MUSIC

Odette opens up about her mental health battle at the heart of Herald

EMPOWERED: Odette's second album Herald was written over a three-year period when the Sydney art-pop artist was dealing with a mood regulation disorder.
EMPOWERED: Odette's second album Herald was written over a three-year period when the Sydney art-pop artist was dealing with a mood regulation disorder.

EVERYTHING finally started to make sense the day Georgia Odette Sallybanks, aka Odette, was diagnosed with a mood regulation disorder.

Life was chaotic at that point. Odette had enjoyed immediate success and critical acclaim for her debut album To A Stranger (2018), which included an ARIA Award nomination for breakthrough artist and best adult contemporary album.

The irony of the latter nomination was Odette was barely an adult when the album was written and recorded. Yet the beauty and power of Odette's piano pop ballads signified she was an artist talented beyond her years.

However, the 23-year-old's personal life was a mess.

"It was a crazy time because my career was doing really well and then my personal life was just terrible," Odette says over Zoom.

"It was this weird juxtaposition of feeling fulfilled in one element and not in the other, so I was at a point of what the hell is going on?

"Then growing up and becoming an adult, it was like what the hell? Nobody tells you it's just gonna be you. You don't super-duper change, your body just withers away."

There's always been high expectations for Odette after the daughter of a African mother and English father was signed by EMI at 15, shortly after her song Tenebris was uploaded to triple j Unearthed.

Odette's second album Herald was written during a tumultuous three-year period of realising those expectations.

Having since undergone therapy for her mental illness, Odette can view the songs with a sense of distance.

"When I was writing this record I had no idea," she says. "Everything you hear, every lyric, every melody was written from a time of peak intensity.

"That's why the record was initially called Dwell and it was all about marinating and being trapped within emotions and not being able to critically think and step outside of it.

COVER: The art work was designed by Odette's friend Eben Ejdne.

COVER: The art work was designed by Odette's friend Eben Ejdne.

"Over the last year - because I've spent so much time with myself and I live on my own, and during COVID that was a challenge - it was kind of beautiful because I finally figured out what I was doing wrong and what I could improve on.

"So I changed the title to Herald because I wanted it to have a sense of hope, even though there's these intense themes of rage and almost dysphoria."

Odette points out that the issues explored on Herald aren't entirely resolved.

"I definitely did a lot of growing, but I haven't fully made it though."

Musically Herald is a natural growth from To A Stranger. Odette has shifted away from the piano ballad towards a more grandiose art-pop sound.

Trial By Fire, which involves Odette exorcising her demons, features horns and foreboding synths, propelled in a chaotic march.

What I Know Is Not Enough is another impressive cut as Odette sings, "And I threw myself out on the porch in the rain/ With my nerves twitching like a live wire", over the top of a power pop ballad and playful flutes.

"My skill has grown a bit," she says. "I pushed myself more with being more involved with the production and the textures and actually saying what I wanted, rather than being a bit more shy."

Odette's album Herald is released on Friday.

This story Odette not dwelling on period of personal upheaval first appeared on Newcastle Herald.