May/June 2014 Lyric Contest Spotlight: Blair Bodine

Blair_Bodine_by_Kate_Davis_Photo
“Lonely Pretty Things”
1st Place|
Written by Blair Bodine

When did you write “Lonely Pretty Things?”

It was probably a year and a half ago. It’s a little bit nerdy, but I was at the Frist Center for Visual Arts and I was attending a teacher training session for educators. We were learning about Ekphrastic poetry, which is poetry that’s inspired by art. Basically, our assignment for the afternoon was to walk around the galleries and write a poem that was based on a piece of art. I remember seeing this piece of folk art. It was of this beautiful girl and she was in the corner of the canvas, apart from everyone else in the picture, and I remember thinking, “It must be lonely to be that pretty.” And then the first few lines of the first verse fell out, which is, “I know the loneliness that beauty can bring.”

How long did it take you to write?

It’s kind of frustrating when you hear about people who write these beautiful songs in a handful of minutes. This one came out really quickly, but finishing it took months and months.

How long have you been writing songs?

My mom bought me a guitar for my 13th birthday. She was a songwriter, so I guess the idea was that it would help me write songs. So I started that year, but I didn’t actually give it an honest go and write with regularity and start recording my material until 2009.  It was after I was out of college.

You grew up in Philadelphia. What was the music scene like there?

There is a concentration of folk music in Philadelphia that was exciting to have access to growing up. My favorite radio station was WXPN, and I ended up working for that music nonprofit with a venue called World Café Live. I was able to work right fresh out of grad school in the same building where my favorite radio station growing up was broadcast from. It’s interesting because it’s a northeastern city, but there are definitely folk and Americana influences there.

I’m guessing you moved to Nashville to pursue a songwriting career.

You are guessing correctly.

How have you liked it here?

I moved here three years ago, and I love Nashville. I knew that within the first week that I got here. I felt like I had stumbled upon this gem of a city. I think what’s really great about the town is the sense of community. I’m a part of a song group, and we meet once a week in East Nashville and we get together and workshop each other’s songs and work on lyrics deep into the night and then we break bread together. I refer to it as “songwriter church,” in a way.

The coolest thing about moving to Nashville was that my frequency of writing went through the roof. It used to take me six months to write a song. I think the ones you hold really close to your heart take a long time to craft and perfect. But I never would have been able to write a song in an afternoon before I moved here.

Are you shooting for a career as a performing songwriter? Do you want to write for country radio?

My background is as a performing singer-songwriter, and I think ever since I moved here it’s been really wonderful to develop that capacity for writing and performing. The concept of being a professional songwriter and being able to write for radio, that’s a completely different skill than what I’m trying to build and focus on. And I have this 9 to 5 job which is in the classical music realm, so I’m lucky I get to twirl around in a couple of different worlds, all of them focused on music.

Can you tell me more about your day job?

I work as the director of education and community engagement. My job in and of itself is pretty inspiring. I get to work with schools and nonprofits that are passionate about music education. We serve around 200,000 people a year with concerts and school programs. I was really fortunate growing up. I was able to take music class and sing in choir, and I even took guitar lessons at my school. But I think that if we’re going to have a new generation of songwriters, and music makers, and music lovers, we’ve got to make sure we nourish the arts in our schools.

Is it difficult to write consistently when you’re working a 9 to 5?

That song group I talked about helps a lot. We push each other to try to bring something new every week to the table. The phrase that I say in my head a lot is, “Don’t quit your daydream.” So if you can find ways to compose and be creative in the cracks of your day… it feels very special to come home at night and be able to sit on the couch and write for a few hours and hammer out a song.

 See Blair Bodine’s First Place Lyrics Here