Naomi Wild, an electronic hip-hop singer-songwriter based out of LA, just released her second solo single 'Howlin.' The track confronts society's obsession with acting "too cool to care." Since childhood, Naomi has always cared about music. She explored electronic music with her brother, recorded vocals on her phone, and snuck into music festivals. Now, she sings on some of the largest stages in the world alongside the DJ duo, Odesza. Naomi sings on 'Higher Ground' by Odesza which has garnered over 30 million streams. From the parking lot bench to main stage Coachella, the journey continues with her first solo project on the horizon.
Peaceful and Wild
“I’m a brutally soft woman with a badass side,” says Naomi. “There’s a ‘don’t fuck with me’ layer underneath it all.” Naomi Wild, a 22-year-old singer-songwriter, tames no emotion. Her harder image collides with sincerity behind the mic. Smiles form rarely. The lyrics carry the weight of her softness. Naomi lets loose in the studio, kindling the harshness of her persona. “The dark vibes I put off...that’s a visual representation of the space I go to create.”
Before Naomi recorded her first song, she played her father’s Yamaha synthesizer as a kid. “I sat at the table with headphones going through a million presets,” she says. Naomi’s parents divorced when she was only a few years old. She lived with her Dad, Bill Quateman, after the split.
A promising pop musician in the 1970s, Bill rarely spoke to Naomi or her older brother about his rocky musical past. He did continue to write songs and play for his kids. “My Dad was a rock star to me,” says Naomi. “I’d wake up and he’d be in the kitchen playing blues and classic rock...he always had a guitar around.”
Naomi’s older brother, Dylan, introduced her to another wave of the spectrum, electronic music. Dylan produced drum and bass in the garage. He showed Naomi the music-making software, Ableton. “I was ten years old and we were both loners digging for music,” she says. “I would always film my brother dancing.”
A few years later, Naomi attended the Hard Summer Music Festival outside of LA. Making her way to the nearest stage, Naomi fixed her focus on Brooklyn based rapper, Theophilus London. Inspired, she connected with the MC. “He was the first electronic artist I saw live,” she says. “Theophilus looked like he was having fun, like he was happy...I wanted to feel that.”
Soon after, Naomi snuck into the largest music festival in LA, Coachella. There, she saw the electronic duo, Odesza, for the first time. “I imagined myself singing with them on stage,” she says. “I had never felt a connection that strong.”
Two years later, Naomi attended Santa Barbara City College. She often sat on the parking lot bench and wrote songs, isolating herself within the music. “I was a loner,” she says. “I sat outside my dorm, smoked cigs, and sang voice memos into my phone.”
She wrote a song called ‘Hope’ and sent the vocals to the producer Tim Legend, who was 16 at the time. They met on SoundCloud. Tim threw the vocals over one of his beats. Overnight, ‘Hope’ garnered one hundred thousand streams. Today, that song has been played nearly 60 million times.
Roc Nation called Naomi two days after the release of 'Hope.' “An A&R asked me to come into the studio and lay down demos for Rihanna,” she says. “I didn’t even understand.” Within a few days, Naomi drove to Westlake, LA and stood in the same studio where Michael Jackson recorded ‘Thriller.’ “That was the first time I heard my voice recorded professionally.”
Back at school, Naomi did not hear from Roc Nation but continued to write. Sitting on that same bench, she thought of Odesza. “I wanted to gift them [Odesza] a song…pretend like I was writing something for them,” she says.
Going through a bad breakup, Naomi channeled her emotions into the lyrics. She wanted the vocals to capture the feeling of a better place. Recording lines into her phone, she brought the song to her friend Adam, who goes by his producer name Novodor.
Sophomore year, Naomi dropped out of college and moved to LA. Working as a server, she spent free time in the studio with Novodor to polish her songwriting. “I just freestyled melodies at first,” she says. “I didn’t understand structure.”
After countless hours in the studio, she peeled back the layers of a song. She started to perceive her voice as an instrument and experimented with sound. “It’s weird making different noises...letting your voice dance around a track,” she says. “You keep certain parts, subtract, replace, and repeat.” The ear craves the catchiest concepts. “If it feels good the first time, then it feels good tomorrow, it’s right,” she says. “You have to know when to stop.”
Harnessing her songwriting skills, Naomi revisited the track she wrote for Odesza. “I woke up one morning and had a weird feeling,” she says, "I wanted to send the song to them [Odesza]." Naomi’s management at the time told her that the song was not worth sending. “I said send it anyway.” Two hours later, they answered. On a trip out in Lake Chelan, WA, Harrison and Clayton [Odesza] heard Naomi’s voice and built a song around her. They added rhythm and chords, and the structure assembled seamlessly. “It was one of those rare moments where the song felt like it wrote itself,” says the duo. That song would go on to be called ‘Higher Ground.’ “When I found out that Odesza wanted to use my vocals, I screamed in my car driving down the freeway,” says Naomi. Soon after, she drove to LA with Novodor to meet Odesza. Harrison and Clayton played her ‘Higher Ground.’ Instead of recutting the vocals, they used the same vocals that Naomi laid down originally.
I've Done This Before
Within a few months, Naomi would join Odesza on their A Moment Apart tour to sing ‘Higher Ground.’ Before leaving, she worked with a movement coach. They snuck into apartment buildings to rehearse and find a natural way of movement.
Touring with Odesza this past fall and spring, Naomi figured out who she was as a performer. She thought about the people in the crowd watching the artist in their element. “I wanted to tell a story with my movement despite the adrenaline,” she says. “It’s not about trying to look dope...it’s about being you.”
On the road, she’s had to balance songwriting, performing, and making music for others. “As long as you can pay your rent and work on your solo project, that’s a good start,” she says.
Since tour, Naomi has debuted a few of her own originals, including her most recent release ‘Howlin.’ She recorded ‘Howlin’ at the kitchen table on a Bluetooth speaker. “I was comfortable in that space...it felt honest,” she says, “and I was too lazy to get the KRKs [speakers] out of the closet.” She mixed the vocals and co-produced the track with Grammy-nominated recording engineer and producer, Eric Von. The song speaks to the social norm of the chase; wanting someone completely, but acting like you don’t. “You like the way I don’t chase, I hate the way I do,” she sings.
This past April, Naomi took the main stage alongside Odesza at Coachella. From sneaking into the festival to singing in front of thousands, she stood where she first envisioned the moment. “I couldn’t afford to buy a pass," she says, "and now I'm on the main stage."