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Recorded in Houston by local songwriter Jack Saunders, Jeremy O’Bannon’s debut album Olivia tracks love, loss, and holding on to what’s important in 12 pointed, singular tracks. It’s a songwriter’s album, with accessible guitar licks, definitive storytelling, and a clue of inspired musicianship, the summation of four years of writing sketched into the framework of the disc.

“There’s a theme of escaping in a lot of the songs,” says O’Bannon, 38, of his first collection. “It’s really about escaping this fine line we have to walk in order to be responsible in this world.”

The Houston native reels in such accomplished session musicians as Jack Saunders, Rick Richards, Riley Osbourn, Eleanor Whitmore, Tommie Lee Bradley, and John Calderon, all of whom lend a hand to bringing O’Bannon’s songs to life.

“It’s amazing the way talent like that can transform your work,” he says. “One minute they’re structures, the next, they’re living, breathing things.
There’s a hint of James Taylor in his writing and presentation, a warm approach to Americana music that gives folk a modern eye. It’s evident on “Find a Way,” a lively, soulful song augmented by sustained organs and hot guitar licks, as well as the back porch swing of “Closer Than I Was,” which employs a violin and acoustic guitar strum to settle on a familiar sound. Then there’s the title track, “Olivia,” with its slow build and charming lyrics – at once comforting, paternal, and adventurous.

Many of the lessons learned through the Olivia sessions have made their way onto O’Bannon’s stage, where he and his backing band – a quintet that includes Marcie Chapa, Andrew Menger, Juan Correa, and Wayne Wilkerson – have spent the past year gigging at venues like Continental Club, Cottonwood, Heights Lodge, Liberty Station, and Alley Kat Bar.
Born in Austin in the mid-Seventies, O’Bannon moved to Houston when he was three, growing up in the Bayou City before shuttling his adult life between the two cities. Work brought him back to Houston five years ago, where he picked up the guitar and started writing. Raised on Townes Van Zandt and the Band, Ray Lamontagne and Norah Jones, he nestled into a warm, cozy corner of narrative storytelling almost immediately. Olivia, due this autumn, is the consummation of that process, the first showcase of a songwriter working with a steady hand.

“It was a peace,” he says of the album. “Many things can overwhelm you, but you can find that peace where something brings you that kind of true fulfillment without question. Whatever happens, if I can write these songs and continue to work on something I love, everything’s going to be all right.”


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