These days we know and recognise her as Odette, likened to Adele and Missy Higgins and currently on a sold-out national tour.
Once upon a time, however, Georgia Odette Sallybanks was a little girl falling in love with music in her parental home.
“I honestly just loved music from a young age,” the 21-year-old singer/songwriter says down the ‘line from Sydney. “I just clicked with it as a universal language – you play it to anybody and it resonates with them on some level. I’ve always loved that; being able to connect with someone through music. It’s such a powerful thing.”
Odette inherited a deep, genre-wide love of music from her parents, with an instrumental talent coming from her father’s side.
“My Dad played piano growing up and my grandad was a jazz pianist during the war,” she notes. “I kind of play more like him than my Dad, which is weird, but I definitely had some great influences growing up.
“My Mum kind of… she can’t sing. At all. That’s fine, we forgive her (laughs), but she introduced me to African music because that’s her heritage and it’s very, very strong. Me and her, we’re very connected to our roots. It’s the opposite of my Dad, who was an English skateboard-surfer dude. So I grew up with a lot of music tastes and I think that’s why I literally cannot work within one genre.”
With that Odette wrote prolifically from a young age, “Books, plays all sorts. I was a really emotional kid. I would write and write and write because it was the only way I could express what I was feeling. And do it in a way that was cathartic and calming and soothing. It became the best form of communicating for me, because I never really had problems, but I had trouble articulating. Writing and music has allowed me to grow as a person.”
As depicted on her just-released debut album, To A Stranger, there’s a compelling literary bent in Odette’s songs that shines through quite naturally. “It’s an unusual way to write,” she says, “but everyone’s got their own way of doing it.” She started gigging from the tender age of 15 and thrived on the connection to audiences. At 16 she started writing the songs that have now found their way onto the LP. They capture the ups-and-downs of early adulthood and troubled relationships and the evolution of the songwriter from age 16 to 20.
“Some of these songs I listen back to and I was a completely different person,” Odette notes. “It’s like hearing somebody else talk. It’s insane. Then there’s the ones from later on and they’re so much more me. So now I look at this album as a time capsule. It was a difficult period of my life, but one where I persevered through.
“I’m quite proud of myself, to be honest, because I feel it’s quite a big thing to put your entire life – or four years that were a period of struggle – on a record. It was a bit intense and overwhelming, but we got there.”
Odette performs at the Newport Hotel on August 17 and Amplifier on August 18. Both shows have sold out.