TAKE A LOOK BACK AT THE 2018 SCHEDULE!
THURSDAY, JULY 26 (OPTIONAL)
5:45pm Pitch to Publisher Workshop at John Seigenthaler Center - Big Loud Publishing & Universal Music Publishing Group
FRIDAY, JULY 27
8:00am – 9:00am Breakfast / Networking
9:00am – 9:15am Welcome / Announcements
9:15am – 10:15am Opening Interview: Matraca Berg
10:30am – 12:00pm Odie Blackmon: Generating Titles & Plots
12:00pm – 1:00pm Lunch (Commodore Grille)
1:15pm - 3:30pm Small Group Co-writing (with Mentor oversight)
3:45pm – 5:00pm Brent Baxter: Lyric Lessons
5:15pm - 6:00pm Camp Mixer & Cocktail Party at The Local - Sponsored by First Tennessee Bank
6:00pm – 9:00pm Writers Round at The Local
SATURDAY, JULY 28
8:00am – 8:40am Breakfast / Networking
8:40am – 8:45am Announcements
8:45am – 10:15am Brent Baxter: Your M.A.P. To A Hit Song Lyric
10:30am – 12:00pm Odie Blackmon: Melody for the Masses
12:00pm – 1:00pm Lunch (Commodore Grille)
1:00pm – 2:00pm Tim Gray: Top 10 Most Important Marketing Strategies
2:15pm - 3:30pm Connie Harrington & Jimmy Yeary: Songwriting Through a Publisher's Lens
3:45pm – 5:15pm Small Group co-writing performance
6:00pm – 9:00pm Writers Round at the Commodore Grille
SUNDAY, JULY 29
8:00am – 8:40am Breakfast / Networking
8:40am – 8:45am Announcements
8:45am – 10:15am Ellen Britton: Building Blocks of a Groove
10:30am – 12:00pm Odie Blackmon: Patter Songs for the People
12:00pm – 1:00pm Lunch (Commodore Grille)
1:00pm – 2:30pm Small Group Mentor Song Feedback
3:00pm – 4:00pm Small Group Pro Song Breakdown
4:15pm – 5:15pm Closing Segment: Tracy Lawrence
5:15pm – 5:20pm Closing Comments
*Schedule subject to change without notice
PARTICIPATING MENTORS: JT HARDING, GREG FRIIA, EMILY WEISBAND, JAMIE FLOYD, BENITA HILL, JUSTIN WEAVER, ANTHONY L. SMITH, JEFF COHEN, JIMMY YEARY, LIZ HENGBER, DANNY WELLS, DAVE PITTENGER AND NEIL THRASHER.
GET TO KNOW THE PROS
BRENT BAXTER | LYRIC LESSONS and YOUR M.A.P TO A HIT SONG LYRIC
Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter who helps other songwriters turn pro. He teaches the art, craft and business of songwriting through two main avenues: his website, SongwritingPro.com and his co- hosted podcast, The C.L.I.M.B.
Baxter's first cut came in early 2004, as “Monday Morning Church” was recorded by Alan Jackson. The song went on to become a top five hit, honored as one of NSAI’s ten “Songs I Wish I’d Written.” It also received an ASCAP airplay award.
In early 2005, he signed his first publishing deal, becoming a staff songwriter for Major Bob Music. That deal yielded cuts by Lady Antebellum, Randy Travis, and Lonestar, among others. In 2009 and 2010, Baxter wrote for a joint venture of Peer Music and RPM Music. That deal yielded cuts by Joe Nichols, Ray Stevens, Charles Billingsley, Randy Kohrs and others.
From 2010 through 2012, Brent was the flagship writer for Infinity Music Group. This deal yielded cuts by Canadian star Gord Bamford (the #1 hit and CCMA Single of the Year "When Your Lips Are So Close"), as well as comedy legend Ray Stevens, blues guitar legend Steve Cropper, Andy Griggs, Buddy Jewell, and Curb artist, Ruthie Collins, among others. Baxter currently writes for his own publishing company, Cowboy Chords Music. He lives just outside of Nashville with his wife, Emily, and their four children, Ozzy, Ruby Jean, Wren and Quill.
ODIE BLACKMON | MELODY FOR THE MASSES and GENERATING TITLES AND PLOTS
He is himself a student of musical history whose "The Life and Times of George Jones" course at Middle Tennessee State University incorporates his own archival and interview research, as well as an author whose textbook "Music Theory and the Nashville Number System: For Songwriters & Performers" is available in paperback and whose instructional DVD "The Craft of Writing Hit Songs" is carrying songwriting knowledge to an international audience via amazon.com.
Blackmon, whose success has been lauded in publications ranging from CMT.com to The New York Times, has been cited by American Songwriter as "not only a great song craftsman and hit writer, but also an accurate, understandable communicator of the songwriting process and its flow."
At the core of everything he does is the songwriting that has intrigued him since he was a boy in Arkansas, studying idols including country's Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson, rock's Beatles, Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry, and blues greats Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters. Drawn to Los Angeles by his admiration for the West Coast country of Haggard, Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakam and Gram Parsons, he later followed a friend's recommendation that he move to Nashville, where he enrolled at MTSU. Songwriting success wasn't long in coming, arriving as he was still earning his degree in Mass Communication with a focus on Recording Industry Management.
"I had my first cut on MCA Records when I was still in school," he says, "and I was negotiating my first publishing deal while I was in summer school having to take algebra again!"
He would go on to become one of Nashville's most successful tunesmiths, with a catalog that includes Lee Ann Womack's "I May Hate Myself in the Morning," which earned a Grammy nomination and was named the CMA's 2005 Single of the Year; "She'll Leave You With a Smile," Hall of Famer George Strait's 50th #1 hit; the chart-topping Gary Allan smash "Nothing On But the Radio"; and cuts by Martina McBride, John Legend, Del McCoury, Tracy Lawrence, Aaron Tippin, Striking Matches and many others. His "Tough All Over" was featured on ABC-TV's "Nashville," and "I Believe" in the Mel Gibson film "We Were Soldiers," and he wrote the theme song for the CMT series "Working Class." READ FULL BIO BELOW
He was named Billboard magazine's #1 Hot Country Songwriter in 2005 and has earned three ASCAP Performance Awards, two CMA Performance Awards and three NSAI Achievement Awards.
He has production credits on Gary Allan's Alright Guy album, Jim Lauderdale's Country Super Hits and Jason McCoy'sHonky Tonk Sonatas, as well as singles for TV's "Nashville Star." His copyrights as a music publisher appear on gold and platinum albums and include a #1 hit, and he co-publishes writer/artist Jeff Allen with Sony Music Publishing.
His role as an educator stems from a desire to share hard-learned knowledge and experience with others, something Blackmon sees as part and parcel of his life's work.
"Songwriting, music, and the music business are my passions," he says. "I have dedicated my life to unraveling the mystery behind mixing creativity with commerce and I still get that magic feeling when I hear music that moves me. Teaching is just an extension of it, one that brings me more joy than if I didn’t share my knowledge."
He has worked with inner city schoolchildren, serving as “artist in residence” for the America Scores program in St. Louis, Mo. He also served three years on the songwriting faculty of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Williams Syndrome Camp, and has served as a mentor for ASCAP Nashville's Young Writers Workshop and for workshops and seminars around the country.
In 2010, he became a Lecturer in Music at Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music, providing students with an in-depth and practical introduction to the art of songwriting. The success of that course over the next several years led to his book.
In 2014, he became Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Commercial Songwriting Concentration for the Recording Industry Program at MTSU, and was named the program's "Faculty Member of the Year" during his second year.Odie also received the MTSU Foundation’s “Outstanding Creative Activity” award beginning his fourth year. He created and teaches a four-course curriculum, including commercial and advanced commercial songwriting, the songwriting practicum, and the course on George Jones. He has also brought in some of Nashville's finest to teach classes on production, jingle writing, guitar and piano for songwriters, performance skills, and other topics. His MTSU Songwriters Series has led to the opportunity for students to open for hit artists like Eric Paslay, while raising money for the songwriting program, and he has provided students with the opportunity to write with other top Nashville writers, and has instituted a number of songwriting internships.
"I hope," says Blackmon, "to give students the songwriting craft, musical knowledge and business skills to help them advance in the music industry at a fast pace, building a program with other teachers to achieve this."
Beverly Keel, chair of MTSU's Department of Recording Industry, says, "Odie Blackmon has ushered in an exciting new chapter of our songwriting concentration and I am thrilled with everything that is happening. We are adding classes, bringing new faculty members to campus and inviting talented songwriters from many genres to speak to our students.”
Blackmon is an Executive Board Member of the Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association, alumnus of Leadership Music, former Vice-President of the Center for Popular Music advisory council, a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, a professional member of Nashville Songwriters Association International, a pro member and publisher member of ASCAP, and a member of the Association of Popular Music Educators.
“I’ve been very blessed in my career,” he says. “I’m able to make a living doing what I love and working with people I admire. Now, I’m on a mission to help others realize similar dreams.”
ELLEN BRITTON | BUILDING BLOCKS OF A GROOVE
Ellen Britton is a veteran musician with decades of performing, writing, recording, and teaching experience. The daughter of well-known Philadelphia area folksinger George Britton, Ellen grew up with a guitar in her hands, and as a teenager played the club and college circuit as half of blues/folk duo the Britton Sisters.
A move to Nashville in 1991 led to staff songwriter gigs, frequent shows at the world-famous Bluebird Café, touring with Martina McBride, Pam Tillis, Jo Dee Messina, Sara Evans, Lari White, Maura O’Connell, Tanya Tucker, and appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The View, The Rosie O’Donnell Show, and The Today Show.
Her work as a guitar teacher to prominent and aspiring artists and songwriters in Music City has included recording artists (“Pontoon”), Carly Pearce ("Every Little Thing"), Mickey Guyton (“Better Than You Left Me”), Maggie Rose ("I Ain't Your Mama"), Jimmy Wayne (“Do You Believe Me Now?”), JD Souther ("Her Town Too"; ABC's Nashville), and Pam Tillis (“Spilled Perfume”); hit songwriters Tim Nichols (“Live Like You Were Dying”/Tim McGraw), Barry Dean (“Pontoon”/Little Big Town), Tom Douglas (“House That Built Me”/Miranda Lambert), Brandy Clark ("Mama's Broken Heart"/Miranda Lambert), Jamie Lynn Spears (“I Got the Boy”/Jana Kramer), Jennifer Hanson (“Leave the Pieces”/Wreckers), Jenn Schott (“Two Lanes to Freedom”/Tim McGraw), Tyler Hayes ("Bring It on Home"/Little Big Town), Dennis Matkosky (“You’ll Think of Me”/Keith Urban); and Music Row pros Jim Catino (Sony Music), Laura Stroud (Sony Music), as well as finalists on The Voice and American Idol.
TIM GRAY | TEACHER
Tim Gray is the Host of The Golden Rules, a Q&A style web series focusing on the lives and businesses of today’s music industry executives. Gray also serves as the CEO of the award winning company, Grayscale Marketing, a full service agency focused on digital marketing & advertising, content creation, and strategic partnerships. His entrepreneurial career spans 15 years with experience in creative branding, event ticketing, concert promotion, booking, management, video production & photography, and sponsorships.
Throughout his career Tim has been awarded the Nashville Emerging Leader Award in Arts and Entertainment, SOLID member of the year, and has been listed as People On The Move by Nashville Business Journal. In addition, Gray was nominated for NBJ 40 Under 40, a Facebook Advertising Award, Small Business of the Year, Best in Business and Entrepreneur Of The Year. Furthermore, Tim’s a passionate educator and speaker on the power of financial freedom, monetary responsibility and the benefits of long term planning as he has consistently maintained his personal and professional life debt free.
In addition to his entrepreneurial experience, Tim is impassioned philanthropic leader. He holds Board Of Director positions for three Nashville based non-profit organizations, Musicpreneur Storehouse, Alumni Advisory Council (AAC) for MTSU College of Media and Entertainment and Music Makes Us (MMU). He has held multiple Board positions for Nashville based music industry 501c3, SOLID (Society Of Leaders In Development) and is a member of Young Entertainment Professionals, The Troubadour Society, Nashville Chamber of Commerce, The Other Nashville Society, The Recording Academy and the Country Music Association.
To name a few, Gray’s worked with artists, organizations & events such as IEBA, Virgin Hotels, Hangout Music Festival, Saving Abel, Warner Chappell Music Production, Rolls Royce, Pilgrimage Music Festival, Anheuser Busch, Joe Diffie, Panorama NYC Music Festival, Ole Smoky Moonshine, Shooter Jennings, Cessna, Maui Jim, Sony Music Nashville, Ask4 Entertainment, Blue Chair Bay Rum, Neste Event Marketing, Country Stampede, Tito's Vodka, Minor League Baseball, and Sixthman's Music Festival Cruises.
J.T. HARDING | MENTOR
J.T. Harding was born and raised in South Detroit. Countless hours of watching MTV led him to Los Angeles where he made his first demo with prize money he received for winning the game show VH1 Rock N Roll Jeopardy. Before signing a deal, J.T. traveled the world as a personal assistant for rockstar Marilyn Manson writing songs during the day as Marilyn slept. Number One songs for Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, Jake Owen, Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley, and the 3 million seller "SMILE" with Uncle Kracker are just a few of J.T.'s ever growing collection of hits.
GREG FRIIA| MENTOR
Greg's passion and rich talent for songwriting led him to Nashville in 2001 and he hasn't looked back. He has an impressive list of collaborators including Casey Beathard, Eric Paslay, Marc Beeson, Jason Scheff, Bill Champlin, Felix Cavaliere, Vince Melamed, Jimmy Olander, Robbie Nevil, Kevin Savigar & Oliver Leiber. Greg has had songs recorded by Bonnie Tyler, Rachel Holder, Richie McDonald, Eric Paslay, Brady Seals & LOCASH & earned his first Top 5 song on the Billboard Dance Chart for the song "Body Needs" recorded by Consuelo Costin. He currently writes for Sea The Desert Entertainment and is the President of the Starbucks sponsored show "Songwriters Singing For Coffee"
EMILY WEISBAND | MENTOR
A Virginia native, Emily Weisband moved to Nashville, TN to pursue a career in songwriting and has since proven to be a driving force. During her years as a songwriting major at Belmont University, Emily met Rusty Gaston, General Manager and co-owner of THiS Music Publishing. She signed her very first publishing deal with THiS Music/Warner Chappell in early 2014. She has since had songs recorded by various artists including Keith Urban, Darius Rucker, Danielle Bradbery, Lauren Alaina, Hunter Hayes, Natalie Grant, Hillary Scott and Family, Pink, Lady Antebellum, Thomas Rhett, Camilla Cabello, Selena Gomez, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, RaeLynn, Danny Gokey, etc. In 2017 Weisband took home a Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Performance/Song, along with fellow co-writers Hillary Scott and Bernie Herms, for "Thy Will" performed by Hillary Scott and Family.
JAMIE FLOYD | MENTOR
Grammy-nominated songwriter, independent publisher and West Palm Beach native, Jamie Floyd, has had songs recorded by Ronnie Dunn, Ashley Monroe, Miranda Lambert, Hayden Panettiere, Kellie Picker, Lucie Silvas and Brian McKnight. Her critically acclaimed EP features "The Blade," which was nominated for a Grammy and named one of "The Best Songs of 2015" by Rolling Stone, Billboard Magazine and NPR. Additionally, her songwriting success has translated to film and television, where her work has appeared in hit shows Finding Carter(MTV), NASHVILLE (ABC), The Client List(Lifetime) and Beauty & The Beast (CW Network). She also penned original music for the TV movie Manson’s Lost Girls (Lifetime) and the finale and additional music performed by Brian McKnight in Dolly Parton's Christmas movie, A Country Christmas Story.
Jamie appeared in, wrote and recorded the entire 12 song soundtrack for the new major motion picture THE LAST MOVIE STAR (starring Burt Reynolds, Ariel Winter and Chevy Chase) in theaters nationwide as of March 30, 2018. The film is distributed by the renowned A24, responsible for the success of LADY BIRD & THE DISASTER ARTIST. THE LAST MOVIE STAR had its world premier at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. In addition, "Yet To Come" (cowritten by Jamie) that closes the final scene of the movie, was awarded "Best Original Song In A Feature Film" by the Nashville Film Festival.
Jamie is also featured in the new critically acclaimed music documentary THE LAST SONGWRITER alongside Garth Brooks, Jason Isbell, Allen Shamblin, Tony Arata, Tom Douglas and Emmylou Harris.
BENITA HILL | MENTOR
Singer/songwriter Benita Hill has had her songs recorded in nearly all genres of music-country,rock, pop, jazz, gospel,Broadway and musical theater. As a recording artist, she has released seven CDs of her original music to outstanding critical reviews. She has toured as a background singer with the Allman Brothers, J.J.Cale, Conway Twitty and many others. Hers is the voice of “Santa Baby” for the international Jaguar Automobiles television commercial. Her songs have been recorded by Isaac Hayes, Crystal Gayle, Kirk Whalum and Garth Brooks, including the two number one hits “It’s Your Song” and “Two Pina Coladas”; and a song she co-wrote with Garth titled “Weekend” which appears on his 2016 platinum selling album “Gunslinger” as well as his multi-platinum selling boxed set “The Ultimate Collection”.
Benita’s self-produced documentary, “The Healing Power Of A Song” has been broadcast on public television and on the Blue Highways cable television network. Her recent work includes co-writing six songs for the international movie musical “Cooking For Two” which premiered in Hong Kong and has been touring the international film festival circuit ; her newest album of original, modern torch songs called NOIR establishes her range as a modern and timeless songwriter and artist of depth, humor and insight.
Benita is passionate about yoga and healthy eating. As a certified yoga instructor, she has taught a popular class at the YMCA; and her recipes were included in Trisha Yearwood’s New York Times number-one best selling cookbook, Trisha’s Table. She also enjoys meeting aspiring songwriters through her work as a mentor at the Nashville Songwriters Association International.
JUSTIN WEAVER | MENTOR
Growing up in Forsyth, Georgia, Justin Weaver played in bands throughout high school and toured most of the southeast playing with Jason Aldean as a teenager. He stopped touring for a few years to go to college, graduating from Gordon College with an AS in Business and then graduating Cum Laude from Georgia College & State University with a BA in Business Administration. After graduating from GC&SU he moved to Nashville, signed a publishing deal, and has been songwriting since. He has had cuts by Brantley Gilbert, Dustin Lynch, Jason Aldean, Joe Nichols, Gary Allan, Meghan Trainor, Meatloaf, Chris Cagle, Kristy Lee Cook, Josh Turner, Eli Young Band and many others. Some of Weaver’s hits include “Get Off On The Pain,” Gary Allan, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You,” Meghan Trainor, “I’m To Blame,” Kip Moore, “Got My Country On,” Chris Cagle, and “Bottoms Up,” Brantley Gilbert.
ANTHONY L. SMITH | MENTOR
An Alabama native, Anthony is a current Board member, chairs the Membership Committee and has lobbied with NSAI in Washington, D.C. His songwriting credits include Chris Young’s “Tomorrow,” Lonestar’s “What About Now,” the Wilkinsons’ “Jimmy’s Got A Girlfriend,” Neal McCoy’s “Love Happens Like That,” Clay Walker’s “Watch This” and 10 cuts on Donna Summer’s Mistaken Identity album — including the award-winning single “When Love Cries.” Anthony has cuts by Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Jo Dee Messina, Kirk Whalum, Suzy Bogguss and Kenny Rogers.
JEFF COHEN | MENTOR
Jeff Cohen a multi-award winning songwriter/producer/publisher based in Nashville/London whose songs have appeared on over 20 million albums sold, over 10 million video games and over 100 placements in TV/Film. Jeff’s songs have been recorded by The Band Perry (Hit single/BMI Award - Postcard From Paris), Evan and Jaron (Hit single/BMI award - Crazy For This Girl), Big and Rich (Hit single/BMI award - Holy Water), Laura Bell Bundy (Hit single - Giddy On Up), Richie MacDonald of Lone Star (Hit single - I Turn To You), The Shires (Hit Singles - 1000 Hallelujahs and Daddy’s Little Girl), Ilse DeLange (Hit Single - Beautiful Distraction), Worry Dolls (UK Americana Awards Song Of The Year nominee - Endless Road), Sugarland, Josh Groban, Macy Gray, Nick Lachey, Teitur, Doc Walker, Mandy Moore, Mickey Guyton, Nikhil D’Souza, Marc Broussard, Spin Doctors and many more. His songs have been featured in movies such as Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Stuart Little 2, Aquamarine, Grandma’s Boy and TV shows such as Jack and Jill (theme), I Married A Princess (theme),The Exes (theme), Dawson’s Creek, Party of Five, One Tree Hill, The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live and many more. He is also founder and songwriter of the critically acclaimed band Pancho's Lament. In a previous life Jeff was a music executive at BMI working with such talent as Jeff Buckley, Kara DioGuardi, Lisa Loeb, Joan Osborne, Ani DiFranco, Spin Doctors and many more.
JIMMY YEARY | MENTOR
Jimmy Yeary is a hit songwriter and performer signed to Nashville publishing company THiS Music. Among Yeary's co-writing credits are Joe Diffie's top 10 hit "In Another World", Rascal Flatts' number 1 single "Why Wait" Troy Olsen's "Summer Thing", Martina McBride's "I'm Gonna Love You Through It", Heidi Newfield's "Stay Up Late", and Lee Brice's "I Drive Your Truck". He has sung lead for Shenandoah and The Isaacs.
In 2013, Yeary won the Grammy for Country Song of the Year as well as an ACM award for Song of The Year for Lee Brice’s recording of “I Drive Your Truck”. In 2015, Yeary wrote the #1 song, “Till It’s Gone”, recorded by Kenny Chesney. He also wrote the 2017 David Lee Murphy/ Kenny Chesney duet - "Everything's Gonna Be Alright."
NEIL THRASHER | MENTOR
Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama Neil Thrasher has been surrounded by music his whole life. Influenced by both sides of his family, Neil grew up watching his father perform professionally as part of The Thrasher Brothers it was only natural that Neil would do the same.
After a few year of recording his own music, other artist began recording songs he had written and as fate would have it, it was then that songwriting would become his passion. Devoting his career to being a full time songwriter and eventually being named “2004 ASCAP’s Songwriter Of The Year”.
Thrasher’s songs have been recorded by some of music’s most successful acts including: Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, Montgomery Gentry, Reba McEntire, David Nail, Diamond Rio, Martina McBride, Trace Adkins, Billy Ray Cyrus and many others.
Hits include:“There Goes My Life” Kenny Chesney #1 for 7 weeks, “Fast Cars and Freedom” Rascal Flatts #1 for 4 weeks, “Take Me There” Rascal Flatts #1 for 4 weeks, “Why Wait” Rascal Flatts # 1, “Banjo” Rascal Flatts # 1, “Tattoos On This Town” Jason Aldean # 1, “Fly Over States” Jason Aldean # 1, “Night Train” Jason Aldean # 1, “How Country Feels” Randy Houser # 1
In 2010 Neil was awarded “GMA’s Country Song Of the Year” for “Somebody Like Me” recorded by Jason Crabb earning him his first Dove Award. In 2013 Neil was honored with “ASCAP Country Song Of The Year” for “How Country Feels” by Randy Houser. When not writing, producing or singing on the next project you will most likely find Neil out on the golf course, hunting or spending time with his wife Lana and two daughters Ali and Emma Grace.