INTERVIEW & DVD REVIEW: ODIE BLACKMON "The Craft of Writing Hit Songs"

The Craft of Writing Hit Songs by Odie Blackmon gives aspiring songwriters a step by step tutorial in a down to earth documentary-style instructional DVD directed by Gandalf Hennig ("Fallen Angel-The life of Gram Parsons"). Odie is a Grammy-nominated songwriter who has several #1 hits by George Strait, Gary Allan, and Lee Ann Womack. He also teaches workshops for songwriters around the country.

Odie and I spent a little time visiting about his new DVD project and why he did it, and what he hopes it will do for aspiring songwriters.

Bev: Odie, this is a unique presentation, why did you decide to do the DVD project?

OB: I had some success with songwriting and was asked to do workshops for NSAI. I was surprised at the bar or level that people were setting for themselves out away from Nashville and realized that our bar is so high here. I started thinking about before I came to town how hard it was to learn about song writing. I bought the “Craft of Lyric Writing” by Sheila Davis. It was informative but a dry read and I found it hard to learn through books. How I learned to write songs was sitting in the rooms with pro-writers. I listened to them and sometimes it was just visiting instead of writing. I was always a fan of guitar instructional videos by Happy Chaum. He had a company in upstate New York called “Home Spun” tapes.

I started thinking of all the questions I would answer from these seminars and came up with the idea of compiling them and putting together a DVD for others to learn from. What better way to learn it as if they were sitting in the room with me. I could play guitar and show examples, much easier than trying to describe something in words. I had that in my head, but didn’t quite know how to do it. I have a friend that is a German film maker named Gandalf Hennig. He did the acclaimed documentary on Gram Parsons called “Fallen Angel” and currently he is wrapping up the Merle Haggard documentary called “Learning to Live with Myself”. I told Gandalf about my idea and he thought it was great. I gathered all my notes together that I have been making for years, he brought over a camera man and sound guy and we spent two days going through my notes and going over what I thought people needed to know about songwriting. He interviewed me and we tried to do it in a documentary style because a lot of those instructional DVDs are kind of “sterile” like “this is lick 52”. Songwriting is such a “down home” thing and I wanted the DVD to reflect that. That is how it all came about.

Bev: Any surprises along the way?

OB: Well, I think everything has been a surprise. It has been an experiment. It was like shooting from the hip. How do you teach everyone everything about songwriting and how do you film that? Then it was how do you do you get these packaged in a nice box with a UPC code? What is a UPC code? Every step of the way has been a surprise and fun.

Bev: What has been the reaction you have received from fans?

OB: So far the songwriters and reviewers that have seen it have been very complimentary. They comment that some of the information is simple; but things that people don’t consciously think about. Everyone has commented they have gotten a lot out of useful information out of it.

Bev: Do you plan to keep it just in the United States or do you plan to take it other places? What are your plans for promotion?

OB: I don’t really have any plans. Like my songwriting career…I’m just following my heart. Right now, I am selling it over MySpace and Facebook. I hope to get national distribution from a big company and get it in music stores. I would like to do some more and my friend Jim Lauderdale has agreed to do one as well. I am a big fan of Alan Lomax and in the thirties; he traveled around the country and recorded people for the Library of Congress. He is the first one to record “Muddy Waters” in a cabin on a plantation before he moved to Chicago. I thought it would be so cool to have a CD of Harlan Howard telling how he wrote his songs, but we don’t.

I have an opportunity to record some of my friends like Jim Lauderdale, Kostas and people that I think that are important songwriters in Nashville. By that, I mean someone that can actually sit down and write a song by themselves. I think it would express that total process better. It is a dream, but would nice to document the people I love. I don’t think it would set the world on fire, but I think there are people out there that would appreciate it for years to come, especially in this town.

Bev: Has there been anything that has been disappointing?

OB: It has taken a lot longer than I had hoped. My main focus is songwriting and I didn’t really have any expectations but the process is so slow, from editing to getting a website up and running. It just took a lot longer and it is still not exactly like I want. I wanted a website that didn’t look homemade; I have had to learn flash and other things. It has definitely broadened my horizons.

Bev: What is your main objective for people who are interested in purchasing this?

OB: It is a DVD for complete beginners to people that aspiring to be professional songwriters. The things I teach, the foundation tools I teach, can be used in any genre of music. I am available to do workshops away from Nashville and use this as a tool in the workshops.

Bev: Odie thank you so much, the DVD is priceless and very informative and I am sure you will have great results with all you have put into it. I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Below is our Digital Rodeo review of the DVD

Odie Blackmon
The Craft of Writing Hit Songs (instructional DVD)

Odie Blackmon’s (“She’ll Leave You With a Smile”, “I May Hate Myself In The Morning”, and “Nothing On The Radio”) “The Craft Of Hit Songwriting” is a one-of-a-kind instructional song-writing DVD. A one on one songwriting session with one of the hit writers in Nashville which offers an inside look at the craft of songwriting. It is a fantastic addition to any songwriters’ arsenal of tools and can take the aspiring or professional songwriter to higher levels of accomplishment in leaps and bounds by reveling simple steps to take to create that hit-song.

Odie believes that the best way to learn the craft of songwriting is by seeing it first hand, to be shown/performed each element instead of having to read a book or handout and learning it by oneself. Going over each element of songwriting, Odie spends time explaining each in detail and does it in an understandable, simple manner.

Showing by example as he reviews song forms, lyrics, melody and many aspects of songwriting for the aspiring songwriter. With each element having a separate chapter for each, the DVD is easy to navigate through and each chapter has a song tune as an example this instructional session could not be more useful.

Visual instruction is provided to take the teaching of songwriting to a new level. This type of hands-on learning experience has not been available in this format until now, unless you had a co-write session with a hit-writer, which does not come around too often for the new up and comers.

Included with the DVD is a booklet with song structure examples and a list of songs to listen to that have that certain structure. This DVD goes above and beyond to help the songwriter reach full potential and is noteworthy piece of film. This project is a must have for all songwriters no matter their level of experience, because each time it is watched something new is learned. Nowhere else can an aspiring songwriter sit down with a Grammy Nominated, ASCAP award winning songwriter and get the experience that Odie has shared in his new DVD. Definitely a must have.

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