September 2010 (Nashville, TN) -- Writing hit songs for the likes of George Strait and Lee Ann Womack isn't all that Grammy-nominated songwriter Odie Blackmon has been up to lately. He's also been teaching other aspiring musicians how to write their own chart-topping hits -- and make a living doing it.
The #1 hit songwriter's critically-acclaimed "The Craft of Writing Hit Songs" DVD recently entered national distribution via Amazon.com, and the songwriter behind it has just begun teaching at Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music.
"I've been very blessed in my career," said Blackmon. "I'm able to do what I love, work with people I admire and, best of all, make money doing it. Not everyone can say that, especially in the music business. Now, I'm on a mission to help others realize similar dreams."
Called a "particularly successful" songwriter by the New York Times and "one of the most popular contemporary songwriters in Nashville" by CMT.com, Blackmon has kept busy lately showcasing his skills as a teacher. As American Songwriter magazine put it recently, "Blackmon is not only a great song craftsman and hit writer, but he’s also an accurate, understandable communicator of the songwriting process and its flow."
The latest evidence of this talent comes in the form of an instructional DVD.
"Working as a professional songwriter in Nashville and traveling to workshops around the U.S., I'd get folks asking me to recommend instructional songwriting DVDs and things like that," Blackmon recalled. "The problem was: There weren't any. There were plenty on 'how to play great guitar' but nothing on 'how to write a hit song.' So we made one."
Directed by Gandulf Hennig (best known for documentaries like "Merle Haggard: Learning To Live With Myself" and "Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel") Blackmon's "The Craft of Writing Hit Songs" DVD takes more than just a paint-by-numbers approach. Blackmon and Hennig aimed for something more like a private songwriting session than a classroom tutorial. As a result, Blackmon comes across like a world-wise friend who is working to inspire as well as teach his student.
"I love music and songwriting," he explained. "I have fun doing it and have enjoyed all kinds of real-world experience. I don't know everything about songwriting, but I know a lot -- from subject matter and structure to feel and you name it. I wake up every morning with the same inspiration and challenges as anyone who has ever wanted to write a hit song. The difference is: I wake up with the background and know-how to pull it all together and make it happen. That's what I want to help others realize."
While Blackmon's major hits have been scored mainly in the Country music field (including a #1 for George Strait and a Grammy-nominated hit for Lee Ann Womack), the tips, techniques and anecdotes on his new DVD apply to virtually any musical genre, he says, from Country to Rock to Blues to Gospel.
"This is the DVD I wish I could have watched 20 years ago," he proclaims. "There are a lot of hard-learned lessons on there."
On the heels of the new DVD project, Blackmon has also headed into the classroom to expand on his previous workshop experience.
He is teaching a special course on the art of songwriting at the Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music this fall and has already signed on again for spring. Blackmon says he's excited to share his writing passion and real-world experience with an up-and-coming generation of hit makers.
"I know what it's like to stare at that blank piece of paper, trying to pull words and guitar chords out of thin air," explains Blackmon. "Anytime I can help others with the professional songwriting process and improve their work, it's like a win-win-win. I feel good, they grow as artists, and we all get to further our careers."
Similar to his instructional DVD, Blackmon's songwriting course will cover a wide variety of topics and stem from his 2 decades in the music business -- including song forms, the elements of a song, chord progressions, song demos, song evaluations, music theory for songwriters, the Nashville Number System and breaking into Music Row.
As with his instructional DVD, "The Craft of Writing Hit Songs," Blackmon says that his Vanderbilt students will learn techniques and processes that have enjoyed proven success in the contemporary music scene. He's been there, done that and is willing to tell about it.
Details on the course are available on-line at blair.vanderbilt.edu.
Other future plans for Odie Blackmon include additional workshops (including at Louisiana's Ferriday Song Fest, October 23, 2010) and potentially more instructional DVDs down the road.
"I've been a songwriter for a long time now, and I've enjoyed some pretty big hits. But it's just as rewarding to teach others to work in the craft I love," he says with a smile. "My DVD is getting great feedback. I'm excited about this new Vanderbilt course. I'm a busy guy right now, and that's just how I like it."
For his Vanderbilt professor profile, go to Insidevandy.com