Now Hear This: Tommy Odetto

April 16, 2013

WHEN HE WAS JUST 15 YEARS OLD, SOUL PIE guitarist Tommy Odetto was invited to jam with Carlos Santana. Soon after, Santana brought Odetto to Fantasy Studios, where he was producing an album for Buddy Guy.

“That changed my life,” says Odetto. “I already knew I wanted to be a guitar player—I had a burning passion that I can’t really describe—and that experience sealed the deal. Carlos also told me that I had a lot of potential, and to keep playing because, ‘We need you out there.’ Hearing that was hugely motivational.”

Living in the thriving musical mecca of Marin County in Northern California certainly didn’t hurt Odetto’s chances of meeting famous musicians, but it’s his drive and talent that continues to get the young guitarist invited onstage and in the studio with heavyweights. Phil Lesh just tapped him for an as-yet-unnamed project, and session icon Michael Landau often shares stages with the now 24-year-old blues rocker.

“Tommy has the gift of obvious natural ability, combined with thought and tons of soul,” says Landau. “He plays for you, not at you.”

“I’m obsessed with good articulation and phrasing,” says Odetto, who practices from six to eight hours a day on his Gibson ’54 Les Paul goldtop reissue. “When I play music, it’s about how much emotion I can convey—it’s like going to confession. That’s what made me want to play guitar. I didn’t want to be a rock star—I wanted to move people.”

Soul Pie ( recently released its first EP, Battling Mountains.

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