The TUL Sound//Q & A With Erin O'Dowd

As I prepare for my big move across the pond I cannot help but think of so many fond memories and all the incredibly special friendships that I made here in Tulsa. I met the fabulously talented Erin O'Dowd years ago when we worked together at Dwelling Spaces. Erin and I have a ton in common including a vast knowledge and love for coffee, croissants, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Ryan Adams, gluten-free deserts, bicycles, and all things French. Erin is pretty fluent in French and can play the guitar and sing like no other. She can make a delicious latte too. And she is my favorite favorite favorite lunch date. We are always on a mission to find the best horchata in town. I have been keeping up with her amazing progress with her music and I am so proud to see her sharing it with the world. I am so intrigued with her songwriting and was dying to know more. Really excited for you guys to read all about it!

Erin O'Dowd Interview

-What inspired you to become a musician and songwriter? 

I have always been in love with music. My parents both love to sing and I think they passed it down to me. My Dad sang opera in college, and my mom sang in church choir and played piano. I wanted to play and sing as well as her and I have early memories of crawling up onto the piano bench and tinkling around on the keys. I couldn't wait to be old enough to take lessons and just to be able to play better. I have been singing and making up songs since a very young age.

 -How did you get started with music, and was your original goal to be a singer/songwriter?

I first started taking piano lessons when I was 5. I didn't care for the regimented approach and as I got a little older I didn't want to play other people's songs. I wanted to make up my own. So I guess that being a singer-songwriter has always been my goal. I learned a lot from those lessons, and from trial and error. I just have always enjoyed playing and being creative. When I was in my teens I became very serious about becoming a singer-songwriter. I taught myself guitar at age 15 and haven't looked back since.

-Are you a patient songwriter?

Absolutely. My song "Robin's Egg Blue" was written over the course of several years. I have quite a few others that are that way. Some of the best ideas come in fragments and you really have to be patient and sit on them for a while until they develop on their own in your head. Some days, song ideas I forgot about will pop into my head and I'll just sit down and finish the song. It's really a lot of fun. Good things come to those who wait.

-Are you a disciplined writer?

I don't ever force myself to sit down and write. To me, that takes away all of the joy of it. However, I am a very prolific writer, and often remind myself to stop thinking so much and live in the present moment. My writing is a reflection of moments past and present. If I get into a slump, and feel like what's coming out is not resonating purely, that's usually when I realize I'm just going through the phase of filling up the cup again. Sometimes I really just have to put the pen down and tune into life sometimes. Writing is addictive to me. I love it.

-Do favor a particular environment when you write? 

I write anywhere and everywhere that an idea will come into my head. I could be watching a movie, listening to a band, driving, etc. and a line or idea will pop into my head. Spontaneous inspiration is my favorite and I find it to straight from the heart. As far as finishing a song, I would most rather be at home alone on the couch with my guitar and my voice recording. I'll record parts, ideas, and listen to them back and see what comes out next.

Photo by Michael Cooper.

Photo by Michael Cooper.

-Who are some of your favorite authors?

Tom Robbins is my all time favorite author. If all other books in the world were burned I suppose I'd be alright. My favorite lyrical author is Bob Dylan. His words come straight from the source and can twist and turn and weave into a story like none other. He and Joan Baez are a big reason I quit art school and pursued the muse. Ryan Adams, Aldous Huxley, and Emmylou Harris sealed the deal for me. Barbara Kingsolver creates such beautiful imagery in her works and such an emotional connection. I love her stuff. I also am really into non-fiction and historical works.

-How do you go about finding places to perform? 

That's equal parts seeking them out and them falling into my lap. Booking is something that I work hard at, but there's the added bonus that once you're out there doing it, people will contact you and ask you to play for them.

-So far, how many projects have you been involved with in? 

About 10. Currently I play solo, as a duo with Chloe Johns, another with Gene Williams, and a full band. I have recorded vocals/harmony on several local records for Robert Hoefling, Bandelier, Kalyn Fay, and Green Corn Rebellion.

-What has been the best part of working in the music industry? 

Definitely being a part of such a rich and vibrant community of friends. The Tulsa sound is all about playing music with people you love to hang out with. It's fun. And for me, it's very liberating. It really has opened me up creatively in a way that is still unfolding. I'm excited to see what the future has to bring.

-Career wise, where do you see yourself in ten years? 

I am absolutely set on touring and recording full time. I can't wait to travel the world and do what I love all of the time. 

 -Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to mention?

I have plans for my debut album in the works. I would like to have it out by February, when I go to Folk Alliance International in Kansas City. Look for a Kickstarter to pre-order your copy! It's been a long time in the making and I can't wait to make it happen and share it with everybody.

-What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to enter the music industry?

Follow your heart. It sounds cliché, but I really don't believe in clichés. We're all related and go through similar phases and themes along our journeys through life. Don't do something just because it seems logical. Do what is right for you. If someone thinks you are wrong, don't pay them any mind. You are the only one who knows what is best for you. Learn to trust yourself and you'll be golden.

-What do you feel most comfy in wardrobe wise when performing?

A comfy, flowy dress and boots. And a hat if I'm feeling shy. 

-24 hours in TUL...what are your fave things to do, eat, sip, etc?

Rambling around downtown-specifically the M.W. Brady Arts District. Grab a specialty beverage from Prairie Brewpub, dinner at Chimera, and check out the Woody Guthrie Center for a while. If it's a Sunday afternoon, head across the street to the Guthrie Green for a Sunday afternoon concert. I have seen so many amazing acts there, all for free-Robert Earl Keen, Jimmy LaFave, Ellis Paul, JD McPherson, John Fullbright, and this Sunday-Hayes Carll!

-Your fave original song by you thus far and why?

Oh man. That's a doozy. "Robin's Egg Blue," that I mentioned earlier, will always have a special place in my heart. Wewoka is another one that is really special to me. That one's got a really cool story. I was walking along the Arkansas and found a beat up map of Trail of Tears to Oklahoma, along with a description of the Seminole tribe's first hand experience of getting off in Tulsa in boats in the 1800's. I sat down and read it and cried. I went home and tacked it up on my wall, stared at it for a while, then sat down and wrote this song.

-Americano or latte?

I'm a tea drinker these days! Earl Grey is my absolute favorite.

-Cake or pie?

Cake, macaron, and a cookie please. From Antoinette's Bakery.

-Dogs or cats?

Dogs. I have a Siberian husky named Prince. He is pretty much my kid. But I would love to get him a cat friend one day. He loves them and I do too. 

-Whats next for Erin?!

I will be playing solo acoustic at the Inner Circle Wednesday 9/14, the next night at the Hunt Club with Chloe Johns and Stephen Lee on guitar, and that Saturday at Stone River Music Festival in Chandler with Gene Williams. I'm a part of a songwriters circle show at the Dream Theater in Tahlequah on October 8th. Contact me for tickets to that one. I'm also especially looking forward to being a part of the inaugural Tom Skinner Skyline Festival in downtown Tulsa on October 13th. Tom was a huge inspiration to me and to many other Okie songwriters. It's going to be great fun to all get together and celebrate his legacy.

I plan to get to as many of Erin's shows as possible before I leave and hope to meet some new faces!

Thanks for dropping by.

Shop my fave concert attire here. And catch a show!

Xo

Sam