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New Orleans Emerging Musicians: Julie Odell

Julie Odell (Photo: Katie Sikora)

About a year ago, I hosted a three-day feminist photography and musical exhibition at Preservation Hall called The Sexism Project, with an incredible team of friends and colleagues, and a killer lineup to boot. When our curator, Alexis Marceaux (who you may also recognize as the lead singer of local band Sweet Crude), came to me with the final list of performers, I saw one name I didn’t recognize: Julie Odell. But two months later when I stepped into the hall to hear her delicate and ghostly vocals reverberating against the walls of the historic hall, I was blown away.

And I wasn’t the only one.

Julie Odell (Photo: Katie Sikora)

Following the set as I pushed into the crowd trying to exit to the open bar, I overheard an attendee ask their partner: “What did I just watch?” with awe in her voice. Since then, I have had the pleasure of watching from afar as Julie’s musical career begins to burn brighter and brighter with each new performance and collaboration. From the late-night show at Siberia to musical theater performances at the Music Box, Odell’s passion to simply create something every day is proving to be a fruitful path for the singer-songwriter.

Katie Sikora: Where did you grow up?

Julie Odell: I grew up half in north Louisiana in Ruston, La. and half just outside of New Orleans in Covington and a little bit in Lafayette. I usually just tell people I’m from all over Louisiana.

KS: Describe your connection to music.

JO: I grew up with my parents playing the piano and guitar and we’d always have family sing-alongs around the house so that’s where it all started. I also always need to be making things otherwise I feel like my time is being wasted so it’s a very portable way to create because it’s all just happening inside my head. I can take it with me wherever. It helps me be a little less of a crazy person.

Julie Odell (Photo: Katie Sikora)

KS: What has been your favorite performance experience in New Orleans thus far?

JO: Performing at the Marigny Opera House by far has been my favorite. The space there inspired and challenged me to go beyond what I normally do for a show with building a stage design and bringing on more musicians than I’d normally only dream of. It changed my headspace forever as far as performance goes. It was all very overwhelming and beautiful. I’ve got another one of those coming up in June with many incredibly talented people that I somehow convinced to play with me.

KS: Which New Orleans musician most inspires you?

JO: Tif “Teddy” Lamson. She has such a powerful presence and has taught me so much about performance confidence and engaging an audience. Her songs are multidimensional and filled with texture and dynamics. Not only is she always collaborating with other musicians and creating magic on the daily, but she directs huge, crazy shows, improvises like a chameleon, knows her limits and sets boundaries really well, sings like a queen, is one of my favorite drummers ever, and has a never-ending wealth of knowledge about the music biz. I always call her when I have questions. She has helped me avoid countless bad situations. I could keep going.

KS: Favorite place to catch live music in NOLA?

JO: The Music Box Village aka heaven on earth.

Julie Odell (Photo: Katie Sikora)

KS: What do you love most about this city?

JO: The endless energy and the fact that something magical is always happening somewhere in town every day.

KS: What is your favorite non-musical activity to do in New Orleans?

JO: I love walking the trails around Couturie Forest in City Park. I’m usually pretty desperate to be in the woods so having that in the middle of the city to have a breath away from all the concrete is really wonderful.

KS: Favorite food to eat in NOLA?

JO: My drummer Jonathan Arceneaux is from here and makes the best gumbo, étouffée, sauce piquant, etc. That’s by far my favorite food.

Julie Odell (Photo: Katie Sikora)

KS: What are your next performances?

JO: June 7 at the Marigny Opera House with several special guests making a tiny orchestra including harp, cello, piano, trumpet, and more. There are two performances you can attend, the first at 5 p.m. and the second at 7:30 p.m.

KS: Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself in regards to your music?

JO: I’ve just completed a record with my band and it will be released later this year!

Katie Sikora graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in Visual Journalism and worked as Photo Editor at The Peninsula Pulse in Door County, Wis., Media Strategist for Levy Restaurants in Chicago, Ill., and an Archivist at The National World War II Museum in New Orleans, La. before pursuing her namesake photography business shooting everything from shark tagging research to vodou ceremonies and—you guessed it—weddings! Her photographs have been published by The Chicago Sun-Times, Gambit, The Times-Picayune, RedEye Chicago, The New Orleans Advocate, Houseshow Magazine, Antigravity Magazine, In The Bite Magazine, Thrillist, CBS Chicago, NBC Chicago, and the World Wildlife Fund amongst others. She is the creator and director of The Sexism Project, an ongoing portrait and interview series featuring the stories of real women in real industries experiencing real sexism.

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Aaron Benjamin

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