MTSU’s Songwriting Program, Dubbed the “Grammy Factory,” is Expanding this Spring

“Songwriters come in so many different shapes and sizes, and my goal is to meet them with options for which path in songwriting they want to take,” Odie Blackmon tells American Songwriter.

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Blackmon, a professional songwriter (Lee Ann Womack, George Strait, and Gary Allan), helps inspire the future of the music industry through his role as a professor at Middle Tennesse State University’s Commercial Songwriting Program. Alongside other esteemed faculty members like Dez Dickerson—former member of Prince’s band, the Revolution—Blackmon teaches on topics relevant to making it big. More specifically, the program offers classes in areas like Music Business, Commercial Songwriting, and Audio Production.

Thus far, the MTSU Songwriting Program has nurtured award-winning songwriters like Luke Laird (Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Trace Adkins, and Tim McGraw) and artists Chris Young, Laura Rogers, and Mitchell Tenpenny. MTSU’s track record in the industry recently led NBC Nightly News to dub the program a “Grammy-winner factory.” As a result of their established and growing success, the Songwriting Program is now expanding.

Nancy Jones, widow of country music legend George Jones in the Center for Popular Music visiting with commercial songwriting students in professor Odie Blackmon’s “Life and Music of George Jones” class.

In the spring of 2022, the Songwriting Program will have a larger brick-and-mortar home for its growing resources. “It’s gonna be a place for all the songwriters to come and congregate and take classes,” Blackmon begins.

“We’ll have the classrooms and the lounge for students opened by January. Then we start working on the individual writers’ rooms, which will eventually become production suites,” he continues. “We’re looking at also having a beat lab where students can come in 24/7 and work with headphones.”

Blackmon also explains that the new space will be able to hold a crowd of around 300 for live performances and that the hallways will be decked with alumni’s platinum albums. “Let them see that people before them have come through here and had success,” Blackmon says of the soon-to-be decorated corridors.

Artist rendering; Photo courtesy of Odie Blackmon.

The classrooms themselves are also set to house some of the latest technology. “I’ve had custom studio desks made,” Blackmon says. “Companies that make the studio desk for consoles in the studio, have made us desks that have pianos that slot out from under them with a small monitor on each desk for reading lyrics or charts.”

Overall, though, it’s the people that make this new space exciting for Blackmon. “I’m really proud of the faculty,” he says, “and the faculty is diverse, like our student body. People think that because we’re in Nashville that it’s country [or] we’re just country-centric, and we’re really not. We have everything from hip hop writers to R&B singer/songwriters to Americana to pop to indie rock. There’s a lot of different styles in the mix in which makes for great co-writing.”

With these new additions and growing determination, we can’t wait to see who steps out of the MTSU Songwriting Center next.

Photos courtesy of Odie Blackmon

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