who is the male singer shadowing you on “High Dreamer”?
KO: My producer played the acoustic and the electric guitar on the songs and the male singer is actually an effect on my own vocal.
SEM: “Sweet Innocence” is a bit of a change of pace from your other numbers with its twangy (in both vocals and guitar) Americana appeal. What was the spark for this song’s creation?
KO: This song has been one that I’ve played at my live shows for ages and I always enjoyed getting the crowd to sing the “Oh”s in the bridge. With that in mind, it became a favorite of the audiences and I wanted to have it on the EP. It’s still a bittersweet song, but I put it on there because it breaks up the mellowness of the entire EP and also I feel the lyrics needed to be heard. It’s a good driving-down-the-road song.
SEM: Free Slice did an EDM remix of your song “High Dreamer”. How did that come about?
KO: Free Slice had messaged me on Facebook about collaborating and when they sent me a link to some of their previous work, I was sold. I have always been a fan of EDM music and thought it was cool when really dope remixes would come out for singer-songwriter songs, so that’s what we did! They did an absolutely fantastic job.
SEM: How does High Dreamer differ from your previous material? I’ve read that you focused on your vocals and piano-playing more on this EP, so I’m wondering what type of music came before.
KO: My previous material was a bit more electronic and pop-sounding, and when I first started out at age 11 and 12 I also dabbled in country-pop for a tiny period of time.
SEM: You’re on tour right now and have swung through Georgia and South Carolina and next up is North Carolina and Virginia. What has the touring experience been like for you?
KO: Touring is great! For a lot of the shows we’ve been able to come back home and then go out again, so we haven’t had to be gone for extremely long periods of time yet. It’s nice, but I feel that longer tours will be planned for the near future and I’m excited for it. Something that has been cool to see and that is happening a lot more often now is that I’ve gotten people traveling from out of town to come see my shows in towns that I’ve never been to either. To meet people from other cities who are coming to the show to see my music specifically is a freaking awesome feeling.