Postmodern Americana singer/songwriter Odetta Hartman describes her sound as an amalgam of, “cowboy soul, future folk, superstitious songs, [and] sound experiments,” driven by “back-porch banjos, detuned violins, foley field recordings, [and] tuning forks.” Although her sound and presence are notably quirky, her musical chops are undeniable. Odetta Hartman is currently on the road, supporting her second LP, Old Rockhounds Never Die, and tonight she will be wrapping up a tour supporting actor/musician Lola Kirke at our very own Boot & Saddle. Earlier this week I got a chance to chat with Hartman about her past year or so, in addition to what can be expected for tonight and the immediate future.
Izzy Cihak: Your last LP, Old Rockhounds Never Die, has been out for more than a year now. What have been some of the highlights of promoting it, or just experiences it has afforded you? We definitely enjoyed your gig last December at Johnny Brenda’s, alongside The Ballroom Thieves.
Odetta Hartman: Honestly, the release of Old Rockhounds Never Die catalyzed an incredible year of transformation and exploration. I am so overwhelmed with gratitude for the friendships, experiences, opportunities, songs, collaborations, and adventures that were manifested by Rockhounds. Highlights include getting pranked by The Ballroom Thieves on Halloween in Chattanooga, traveling by coastal train with Cosmo Sheldrake on tour from LA to SF, jamming with Margo Price and Jenny Lewis and Lola Kirke after the Goose Island block party in Chicago, an impromptu fiddle cameo with This Is The Kit at the Roundhouse in London, introducing Let’s Eat Grandma, to the joy of Madlibs in the tour van, dancing through the streets of a Carnavale in the Netherlands… so many beautiful memories, I feel so unbelievably lucky.
Izzy: Have you had any particular favorite reactions to the album, whether from critics, fans, or just friends?
Odetta: Overall, the interest and positivity surrounding this album has been so wonderful and humbling. It blows my mind that these songs have found their way all the way from New York to Turkey to Japan. In terms of a critical response, the Pitchfork review was a remarkable piece of music journalism that definitely touched my heart; Erin Osmon hit the nail on the head so perfectly by shining a light on the legacy of Lomax and truly understanding the historical context of this work.
Izzy: I know you’re currently on tour with Lola Kirke. How has that gone so far? She seems like she’s be a pretty cool tourmate. Were you previously fans of each other?
Odetta: Touring with Lola has been an absolute hoot! We actually went to camp and college together, and the rest of the bandmates are longtime pals too, so we have been having the most fun!
Izzy: What can be expected of the live experience when you’re here this Saturday? I feel like a lot of times closing night of a tour can be extra special fun.
Odetta: Saturday is sure to be full of new songs and tricks and jokes and dance moves and jams!
Izzy: How would you characterize your method of writing and recording? I know you and Jack Inslee work together on most of your music. Do you generally have a particular process, or is it different every time?
Odetta: Every song appears in its own unique way – sometimes all of the lyrics rush out in one sitting, sometimes it takes years to finalize a chord progression. During the process of 222 and Rockhounds, I would share the finalized acoustic version with Jack and we would work together to build a sound collage around the bare bones. On the next project, I’m super excited to be exploring new collaborations with other producers and instrumentalists!
Izzy: I really like Old Rockhounds Never Die, but I especially love “The Ocean,” which reminds me of like an ineffably quirky Americana fairy tale and reminiscent of the first two Whispertown records (Hopefully that’s not insulting…) How did that particular track come about?
Odetta: Aw, thanks! “The Ocean” is a song about female independence and empowerment – inspired by seeing Erykah Badu perform!
Izzy: What would you currently consider to be your most significant influences, both musical and otherwise?
Odetta: My musical influences range from Karen Dalton to Philip Glass to Miley Cyrus to Hugh Masekela … I love all genres from all eras and all places – most recently obsessed with Haiku Hands! Besides music, I find a lot of inspiration in folk tales, old objects, and botanical gardens.
Izzy: And what are you hoping and planning for the remainder of 2019 and the first part of 2020? Anything you’re especially excited for? Any new music in the works?
Odetta: After this tour, I’m heading to West Virginia to record a project with Sloppy Jane, then shooting down to New Orleans for some Halloween shows with the Lost Bayou Ramblers. In November, I’ll keep working on some secret new songs (might debut a few in Philly!) before heading out west for another tour with Lola Kirke.
Izzy: Finally, both you and Lola have really great style. Is there any particular way you would hope that fans style themselves to come out to the last night of your tour?
Odetta: Thank you! Comfort is always key, but we’d definitely love to encourage folx to dress up in their favorite country western style garb! Fringe, rhinestones, Stetson hats… festive, funky, and fun!