December 23 2015

StrongWriter On the Radio: (Episode 64) “A Very StrongWriter Christmas 2015”

“A Very StrongWriter Christmas”
featuring Christmas songs from various StrongWriter guests

A Very StrongWriter Xmas

It’s my very special Christmas show!  How cool is it for me to spin some Christmas tunes on my radio program, especially when the artists are my friends from the show!   Grab some hot chocolate (or something stronger if you like) and enjoy my special offering for the end of December… It’s a Very StrongWriter Christmas!!   ~ Dean

Merry Christmas!

A Very StrongWriter Christmas 2015

Sleigh RideDean Olson
I’ll Be Home For ChristmasKanisha K
Christmas Is HereCindy Alexander
Jingle Bell RockShantell Ogden
Driving Home For ChristmasFrank Shiner
Santa On VacationCindy Alexander (featuring 6 year old Jette Betrue)
Blue ChristmasBrian Hutson
That’s What Christmas Used To BeLaura Pursell
I Found Love (Just In Time For Christmas)Kanisha K
For Auld Lang SyneCindy Alexander
The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting)Dean Olson

Special thanks to all my guests for the use of her images and music.
© 2015 StrongWriter On the Radio – All Rights Reserved

April 24 2015

StrongWriter On the Radio: (Episode 34) “Shantell Ogden – Ghosts In the Field”

My guest in this episode is a hallmark artist that I am proud to call a StrongWriter… Miss Shantell Ogden!   I’m also blessed that she is my good friend and my window to the fabled Music City.   Shantell is a very talented songwriter who plays well with others around town, and her work ethic and positive attitude make her a superstar on my show.  I brought her on to promote her fourth studio album, Ghosts In the Field, produced and recorded in Nashville with John Willis.  Many of the songs were written and given a little extra kick with her familiar collaborator Bill DiLuigi and vocal producer Judy Rodman.  And it was a pleasure to share Shantell’s music, because I really enjoyed this collection of songs ranging from thoughtful to ebullient to sometimes stirring.

For example, “God Counts Every Tear” (co-written with Joe Doyle and Brian Kolb) sets a melancholy tone, until Shantell takes you by the hand to point to the heavens.  It is there that the desperate and lonely can take comfort that God is there, watching over everything and proving that we’re not alone after all.    Some of her thoughtful tracks are slightly heavy, as in “Who Comes First” which deals with addiction and relationships … while others touch the heart (“Be My Rain” co-written with Judy Rodman) and the spirit (“Ghosts In the Field.”)  The ebullience is definitely apparent in “Just a Little,” which captures the nervous joy of a new relationship.   Finally, Miss Ogden offers two tracks that she didn’t write:  One is the mandolin and banjo driven “Blossom In the Dust” written by Joe Doyle, Jon Hendersen and Mallory Hope.  The other is the eight-beat gospel & blues flavored “As Long As You’re Mine” written by Mandy Cook, Dustin James and Jimmy Borja.  Feel free to clap along as I did!

As a whole, Ghosts In the Field puts a smile on your face and a beat in your heart.   And I think that’s what Americana music should do!


Featured Guest:   Shantell Ogden

Shantell Ogden has a gift for crafting songs with real conviction and emotion. Her gift, combined with a work ethic gained from growing up on a farm, is paying dividends. Shantell’s songs have received airplay on more than 500 country and Americana radio stations internationally, reaching Top 20 chart positions both in the U.S. and Europe. Her songs have also appeared on the CW’s popular TV series Hart of Dixie and in several feature films.

As a performing Americana artist, Shantell and her albums have been covered by Maverick Magazine (UK), Performer Magazine, Music News Nashville and other media. She’s released three acclaimed independent albums, including Better At Goodbyewhich won Americana Album of the Year in the 2014 IMEA Awards.  Shantell tours internationally from her home in Nashville, Tennessee. When at home, she’s known for keeping her front door open and a song drifting down the street.

Ghosts in the Field was recorded and produced at Willisoundz by John Willis (Faith Hill, Jewel, Indie Arie, Taylor Swift)  John is an A-list session musician who played all the instruments on this album, except for percussion, played by Steve Brewster (Dierks Bentley, Faith Hill, Chicago, Bob Seger)

Mixed by Grammy-nominated engineer Brian Kolb.  Mastered at Mayfield Mastering by John Mayfield.  And the wonderful Judy Rodman produced the vocals!

“Shantell Ogden – Ghosts In the Field”
featuring the songs “Ghosts In the Field” and “God Counts Every Tear” 

Shantell Ogden on ''Josh Connor in the Songwriter's Circle''

Visit Shantell’s website:
Shantell hipfarmchicrecords-logo

Special thanks to Shantell Ogden for the use of her photos and music.

(Photo credits:  Chuck Eaton, Angie Miller)

October 5 2014

Shantell Ogden – Dreams Do Come True!

Shantell IMEA Award crop

Over the last three years, I’ve been sharing music and media from a good friend and role model, Miss Shantell Ogden, Songwriter.   She has been and remains one of my favorite StrongWriters, and many of my music friends have become fans as well.   Nashville has got to be mighty proud to have her in the community.   With three quality albums under belt, Shantell has been receiving more and more recognition for her art.   This year alone, her latest album has enjoyed a steady climb up the Americana charts.   And during this musical journey, something fantastic happened.   This weekend, Shantell won on an international stage at the 2nd annual IMEA Awards.

Shantell IMEA Award
Shantell Ogden after receiving the IMEA Americana Album Of the Year award

The IMEA Awards is a red carpet awards show put on by the International Music and Entertainment Association, Inc.   The purpose of the program is to honor and internationally recognize artists and organizations in music, the film industry and the theater.   The prestigious gala took place Saturday, October 4 in Ashland, Kentucky at the Paramount Arts Center.   For residents of Nashville, this is easily a five-and-a-half hour trek by automobile.   I didn’t ask Shantell if she made the drive or hopped a flight, but either way, it was worth the trip, because she got to take home a trophy and so much more!   Dozens of categories encompassing several genres with five nominees for each award were featured in the ceremony.   Shantell, who represented the Americana category, was nominated for both Artist Of the Year and Album Of the Year.   She won the latter for her most triumphant CD, Better At Goodbye.

Sidebar: You can read my review of Better At Goodbye by clicking HERE!

Shantell Ogden (Better At Goodbye cover final)







This is wonderful news for Shantell, her producer John Willis, her vocal aficionado Judy Rodman, and of course all her collaborators and musicians.   Not to mention her lovely parents from her hometown in Utah.   But, we in the Olson household, are beaming with excitement and wish her continued success and happiness as she continues on down the road of songwriting and performing.


Shantell, we have so much to chat about since our first interview over three years ago.   God bless you, and we’ll talk soon.

~  Dean

Photos courtesy of Shantell Ogden

Please visit for more information and music!

December 2 2013

Shantell Ogden – You Had Me At “Goodbye”

Shantell Ogden (Studio with Guitars)

It is truly a privilege as well as a treat to preview and review a new album that comes out of the Nashville community.   There is additional perspective in reviewing one when it is by someone whom I consider a dear friend.   Performing songwriter Shantell Ogden has issued two previous collections of critically praised music in five years time (Water Through Stone in 2008 and Stories Behind Songs in 2011,) and I think the third time will be a charm.   And believe me when I tell you, the charm is in the lady herself, and you’ll happily fall for it as you listen to her third offering, Better At Goodbye.

This well crafted assortment of eight tunes reflects the tender and vulnerable heart of Miss Ogden, and it’s a captivating glimpse into a journey that unfolds from Utah dairy farm girl to young independent woman who made a name for herself in the big city.  Love relationships, dreams, doubts, self-discovery and epiphanies.  Is Shantell telling you about herself with this CD?  You’ll have to decide for yourself, but you will undoubtedly enjoy the time you spend finding out!  With Better At Goodbye, she gets back to her singer-songwriter roots, delivering very honest and introspective lyrics through lustrously crafted hooks.   Fans of country music are sure to enjoy Shantell’s lilting vocals which seem to float above the music, but this new album will indicate that her style is a bit more diverse than to put her in a box, genre-wise.   The melodies are infectious; I felt like singing along almost right away.  In fact, I got a nice warm feeling as I listened to Better At Goodbye, which is quite gratifying on a chilly month like December.  better-at-goodbye-cover-finalIt evoked fanciful memories of listening to late-nineties folk-pop radio queens like Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, Amanda Marshall or Paula Cole, except the vocal styling is so much more down-home.   Her previous CD, Stories Behind Songs, was acoustically driven while Better At Goodbye has more pop elements.   During a recent interview, Shantell pointed out that, although she has written several country tracks, it is actually Americana music that you are listening to with this album.  A very suitable distinction, indeed!

However, the Nashville footprint is undeniably evident on Better At Goodbye thanks to John Willis, a multi-instrumentalist and producer extraordinaire who took Shantell’s songs of life and love to an exciting and aesthetic level.  That’s just my fancy way of saying that you’re going to like the way it sounds!  And, like a great chef concocting a brand new soup, John throws in many surprise ingredients.  In this case, you can taste various wild-card instruments such as harmonium, glockenspiel,  psaltery, and even a Melatron.   That’s pretty flavorful!   And then making certain that too many cooks don’t spoil the broth, he is accompanied by a few more musicians:  Steve Brewster on percussion,  Gary Prim on keys and Thom Flora on vocals.  All served up hot and good to the last spoonful!

Shantell’s residency in Music City, USA has been a blessing, and her work ethic is apparent in the music she creates.   A blank page will neither scare her nor slow her down.  In fact, she has proven she can write formulaic and catchy songs on the spot, which is an invaluable skill in that town.  But I have found that some of her best creations have been brewed up through her collaborations with her professional friends, some of whom are top songwriters in the business.   This is demonstrated in the opening two tracks, “The Lie I Tell Myself” and “Only God Knows Why” which were co-written with veteran song-smiths Jan Buckingham (Tim McGraw, Whitney Houston, Pam Tillis) and Wood Newton (Kenny Rogers, Steve Wariner, David Ball)  These particular songs have the chops to be put into regular rotation on country radio, and I would recommend that program directors get on the ball and start playing it now.  (Oh, if it was that easy!)  Marcum Stewart (Acklen Park) co-wrote “Looking For My Last”  inspired by a quote, “It may be more romantic to be someone’s first love, but its better to be their last.”  And finally there is Shantell’s long-time friend and collaborator, the great Bill DiLuigi, who co-wrote two songs:  “Where You’re Not” which stems from the idea that all the places you’ve been to matter less when you find the one.  And the title track, “Better At Goodbye” which according to Shantell sums up the essence of the project, which is healing, self-examination and saying goodbye to bad relationships and welcoming new ones.    ShantellSinging2Shantell has surrounded herself with great musicians and writers, but this wonderful lady’s talent sparkles on the second-to-last track, “More To Me” which is my personal pick and will tug on those heartstrings, for sure.  She performs it with both emotion and grace.  You just gotta get this album when it comes out on December 17th!

My bride and I have gotten to know Shantell, and she is just as sweet as the voice you hear on the record.  You’ll agree when you meet her as well.  Get to know her on her website and blog at  and also on her facebook page  Lots of pictures and music to check out.

And of course she is on iTunes, and you can check out her music including an advance 3-song EP!  iTunes “Just the Lonely”

If this current album is your first introduction to Shantell Ogden, I am certain that she’ll have you at “Goodbye!”

~ Dean Olson

♪ ♫ ♩ ♬  ♪ ♫ ♩ ♬  ♪ ♫ ♩ ♬

You can also check out my review of Stories Behind Songs from 2011

May 8 2013

Nick Buda: Getting Into Music and Making it Work

Berklee Blog Banne
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Buda for Berklee College of Music’s alumni blog.
The following is a re-posting of the blog on Berklee Blogs.

LAB: Getting Into Music and Making it Work

Berklee Alumni Spotlight: Nick Buda ’96Nick Buda (’96) started playing drums on his mom’s couch cushion when he was a kid in Cape Town, South Africa. As early as ten years old, he was begging her to take lessons.

“I got my first set of practice pads when I was 13 and my family moved to Nashville to escape apartheid in South Africa,” said Nick. “I used to play along with bands like Living Color and James Taylor with my electric drums for hours everyday. I was 14 when I got my first drum kit.”

It was in high school that he began cutting his teeth as a performer in several rock bands.

“In 9th grade I was in an indie rock band and we snuck into a studio through a window after hours to record our first EP; one of the songs even had a swear word in it,” Nick laughs. “I played in a few local bands in high school and I knew it was what I wanted to do.”


Nick Buda

Nick was already considering Berklee when he met Vinnie Colaiuta (drummer for Sting, Beck, Joni Mitchell and many others).

“Sting was playing at Starwood Amphitheatre in Nashville and I was friends with a music journalist that got me backstage at the concert,” said Nick. “I got to meet Vinnie and he brought up the subject of Berklee. Because he was one of my key musical influences, that was deciding factor in going.”

Actually attending Berklee was a ‘huge eye-opener’ for Nick.

“Three days after I got there I was in the dorms on Commonwealth Ave. and there was a common area where students would jam,” he said. “I was not a jazz guy, but I learned quickly that I needed to get into whatever style of music I needed to, even if I wasn’t the best at it, so I could make it work.”

Nick credits Berklee for his first experiences in studio work, expanding musical foundation and ear training.

“Working in the studio with other students made me much more aware as a musician and helped me gain studio experience in the safety of school,” he said. “Ear training was valuable for me, it helped me learn how to chart songs.”

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree with a focus on percussion performance Nick returned to Nashville. After two years, he heard about a touring position with Colonel Bruce Hampton through a Berklee connection.

“I toured with Bruce two years and it was a real-life road education,” said Nick. “Bruce was really quirky and he had a cult-like following. Shows were about ‘go to war’, and it was two hours or more of heavy-hitting hard work every night.”

After touring with Bruce, Nick took road gigs with country singers Cindy Thompson and Aaron Lines, acts that were opening for Alan Jackson and Brooks and Dunn. He also toured for about a year with Mindy Smith and spent time on the road with Edwin McCain.

“I was getting tired of being out on the road at that point so I started to look into session work,” said Nick. “I also found out that session players who played on artists’ records were often first-call drummers for bigger road gigs.”

It took Nick awhile to break into the studio scene in Nashville.

“You may know a lot of people and be friends with a lot of big writers, but these people usually always have their group of players they work with,” he said. “It takes time to build a reputation and client list as a session drummer.”

Nick met and became friends with producer Nathan Chapman, and he started calling Nick to play on demos.

“Nathan is a workaholic, and we had a small band that did two demos a week,” said Nick. “Nathan was playing guitar, Tim Marks was playing bass and Chad Carlson was engineering in the sessions. We were all starting from the same place as session players and it was cool for all of us to come up together.”

After about a year, Liz Rose asked them to record a demo for a song that she had written with Taylor Swift.

“Taylor really liked the vibe and the sound we were getting on the demo,” said Nick. “At 15 years old, she went into the head of the label and said she wanted to record the songs with a bunch of unknown session players. That took a lot of courage.”

Taylor struck a deal with the Scott Brochetta to allow Nathan to record two or three songs with the crew that had played on all of his demos.

“Really it’s unheard of in Nashville,” Nick said. “You never hear of an unknown artist choosing unknown producers and players for a debut record. But, there was something to be said about our chemistry. We were all hungry and it was fresh and new. That was true for Taylor too.”

In addition to playing on all of Taylor’s albums since then, Nick has recorded with such diverse artists and producers as Richard Marx, Jewel, Jeffery Steele, Jimmy Wayne, Hillary Lindsey and many, many more.

“I love commercial music, and the trick is to keep it creative while trying to stay within the lines in Nashville,” said Nick. “I like to keep it interesting.”

So what’s next for Nick?

“I still love playing drums, and even on a bad day I still get to playing them,” he said. “I get to play on stuff that’s on the radio and to be in that circle of some of the world’s greatest players is extremely flattering. I’m looking forward to seeing whatever’s ahead for me, but the bottom line is it’s still all about making great music.”

For more information about Nick, visit his website at

Nick Buda and me at a recent Nashville recording session.
How cool!? Nick’s kit case.


April 4 2013

4 Ways Your Co-Write is Like a First Date

By Shantell Ogden
A Favorite Co-writing Friend: Wood Newton


Nashville is the ‘land of the co-write’ and the best comparison I’ve ever found to co-writing is dating. Here are four ways co-writing can feel like a first date:

1. No Chemistry– we’ve all been there. You may like your co-writer as a person and dig their songs but for some reason you just don’t gel. It’s nobody’s fault, you just don’t have that ‘it’ that makes it work.

2. Awkward Silences– sometimes you just don’t know what planet your co-writer is coming from, and you sit there in silence picking imaginary lint from your pants while watching the clock.

3. Strangeness– sometimes you’re in co-write with someone and things happen that leave you uncomfortable and/or disturbed. Call me if you want to hear about these experiences, but I don’t want to incriminate anyone here.

4. Pleasant Surprises– there are been people that I wasn’t sure about at first that ended up really being fun to write with. I’ve also had some great songs come out of first co-write sessions, and that’s a great payoff for collaborating with someone new, too!

Anything you’d like to share about co-writing?

March 27 2013

Vintage Blog – Jason Mraz: I’m Back

Jason Mraz (2011)

By Shantell Ogden

Here’s a blast from the past…a story I did on Jason Mraz and his album “Mr. A-Z”, back in 2005.  Hope you enjoy it!

Jason Mraz: “I’m Back”
(originally appeared in the Boston Herald and ASX Magazine)

With his second album “Mr. A-Z” just days away from release, Jason Mraz reveals the stories behind the songs, his struggles as a writer and what his fans can expect from him next.

“You’ve got fifteen minutes,” buzzed Atlantic publicity as I connected with Jason Mraz.

Jason_Mraz_Foxwood_May_2006_1For Jason, fifteen minutes is a lot of time these days. Besides touring with Alanis Morrissette and headlining his own shows, he’s on the brink of releasing his self-titled album “Mr. A-Z” on Atlantic. A follow up to his 2002 platinum album “Waiting for My Rocket to Come,” Mraz dug in and achieved another level of artistic evolution.

The album was exactly one year in the making, from January 2004-2005. Mraz believes that it captures “a very introspective year” as a sophomore in the music business.

“I definitely went in this album with a lot more confidence,” says Mraz. “Before we even went into the studio I produced a version of the album at home, so when Steve Lillywhite (producer) got there, we could give him a roadmap.” Jason acknowledged Steve was a huge creative influence on his sound.

The album concept was to paint vocals over backdrops that best reflected the nature of the songs themselves. The diverse melodies, from Latin to R&B flavored tracks, showcase fearless creativity and impressive lyrical prowess. It’s no wonder Mraz was discovered playing the acoustic music scene in San Diego in 2002.

“Once the song is written, it doesn’t belong to me anymore,” Mraz comments. “I hope that if [the lyrics] reveal anything it’s that I’m optimistic and I love thinking about love. I love finding a way out of a painful situation, always looking on the bright side. There are a couple songs on the album that definitely steer down a mysterious, somewhat dark path. But I always try to balance that out with an optimistic outlook.”

Mraz maintains songs are “character studies.” He often writes about his friends and the life lessons they learn. Writing new material hasn’t always come easy, though. Mraz admitted to struggling after the release of his debut record.

“When the first album was done I didn’t write for nearly a year because I was so exhausted from traveling for the first time at such an intense rate,” he recalls. “I thought I would never write again and then [finally] I just exploded. I started writing about my friends and writing about the situations that kept me grounded.”

There were other contributing factors to his writer’s block. After the success of hit singles “The Remedy,” “You and I Both” and “Curbside Prophet,” Mraz felt pressured about meeting expectations for the radio portion of his next record. To find a way to alleviate the pressure he felt, Mraz wrote a song about it. The result is the first single off the new album “Wordplay.”

The song originally had the lyrics “it’s all about the airplay” poking fun at his own fears of the hit-single concept. A friend of Mraz’s, Kevin Kadish, recognized the songs’ potential and encouraged him to find that characteristic optimism. Jason modified the lyrics to “it’s all about the Wordplay.”

“This is kind of my ‘I’m back’ song,” notes Mraz. “It was very cool for me to flush this out.”

What’s next for the down-to-earth rock star?

“My next goal is definitely another album. And, I’ve been working on my first literary project,” says Mraz. “I’m putting out a thirty-six page collection of journals and autobiographical essays that will come out with our limited edition package.” Fans can also look forward to a full-length book to be released sometime next year.

Mraz mentioned that right now the direction of his next record is up in the air. “Every other day I keep thinking the next album is going to be predominately hip-hop or it’s going to be more rap-based like the melodic raps of “Geek in the Pink” or “Curbside Prophet.” Or, I could finally put out an acoustic album,” states Mraz.

He is the first to admit anything could happen though, “Once we get on the road and start playing these songs live a whole new thing could occur on stage. Maybe I’ll decide to do a polka album.”

Hmmmm. Mraz does Polka? I like it already.

For more information on Jason, visit

March 6 2013

Shantell Ogden On Toilet Paper, Creativity and TV / Hello Sundance!

 By Shantell Ogden


Hotel Park City at Sundance

This year was my first Sundance experience and what an experience it was!

Here are my top three highlights :

– The People- You never know who you are going to meet, and where you’re going to meet them! Celebrities aside, one of my most interesting conversations was with Garrett Dickson, regional sales manager for nimbuseco, a company that makes toilet paper out of bamboo and sugar cane. Apparently it looks and feels just like regular TP (yes, I asked)! Here we are on the street below:

Main street in Park City at Sundance with nimbuseco folks
– Creativity Mecca – Everywhere you went there was live music and movie buzz! It was like a massive creative melting pot! I had a great time performing at Flanagans and the Hotel Park City as part of Concerts at Sundance.
-Finally, thanks to Stephanie DeGraw of Power Media Entertainment,  I was interviewed for Music Scene TV.

Me and Stephanie before the interview
March 6 2013

Four Facts: Concerts at Sundance (Shantell Ogden)

This week marks the beginning of the Sundance Film Festival, and I’m gearing up to be part of it this year through “Concerts at Sundance” benefiting Huntsman Cancer Institute!  Thanks to Stephanie Degraw, founder and owner of Power Media Entertainment (organizers of Concerts at Sundance), here are a few facts about the series…

• Concerts at Sundance supports cancer research through the music of local and international indie artists.

• Over 30 bands and artists will perform during Concerts at Sundance. There are artists traveling from Belgium, Canada, Texas, Tennessee, California and more!

• Even though the series isn’t part of Sundance Film Festival, co-locating the event provides increased awareness for fundraising efforts, as well as international stage for indie artists to gain exposure to more fans and entertainment executives.

There are concerts every day during the Sundance Film Festival; all shows are open to the public and ticket prices are low- and proceeds benefit a great cause, too!

To purchase tickets or make a donation, click here. For information on my show dates and times at Sundance, click here.

March 6 2013

And Then I Found an Air Sick Bag… (Shantell Ogden)

In 2002, I was on a flight from Georgia to Utah when suddenly at 30,000 feet I had a song idea. I knew I had to ‘get it out’ so I rifled through my purse, but I didn’t have paper or a pen. Frantic, I checked the pocket in the seat in front of me and found an air sick bag. I asked the flight attendant for a pen. I started scribbling away at the lyrics and sang the melody in my head.

I finished the song, “Without You,” that evening and it ended up on my second indie album. Just ask and I’ll send you an mp3 of it (only if you promise not to giggle).

Things are a little different now, hopefully the songs are much better and at least I carry around a pen and paper. But, I’ve kept the air sick bag as a reminder to pay attention- ’cause you just never when a song will show up…