“I have a beautiful inner world where I can turn to process things, and I think my songs come from there,” Odette (Georgia Odette Sallybanks) recently told me over the phone. The Australian mega-talent has a fantastic new record set to be released on February 5th; the sweeping sonic landscapes throughout the album are perfect for a bit of (frankly, much-needed) escapism, and are the product of Odette’s aforementioned inner world and very visual creative process. And while Herald was actually due out a few months into 2020, Covid-19 threw a wrench into the mix, and things suddenly ground to a halt.
“The album’s essentially been done for a year; it was finished late last year, and then we were doing the final mixes and flourishes on it in the beginning of 2020. It was actually supposed to be released in April, and then the coronavirus happened and we had to pause everything, because we didn’t know what was going to happen, or how long it was going to last,” she said.
It was extra frustrating seeing as the record itself had been in the works for a few years; anybody who’s experienced the tumult of one’s early twenties will know that even the passage of a few months can result in major internal landscape shifts, and Herald reflects parts of that.
“Whilst these songs do cover a lot of topics dealing with mental health, I think the underlying message is to choose wellness, and to strive for wellness,” she said. “I think in the past I’ve tried to beautify my own pain, and with this album, I was really trying to make sure that there was a balance between that and who I am right now. It’s a bit like a duet with my past self.”
“It details the last three or four years of my life,” she continued. “These songs were written when I was really, really sick, and originally, they were actually kind of toxic; a lot of the tone was like, ‘It’s all your fault!’. And then a year or so later I started to get better, and my perspective changed, so the writing changed.”
She added, “There are a few songs that are quite dark and twisted, and a few of them I actually had to redo, because I realized how unwell I sounded on the actual tracks. Now I’m coming out of that headspace, and I feel like this record is a bit of a time capsule, almost a reminder to myself like, ‘Hi, you’ve been here. Let’s not do that again, let’s prioritize some healthy coping mechanisms.'”
Writing aside, she’s also matured in her technical abilities, having contributed significantly to the production side of things in the studio this go-round, and even producing on her own during the pandemic.
“It’s so liberating,” she told me. “Before, I was a lot more timid when it came to the production elements, but Damian [Taylor] (who is one of two producers on this record) is a good friend of mine, and he’s always seen that I could do anything if I applied myself enough and had enough self-belief. I genuinely didn’t see that for a couple of years, but over this record, I was able to take the reins a little bit. I came in with a greater sense of what I wanted, without it just being about songwriting and lyrics and instrumentation; it was also about textures, the worldscape, the sounds. It was really interesting to feel empowered in that digital world as well.”
While it’s clear she’s got strong footing across the board now, the 23-year-old can certainly empathize with those who are just starting out and having trouble speaking up as they embark on their musical journey, and she had some great advice to offer anyone who’s looking to assert themselves.
“I feel like it ultimately comes down to anxiety,” she said. “When you feel that sense of dread or that sense that you’re shutting down, take a minute, go outside of the room and write down what you’re feeling and thinking. It can be hard to feel assertive, and it’s even been a journey for me; I’m quite loud and extroverted, but when I was in the studio when I was younger, I had a harder time speaking up when I wanted something changed or didn’t like something. But it is about pushing through that anxiety, taking a minute, taking a breath, and if you feel like you can’t speak up, write it down on a piece of paper. You can say, ‘I have some thoughts, I’m just gonna run to the bathroom if you want to look through this while I’m gone and we can talk about it when I get back.’ That way, you can kind of side-step the confrontation without sacrificing your point of view.”
So what’s on the horizon for Odette in 2021? Although there are still a few weeks to go before record release day, she’s already been working on new material, though it hasn’t necessarily taken concrete form yet. “You know when the air gets really still before a storm? There’s that anticipation, and I’m kind of in that space right now,” she said.
She does feel confident there may be a few tracks she solo produces in the next body of work, but she’s also dead-set on working with Damian again. “He’s my dude.”
Definitely stay on the lookout for how things shape up, and in the meantime, pre-order a copy of Herald here.
Featured image by Giulia Giannini McGauran