THE beguiling and hypnotic Watch Me Read You washes through the office, prompting a young colleague to ask; “Is that Odette? She’s awesome”.
Opening with a stanza more lyrical poem than song, the power, complexity and passion Odette (Georgia Odette Sallybanks) brings to Watch Me Read You belies her 20 years, even more so when you realised she was just 18 when she wrote it.
The song is an epic ballad about processing trauma, and a eulogy to toxic relationships, loss and pain.
“I watch you read me.
“The burning pages of my life
“Reduced to ash
“And overnight I find my body is not mine.”
Odette’s favourite poets Maya Angelou, Walt Whitman and Sylvia Plath are obvious influences throughout her work, the name of her first full-length album To a Stranger having been taken from one of Whitman’s poems.
“I’ve always been really into writing poetry and that’s kind of reflected in my music,” she says.
Odette’s music is informed by her own life and the album’s first single Take it to the Heart is more upbeat and boppy: “It’s a revenge song, which needed that kind of energy,” she says.
The album is a musical journey through her late teen years and young adulthood, the songs mapping every scar and heartbreak: “[During] the hardest years of my life so far,” she says.
“It’s a difficult time for a lot of people and I did struggle, but I’m not comfortable going into it,” she tells the Voice.
“I had a lot to process for a young person whose eyes were opened to the whole world and myself as a person.”
Born in the UK to a South African mum and an English dad, Odette grew up in Sydney.
She learnt piano as a kid and her early influences were her mum’s mix of soul, funk and rhythm and her dad who comes from a long line of jazz pianists.
Four years in the making To a Stranger began as a loose collection of songs, but under the guidance of producer Damian Taylor, who’s worked with the likes of Bjork, Arcade Fire, The Killers and The Tempers Trap, it was moulded into a powerful album.
“It’s just me and a keyboard when I’m at home writing a song.
“[Damian] added all these new elements so I could actually enact my fantasies of putting strings in my music. We ended up broadening the world of it.”
You can catch Odette at the Newport Hotel, Fremantle August 17 and Amplifier in Perth August 18.
Tickets at odettesodyssey.com
by JENNY D’ANGER