Upstate singer/songwriter Kylie Odetta’s new EP, “Roots & Petals,” is a collection of heartfelt, piano-based pop that’s so beguiling and melodic that it seems almost effortless. In reality, it took Odetta about two years to make it, and they were two of the most difficult years of her life.
It’s not accurate to call “Roots & Petals” a concept album, but the five-song release unfolds like a story. Beginning with the simple voice-and-guitar tune “Happy,” which is essentially the demo version that Odetta recorded into her phone, the EP delves into a dark time in her life, moving from gospel-tinged pop (“Cry Out”) to a pair of elegantly orchestrated ballads (“Start Again” and the title track) and ending with “Look at Us Now,” a hopeful, surging anthem that finds Odetta on the other side of a turbulent time in her life.
“I’d had trouble with anxiety for most of my life, but I didn’t have the vocabulary to say that that’s what I was experiencing.”
Odetta says that her musical journey began after a long struggle with depression and anxiety.
“I’d had trouble with anxiety for most of my life, but I didn’t have the vocabulary to say that that’s what I was experiencing. A couple of years ago I got into a downward spiral after a bad breakup and some family things going on. And I got stuck in that place for a long time. I couldn’t find my way back out of those emotions. I didn’t write any music; I didn’t want to perform. I felt beat up and I didn’t have a lot of excitement in my life or hope for the future.”
Odetta eventually reached a breaking point and, with the support of her family, sought help in a few different ways.
“I told my family the things I’d been thinking and feeling,” she says, “and I was met with so much love and patience and grace that day, and that was what gave me the courage to seek help in the form of therapy. I also started meditating, and I was clinging in that time to the fact that I had faith in God. I did all of those things, and eventually started writing again. And through that slow process I began to feel less and less anxious, and I began to gain my freedom and confidence back.”
“I wasn’t trying to intentionally explore these emotions,” she says, “I was just writing what I needed to get out of my head and my heart.”
Odetta wrote “Roots & Petals,” “Cry Out” and “Start Again” about her struggle, and realized that they fit perfectly with two earlier songs she’d written, “Happy” and “Look at Us Now.”
“I wasn’t trying to intentionally explore these emotions,” she says, “I was just writing what I needed to get out of my head and my heart. I wasn’t intending to piece these songs together for an EP, but I started to put them together to listen to them as a whole project, and it just made sense. I wanted to take people from the start of my journey and, at the very end of the EP, leave them in a lighter place with ‘Look at Us Now.’”
Recording “Roots & Petals” wasn’t an easy process; it took Odetta two years of work to find the right sound for her songs, but in the end, she says that all of the struggle was worth it.
“I’ve had so many people coming up to me in tears, saying they needed to hear those words and it was giving them courage to get through another day,” she says. “It’s hard to go through those things, but now that I’ve had such an experience, I feel that I can truly relate to people who are feeling hopeless and offer hope with my story and my songs.”
- Roots & Petals was recorded here in Greenville, in Nashville, Tennessee, and in Madison, Wisconsin.
- The closing track, “Look at Us Now,” was originally written for possible use on the hit NBC show “This Is Us.”
- The song “Roots & Petals” was based on 2 Timothy 1:7, a Bible verse that Odetta recited to herself during her recovery: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”