Interviews

Review with Q&A: Kylie Odetta and Phil Barnes play Moe Joe’s Coffee and Music House in downtown Greenville

Photo by Andrew Moore
Photo by Andrew Moore

About two weeks ago, I met Kylie Odetta while standing in line to see Bad Suns, Coasts, and Maudlin Strangers play at Music Farm Columbia. As we waited, she told me about her preference for European music and her liking of Radiohead. We even managed to agree after much debate that Coldplay has gone downhill in the past couple of years. But what really caught my attention is when she said that she was a working musician from the Greenville area and that she played indie-pop, piano music. Being that I’m a fan of a lot of U.K. based artists with a similar sound, I knew I had to check out her album and live show.

Odetta released Waiting Game in March of last year and has continued to support it over the past year with shows all throughout the southeast. And whether she’s playing in coffee shops or larger venues, it seems that her music would suit either. That became apparent at Friday’s show when she played to a sizable crowd as the opening act for Phil Barnes.

Showing up for sound check about an hour before the show, Odetta ran through her set up – a piano, laptop and microphone. And while it seems like a simple rig, it really produced big sounds last night. As the show begins, the cleverness of her songwriting becomes apparent. She began with a track from 2013 called “Maybe I’ll Stay,” and sang, “Maybe I’ll finally make up my mind, maybe one day I’ll finally leave you, maybe one day I’ll pack my bags and you’ll beg me to stay.” With the carefully placed hooks, she set the tone for the remainder of the night.

She went on to play a couple of more songs unheard from the Waiting Game. But by the middle of the set, she turned to her catalogue of new songs. “Promised Myself,” which is one of the more popular songs from the album, turned out to be even more powerful in person. Soon after, she premiered “Already Gone”, a new song from her upcoming EP called Breaking Habits.

However, it was the last song of the set, “Waiting Game”, that spotlighted Odetta’s abilities as a singer and songwriter. The song progressed from a soft, moody verse into a falsetto-tinged chorus with lines like “my eyes tell the best kept lies” or “there’s no escaping the moonlight.” As the song ended and the piano slowly faded out, Odetta thanked the crowd and left the stage with applause.

Soon after, Barnes took the stage and grabbed his Martin acoustic guitar. Sliding a capo on the guitar’s neck, he began the set with “Way That You Dream.” Having never heard his music before, I was surprised by the honesty in the lyrics and catchiness in the simplicity of Barnes’ music. It’s not everyday you run into a simple guy with one guitar and handful of songs that can impress a crowd. Especially considering the climate of today’s music industry.

And that could be due to the variety in his show. While a majority of his set was filled with sentimental, catchy songs, he also included comedy. The song “Board Games” was exactly what it sounds like – a song mostly about board games, except for the part about picking up a girl from a club. One of the most memorable lines from the song was – “Right foot yellow, left foot green, we’re playing ‘Twister,’ you know what I mean.”

The highlights of Barnes’ set included his cover of “Latch” by Disclosure feat. Sam Smith and “Stay High” by Tov Lo. Before the start of the song, Barnes explained that he grew out his beard because too many people thought he looked like Smith, which he does. And while he may not be the Grammy-winning pop singer, he did the song justice. Making a quick transition, Barnes then put his own acoustic spin on the Tove Lo track.

A couple of songs later, Barnes ended the show with the popular, “(I Love) Your Kind of Beautiful.” He even initiated a call and response with the crowd and it worked. As he sang the chorus’ opening line, the crowd sang back the remaining lines. Based on the shows I’ve been to before, getting a crowd to actually sing back can be very challenging in a small venue, especially a coffee shop. But the fact that the crowd did participate is just further evidence for Barnes’ strong stage presence and charisma as an entertainer.

The amount of energy that Barnes brought to Moe Joe’s could be accredited to his anticipation to play in South Carolina. “This is a really fun city to play. I’ve been looking forward to this one for the whole tour. South Carolina is always really good to me. Charleston’s fun, Greenville’s a blast, and so is Clemson, it’s a great time. I’m playing Columbia for the first time and I’m hoping it’s the same deal,” he said.

Overall, the night was a success for both artists. And even though the two play completely different instruments, their music complimented each other’s and the venue. Both Barnes and Odetta played great sets and I’m sure they will do the same in the future.

Exclusive Interview: Get to know Kylie Odetta

We talked with Kylie about her life as an indie artist in the South, Breaking Habits, and more.

Andrew: How long have you been making music out of Greenville for? And when did you realize you wanted to make music? 

Kylie Odetta: Well I’ve been writing since I was eight, playing piano since I was six, but performing probably since I was twelve. So I’m seventeen now … so about five years as a professional performer in the local scene. And it honestly just happened naturally. Like my parents would always sing around the house and play music for us before we slept and it was just always playing around the house. In sixth grade, I actually performed in my school’s talent show and that was when I was like, “Hey, I kind of like this performing thing too.” And so that’s when I put two and two together and thought I could really do this.

Andrew: So why play piano and not the guitar? 

Kylie Odetta: I honestly don’t know why I started with the piano. I think my parents were like, “What do you wanna play?” That’s when my brother and I both started taking piano lessons. I actually quit after two years of taking lessons because I thought they were boring and I didn’t like my teacher. And then the next year, I asked my parents again, “Hey, I really want to start taking piano lessons again,” and they were like, “Really.” So that’s when I chose to do it myself I guess. I tried to pick up the guitar, but I just never stuck with it long enough to really dig into it. But I really got into the piano. I actually play the mandolin a little bit now too.

Andrew: Okay, so walk me through your writing process. How does everything come together for you when you’re writing new music? 

Kylie Odetta: It’s literally different every single time. But usually I’ll be sitting down practicing at the piano for like a show or rehearsal and then I’ll think of a piano riff and then add some words to it. It always come from when I’m feeling really inspired by something … like if I’m feeling really emotional that day or something really hits me hard at night I have to write about it. So I’ll just sit down at the piano and start messing around. It used to be that when I was younger, it would come to me acapella in the shower or something. But now it mostly happens when I’m sitting at the piano.

Andrew: How does whole indie artist set up work for someone in the local scene? 

Kylie Odetta: I have a music license with Music Bed. And I have a college-booking agent and it’s called NMP Talent Agency. My lovely mother is my full time manager and she’s really great at what she does because her background is marketing and advertising … so we make a pretty good team. But I’m an independent artist … so no label. As an independent artist you build a team. I have my favorite videographer who I love to work with and my producer and licensing. You do everything yourself also. You kind of take on the parts that a label would do for you and you do it yourself as your coming up.

Andrew: And being that you’re an indie artist, what has it been like having your music video for “Promised Myself” hit a couple thousand views already? 

Kylie Odetta: It’s so amazing. I do music because I love it and to see the progression and to meet people at my shows and then having that transition into a few more views each month or week … it really is a growing and learning process. And to have my first music video come out with a few views and now this one within only two to three months and it has almost 4000 views … it’s incredible.

Andrew: You’re writing a blog post every Tuesday that explains the backstory to songs from Waiting Game, which you released about a year ago. How did that come about? 

Kylie Odetta: I was thinking of a way to reinvent that album because it came out a year ago. Then I was thinking that people who are just now meeting me aren’t going to know it’s an old album. So I tried to think of way to put it back out there in a fresh way and I started to think about how I love finding out the stories behind my favorite artists’ songs and really digging into the lyrics. So I wanted to be able to provide the little story behind my songs for my listeners.

Andrew: How long have you been working on the new album, Breaking Habits? And when can we expect to hear it? 

Kylie Odetta: I only went into the studio in December and I’d already written the songs all throughout the last year. There are going to be four songs on this one, but then I have another EP coming out in the distant future. Breaking Habits should be coming out March 10, but if not it’s going to be very close to then. And I just shot the music video for “Already Gone”, which will be coming out probably a month after the release of the EP.

Andrew: Do you plan to keep releasing EP’s instead of full-length albums? 

Kylie Odetta: I don’t know. I think I want to put an EP out because it’s quicker than waiting to put a full ten or twelve song album. I definitely want to just get as much music as I can out there right now. And then I will be hoping to do another full album probably in the next year though.

Andrew: What idea or concept is driving the new album and how does it differ from Waiting Game? 

Kylie Odetta: The whole concept of the new EP is breaking the habit of unhealthy relationships. And so all the songs are kind of based around that, but they are all very different. It’s definitely a step up from Waiting Game – production and songwriting wise.

Andrew: What song from Breaking Habits are you most proud of right now? 

Kylie Odetta: That’s so hard. It’s like picking a baby! I think it changes, but right now I would say “Already Gone”, because we just shot the music video and I’m pretty pumped up about it. And it’s going to be the first song that’s super indie-pop and has that more upbeat feel to it. Most of my songs are pretty moody and there are definitely some of those songs on there too. But I think it will be a fun one.

Andrew: Can you give us an idea of what the music video for “Already Gone” will be about or look like? 

Kylie Odetta: I can tell you that there is a cute guy in it … that’s always fun. And there is a really a cute puppy, so that is even more fun.

Lightning round:

Andrew: Coffee Shops or Large Venues?

Kylie Odetta: Coffee shops

Andrew: Favorite place to eat in Greenville?

Kylie Odetta: It’s out of business now, but it was called Haus Edelweiss … it was this German restaurant.

Andrew: What’s trending on your playlist right now?

Kylie Odetta: I literally listen to so much stuff. Oh no, I know! Coasts, because I just went to the concert as you know. And I’ve been playing them on repeat.

Andrew: Digital or Vinyl?

Kylie Odetta: Digital

Andrew: Bad Suns or Coasts?

Kylie Odetta: Bad Suns

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