Susan O’Dea and Nick Spear formed Big Sky City Lights out of a cross-country virtual music connection.
photo provided
Susan O’Dea and Nick Spear formed Big Sky City Lights out of a cross-country virtual music connection. photo provided
Big Sky City Lights became a band based on the circumstances of the world last year.

Susan O’Dea and Nick Spear had spent time working with Alpine Theater Company in Montana together and Spear directed O’Dea in her first show, so they had a musical connection early on in their careers. When the pandemic upended the live music world, they renewed that connection — virtually.

“Nick and I had been friends for many years doing theater together and I reached out asking if he wanted to do a virtual musical project,” O’Dea said.

They had a mutual love for singer-songwriter/Americana music and they had both been wanting to go in the direction of doing that style of music.

“It was a point where we could connect with each other, and we had been involved with some bands on that side of things,” Spear said.

O’Dea was in her one-bedroom New York City apartment, and Nick Spear was at his home studio in northern Montana. They both had shows and tours canceled due to the pandemic and decided to make the most out of the situation. They began singing cover songs together on a virtual platform.

O’Dea sat in her bathtub in her apartment, as it was the quietest place in her home, and recorded her vocal tracks. Spear recorded his vocal tracks at his home studio in Montana, and they then edited the tracks together. They released a few of their covers together online and got a huge response.

“People really loved what we were doing, and we decided to keep doing it via virtual recording and YouTube,” O’Dea said. “It was fun, but we hope we never have to go back to recording like that.”

Because of the pandemic and cancelled tours, O’Dea and Spear created an accidental band. The name comes from the locations from which they were singing: Spear from Big Sky Montana, and O’Dea among the city lights of New York City.

In the late summer of 2020, O’Dea and Spear sang together in person.

“It was kind of a shock singing in person for the first time together,” O’Dea said.

They then began to write their own record and continue performing their cover songs.

“We wrote a lot of our songs just from the ground up, but some were ideas that we both had that we finalized together,” Spear said.

Their first record, “Wake Me When We Get There,” contains songs about the past year in quarantine and finding their process as a band.

“It was a really unique experience coming together because we already had a huge level of respect for one another, and it all requires a lot of trust. It was a cool, collective experience and it made it easier to create this new album together,” O’Dea said.

“We are still finding our process together, but it was nice to come together and be able to create this record,” Spear said.

Big Sky City Lights has a roots/Americana/indie folk music sound.

“We focus on simple harmonics and our voices harmonizing together and [it] lends to that folk vein because of the simplicity of this style of music,” Spear said.

Their first record was released in early 2021 and they have begun touring the songs on the album. The album contains two cover songs, but mainly cowritten original songs.

“We plan to run with this band and keep writing and touring together because we love doing it and plan to keep it going,” said Spear.

Big Sky City Lights will be performing as part of the 2021 Sisters Folk Festival on October 1-3. It is both O’Dea’s and Spear’s first time in Central Oregon. For more information visit

www.sistersfolkfestival.org.