ODIE wants to live—for his family, for his music, and for himself.
Raised in Toronto and now living in San Diego, the 21-year-old singer draws inspiration from Fela Kuti, Sunny Adé, Kid Cudi, and Coldplay. Equally inspired by his parents’ hardships as immigrants and his Nigerian roots, ODIE’s music is founded on a dedication to understanding and evolving the self.
“With Fela Kuti and Sunny Adé, that’s like my roots, so whenever I listen to those songs, there’s a certain energy that’s naturally inside of me that I feel like I have to express,” ODIE tells me over the phone. “ I’m most happiest and the most alive when I’m able to express myself.”
ODIE’s self-expression has culminated in a handful of SoundCloud hits and his debut project, Analogue, a portrait of a young man feverishly grabbing at life’s most precious moments before time gets the better of him. Songs like “Story” and “Little Lies” speak to his family history and the ways in which making music keeps him happy, passionate, and in his creative pocket.
Analogue has also served as ODIE’s growing place. Though he handed in the final album less than two weeks ago, making the album across two years has taught him the importance of presentness. “I have a notebook where I write almost everything I can think of, as much as possible,” he explains. “I try to live in the moment as much as possible because if I don’t stay in that moment, it’s gonna be gone.
“I just learned that from making this project. We started songs two years ago, like ‘In My Head,’ that was the first song we made for the project two years ago. It wasn’t where I wanted it to be, so I kept making it, and I kept making it until last week when we finished.”
In tandem, the record-making process taught ODIE to be secure in his vulnerability, to know that being so open only speaks to his strength and depth of character. As such, Analogue plays like a glimmering testament to baring your soul for the love of music.
“One thing I’m learning is that as much as everyone is scared to be vulnerable, everyone wants to be vulnerable,” ODIE concludes. “People think of vulnerability as a weakness, but I see that as a strength because I could share my feelings with you and not care about what you think.”
DJBooth’s full interview with ODIE, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: Was there one song, in particular, that drove you to make music?
ODIE: I would say, a combination of two songs. It was one song called “Shakara” by Fela Kuti and “Symphonies.” When I heard “Symphonies,” I was like, “Woah! I need to make music.” So, Fela Kuti, Kid Cudi, and when I heard Coldplay I just wanted to make music.
What unlocked within you when you heard those songs?
With Fela Kuti and Sunny Adé, that’s like my roots, so whenever I listen to those songs, there’s a certain energy that’s naturally inside of me that I feel like I have to express. With Kid Cudi, it’s the honest truth and that he-didn’t-give-a-fuck attitude. He wanted to make what he wanted to make, and he wasn’t trapped by boxes. He was expressing himself to the fullest capacity, and he didn’t care about what type of music he was making, he just wanted to make it. With Coldplay, I feel like it transports me to a different world.
In an interview with Pigeons & Planes, you mentioned that ODIE was your moment of happiness. How does that pursuit of happiness factor into you making music?
For me, I just find that when I’m most happiest and the most alive is when I’m able to express myself. At times when I’m not able to express myself, I feel like I’m on the side of the road, not really doing anything. I find that when I’m making music and when I go through a situation and I don’t necessarily understand it, I make music and I am able to understand it. When I’m singing and writing music, that’s when I feel the most alive. That’s why I make music … I can’t really explain the feeling, but when I hear a tone or a melody in my head, that makes me most excited. I just have to jump on it.
You've also talked about the desire to feel like you’ve earned something, framing it within the context of your parents’ immigrant story. How else have their struggles influenced you generally and creatively?
I feel like it’s sort of a responsibility. My parents went through so much just to get me here, to the States. The world is so different, and a lot of times us living in the Western world, we take advantage of the blessings we have that other people just can’t have. As I grew up and was able to understand more and more how much my parents went through back in Nigeria, and how much people are going through throughout the world … I feel like, if I don’t do this and I don’t take advantage of this opportunity and I don’t try to live my life to the fullest, I am wasting my life away and everything they did is for nothing.
On “Story,” a record on your debut project, Analogue, you sing about the struggle to find the right words to give just due to your past and your roots. How do you overcome that pressure?
One thing I’m learning is to not think about it too much. There are days I would spend in my room in the dark and think about everything, and plan everything, and those were the days I got the least amount done and was just depressed. But the days where I just did what I wanted to do, and I didn’t think about it too much, those were the days where I was the most happiest and I got more stuff done.
Once you realize what you have the ability to do, and the less you think about it and the more you fucking do it, I feel like that’s how you overcome that fear. We wanna plan things about because we’re scared of what might happen in the future, but if we are not scared and we say, "Fuck it," even if we don’t achieve it, we still tried.
Did you have a peak moment of fear before realizing you had to snap out of it?
Yeah, it was almost every other day. A lot of the stuff I learned now, it was through the process of making this project. I have this idea of who I want to be in my head, and I know I can be it because the only thing that’s stopping me is myself. I just think about it too much. So throughout the process of making this project and doubting myself, and making songs that I scrapped that I come back to a year later, I’m learning how to trust myself and trust my natural ability. I’m learning that the more I second-guess myself, the more I end up failing. Typically, the first time is the most natural and pure. The process of making this project helped me to gain confidence to trust myself and to understand that I know what I’m doing.
Was there some element of closure once you completed your debut?
We finished it literally last week. It was so funny because we finished it so fast. We were on the plane, and we submitted it literally ten minutes before the Uber came to pick us up for our flight. In the Uber ride there, on the plane, I didn’t even listen to it. I was just so happy to be finally done. Part of me was a little scared, like, “Wait, did I do it right?” But I submitted it, so I’m just happy it’s done. I’m so relieved because now I can recalibrate and sit back and look at what I did, and move forward and do more.
Did you take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back?
Honestly, I don’t do that enough. I might have. A lot of the times, I just live through stuff, I don’t really track myself. There were probably moments where I did, but I just move on so fast. I’m already thinking about the next project and how I can make everything better. But I’m pretty sure there was a moment in there!
That makes sense, especially since you’re so focused on your music.
When I’m in the moment, I just try to do as much as possible, because if I don’t, I won’t be able to capture it better later. I just learned that from making this project. We started songs two years ago, like “In My Head,” that was the first song we made for the project two years ago. It wasn’t where I wanted it to be, so I kept making it, and I kept making it until last week when we finished. When I finished it, it was hard because all of the feelings and the moment that I was in when I originally made it, I was trying to harness that back and I realized how hard it was for me to harness those moments.
When I capture a moment, I try to write down as much as possible about that feeling. I have a notebook where I write almost everything I can think of, as much as possible. I try to live in the moment as much as possible because if I don’t stay in that moment, it’s gonna be gone.
In that same interview with P&P, you mentioned there’s a whole world unraveling in your head. How does Analogue serve as a tour of that space?
On the project, I feel like I’m speaking in almost three or four different perspectives. There’s my perspective, the omniscient perspective, and then there’s two different voices. There’s the high voice that you hear and then there’s some lower voices. I just try to create a dynamic world. I try to put every single glimpse of a feeling into that song. So “Midnight,” that was me trying to get over that a girl wasn’t really interested in me. The tone is from my conscience, and those are the thoughts going through my head. I just want to put people in the space that I was in while making the project.
Does it ever scare you, being so vulnerable?
At times it does, but I’m just learning to not care anymore. One thing I’m learning is that as much as everyone is scared to be vulnerable, everyone wants to be vulnerable. The only reason why people are scared to be vulnerable, they’re scared of what people think, and the more you think about that, the more vulnerable you actually are. People think of vulnerability as a weakness, but I see that as a strength because I could share my feelings with you and not care about what you think.
What do you hope fans walk away with after hearing Analogue?
I just hope that fans are able to listen to the music and they’re able to feel like everything I went through is what they either went through, are going to go through, or are going through right now. I just want people to connect with it and know that they’re not alone. The thoughts that they feel are the thoughts that I feel as well. I just wanna be a vessel for them to feel comfortable with the fact that even though they don’t know where they’re going, they can still figure that out. That was what I was able to take away from making the project, and I wanna expedite that for other people.