Houston-born Singer-Songwriter Denitia Adesuwa Odigie guides us through her life in this exclusive interview with The Lunch Bx.
INTERVIEW BY: KILE ATWATER
Adesuwa met up with us at The Con Artist Collective in The Lower East side. It was a busy day in New York and I was running a tad late as usual, her calm presence caught me off guard. She immediately made me feel at ease and opened up about her life and the times she spent navigating the busy New York music scene. We talked about her journey from finding inspiration on the highways of Houston, Texas to honing in on her craft in Nashville and selling out venues in the big city. Adesuwa tells us how she became the artist she is today.
[Q]Talk about your upbringing in Texas and how it affected you artistically and as a person.
I grew up in Texas right outside Houston. I came from a family of hard-working people, there's a lot of soul in my family, a lot of personalities. I feel really blessed to come from a supportive family. People who’re supportive of what I do. People that love music. I’m the only musician in my family but we listened to a ton of music growing up.
"Music was always important."
We spent a lot of time in the car commuting on the highway. My mother listened to a lot of Al Green, Smokey Robinson, The Righteous Brothers. Those were her jams. My grandmother listened to old country, classic country. My dad loved The Temptations, he loved Sly and The Family Stone. We all listened to country music and went to the famous Houston Rodeo every year. Just a part of our routine, a part of our swag.
"I feel like all of those things combined shaped me to be who I am today."
[Q] What impact did moving to Nashville at a young age have on you?
I was graduating high school and I had the choice of going to school in Tennessee at Vanderbilt University or going to a couple of schools in California. Coming from where I was coming from – a Christian upbringing, small town, went to a private school, my advisers at school were like you should probably just go to Nashville. You're 16 you should play it safe and go to a smaller school in a place that comparable to Houston. I loved Nashville, I really started to get more honed in on my interests in music. That's one of the reasons I went there, it's a musical city, my family has visited there before, we'd gone to all the studios on
That excited me that I could go to a place that had such a legacy of music. I was excited to leave home and being in Nashville kind of wet my appetite when I was in undergraduate. I was like, I can't wait to get out of here and be a part of this rock and roll singer-songwriter community. When I finished at Vanderbilt, I stayed in Nashville for six years. I feel like it's a second home of sorts. I learned a lot about the music industry; I learned a lot about music in general, and to my songwriting professor at Vanderbilt I felt indebted to her for teaching me the value of a good well-crafted song.
[Q] How did the change from Nashville to New York happen?
I left Nashville because I felt like I had done everything I could do there and I was hungry for New York. I went to Austin actually for six months; my label was based out there, and I lived there, and I just was like dude I can’t stop thinking about New York. If I'm going to live there now is the time. People were like you're crazy like you could make a living here in Austin! You're building your fan base, people are coming to shows, you're getting all this draw, why would you pick up and leave? I wanted to be a part of New York, I wanted to be a part of Brooklyn, now is time. I was on tour with a couple of artists, and we were in New York, and I was like I'm gonna leave some stuff here because I'm gonna come right back. I went on that tour and came back to Austin and packed my stuff. I'm so glad I did it. I'm so glad I followed that instinct that drive to come here because this is where I've found the most success.
[Q] What were some of your best musical experiences in New York?
Maybe it's not like a typical answer, but I learned how to produce here. I was living in an artist collective in South Brooklyn, and I learned how to record myself and really experiment with sounds and like actually produce a song, this is something that felt very alien to me. I feel fortunate enough to play in front of some really big crowds here. I've had the pleasure of playing with my partner on
denitia and sene.
The first night that I moved into the artist collective that I mentioned earlier Sene had been working in the studio that was based in that house. I met a whole slew of people, I was playing some songs on the guitar and singing and I had a great time. A few months down the road Sene had asked me to feature on a rap song that he was working on at the time and it just kinda worked out. I never sang anything that anyone else had written before, and we just kinda kept working together after that. We made an EP of three songs and we decided to keep going. We released some songs on soundcloud and it was a really organic thing, people liked it so they shared it. We just kind of kept releasing music and we were on an incline from there.
[Q] Talk about some obstacles you had to overcome in your experiences in New York. How did you overcome them?
Yeah sure, I think briefly, and broadly the cost of living in New York can feel a little disproportionate to the incoming income for lack of a better word that a typical artist on the rise is receiving. Being spread thin and trying to get the resources together to make more records I think has stood as a challenge but those are the kinds of things when I did have the time to make a record it helps to motivate one to make it count. To make something happen in those precious moments. Yeah, I think obstacles are kind of how you want to look at it. If I'm making music, then I don't see a problem. You know what I mean? If I'm able to write music and work then, whatever obstacles might quote unquote come my way they're just challenges – things that have to be worked through to keep doing what I love to do which is freakin' singing.
[Q] What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten?
Time and time again in different culminations it's don't sell yourself short.