Life is a climb, and there are two ways you can see it: as a grueling, laborious fight against gravity, or as an exhilarating way to see increasingly better vistas.
Yonette Odessa sees the latter, and that outlook on life is what has shaped her music and ministries. Hers is a story of blends, from the juxtaposition of her South American heritage with her adopted New York City, to combining a number of genres and lyrical themes on her latest project--appropriately titled The Climb.
I asked this soulful pop/gospel/worship singer about her background, life in New York, day to day church ministry, and of course, her perspective on "the climb."
You grew up in Guyana. Tell us about growing up, and what still sticks with you about that time.
I was very privileged to be raised in a Christian home in South America. My home environment was a very strict one. Every form of discipline was based on the scriptures, literally. That has remained with me throughout my years, and now I find myself disciplining my children the very same way.
You sang from an early age, encouraged by your parents. Talk about the things you learned about music and ministry and performance from them.
It was my Mom who cultivated the gift she saw in me alongside my siblings. I believe it was my
dad we inherited the gift of singing from. My daddy was a soloist during his young adult years. I heard many stories of how he use to sing on the local radio stations. Collectively they taught us the importance of using all of the gifts God has blessed us with as a ministry to bless others and in return God would get the glory out of that.
My parents always encouraged and pushed us to never shy away from the spotlight. They would always say, "It's not about you when you're up there on stage; it's about him." Up to this current day my dad still says, "If God is the one who called you, He'll give you everything you need while you're up to minister."
How does your international background play into the music you write?
My Caribbean background has given me the ability to choose from a wide variety of styles, melodies, and overall production feel during the process.
You live in New York City now. What are some of the challenges and opportunities you've experienced as someone who sings about Jesus?
New York City is a cultural melting pot, and as such, we have a wide variety of music here in this
city. Christian music in particular is very impactful, and done with a certain added NYC style; whether it's traditional gospel, hip-hop or contemporary, there is something for everyone.
Some of the challenges I have experienced as a Christian artist were staying true to the message that God has given me and not being discouraged when things aren't moving fast enough. With staying true to the message, I have seen God create opportunities for me to reach and connect with people in an unusual way.
Talk about 'The Climb.' What does that title mean to you, and what did you go about wanting to share with this project within that theme?
Wow, "The Climb"... I was given this title while still working on my first album. The climb is about this journey that we're all on called life. We are all at different stages on this journey, but with God our destination is sure.
I wanted the world to know that no matter what part of the journey they are on, it's important for them to never get stuck at that place, but rather keep moving forward and keep climbing because the higher you get the clearing your view will become and the closer you will get to fulfilling your purpose.
In addition to singing and writing songs, you are also involved in worship dance ministry. Talk about that, and why that's important to you.
It's an honor for me to serve as the arts and worship director at my local church. Ministry has always been a part of my life being a pastor's kid, but serving in my dad's ministry is a personal mandate that I take serious above all. Dance is yet another gift God has blessed me with and it is my desire to use it to edify the body of Christ.
What are some things you've learned about yourself as a singer/songwriter since your debut in 2012?
Firstly I must say that I never thought in a million years that I was going to be a writer of any sorts. I can vividly remember attempting to make songs in my younger days and it was pure nonsense. I guess with God knowing where he was taking me he made the necessary deposits in me to be the singer/songwriter I am today. Some of the things I've learned about myself over the years as it relates to my writing is that you have to be patient with the process and never force the lyrics. In terms of being a singer, I had to keep growing, challenge myself and surround myself with people who were where I wanted to be vocally.
You do a lot of Facebook live; what is your fan interaction like, and what does that mean to you?
I have recently started doing more Facebook and Instagram livestream, and I truly enjoy interacting with the people who support, and encourage me. It's important to me to share different aspects of my life with my fans.
What are your live shows like? How often do you tour with a husband and four kiddos?
My live shows are always lots of fun, that's when I get to share the personal stories behind my songs. That's where everything comes to life and the audience connects with the messages in each song on a personal level.
I am in the process of kicking off my first tour with this new record. Outside of that I do travel locally and I have done a few international trips to the Caribbean and South Africa. I have been fortunate to have a great support base at home, so when it's time to go out on ministry trips I know my family is taken care of.
What's next for you in 2017, and how can be we be praying for you?
As I mentioned, I'm kicking off my first tour locally, and then eventually internationally with this record. I am also planning "The Climb" concert, which is going to be amazing. You can pray that God will help me to be discerning in this season, and to always be ready to go wherever he directs me without fear.
Marcus Hathcock is the Executive Editor of NewReleaseToday.com, a husband to Savannah, father of three and a worship leader living in Boise. He has released an EP, Songs For Tomorrow, and occasionally blogs at mheternal.com.
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