February 27 2013

Songs Contain Spirit

Shantell Ogden (Songs Contain Spirit)

I once read a book called “Anatomy of the Spirit” by Caroline Myss, and I’ve carried this idea from it ever since…

There was an Athabascan woman who described being a blanket maker or a songwriter in her culture a position of great honor. She went on to explain,” You have to have permission from a songwriter to sings his songs because his songs contain his spirit.”

As I’ve been focusing on writing lately, I have continued to try to put the ‘spirit’ of the characters I write into songs. Sometimes there is a little more ‘me’ than others, but I always try to give it heart and keep it true-to-life.

What do you think about this idea?

Athabaskan Girl Print
Fine Art America
February 7 2013

Shantell Ogden’s Jazz Dot

Shantell Ogden (Berklee College)

Me at Berklee

Yes, I might be a songwriter focused on writing commercial music, but I did dabble in Jazz during my time at Berklee College of Music. Okay, it was less of a dabble and more of a dot–but nonetheless, I did write one Jazz tune that I consider decent.

Just for kicks, have a listen.

The tune is dedicated to my friend Jezza, who helped me by performing and recording it in 2004.

And, as a bonus for you theory junkies out there, here’s a brief analysis:

The tune is in the key of D Minor, with a 12/8 feel. The bridge (beginning in measure 14) modulates to the key of F Major. I personally hear that modulation in measure 16, where the F7 appears. I added an extra measure here to hang on the “F”, resulting in a five measure bridge, for additional emphasis for the key of F. Admittedly, it is a subtle modulation. (Yawn)

I used several modal interchange chords, such as B flat major 7 (a six major 7 chord) as well as A-7 (a five minor chord). I especially like the way the D7 chord “lifts” the tune in measure five, into the section with straight eighths. (Double-yawn)

I foresee this straight eighths section being supported by a rhythm section playing the 12/8 feel. I know it is characteristically uncommon to hear straight eighths in this type of tune, but I like surprises! (me trying to make it fun but you’re probably asleep by now).

November 20 2012

Look Out Nashville! Here Comes Jan Buckingham

Jan and I backstage at the Grand Ole Opry

Nashville didn’t see Jan Buckingham coming…

Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Jan discovered her knack for writing when she wrote her first song, titled “Oh Sad Little Blue Bird” when she was eight years old. Her next songs came in her early twenties shortly after her first divorce.

“Nothing like a little pain to draw the creativity out of you,” said Jan. “I knew I had found my passion.”

Jan started performing in local clubs in Columbia, Missouri after she graduated from college during the summers when she wasn’t teaching school. It was during this time that she entered the American Song Festival (a contest she won several years later), and read on the entry form that Nashville was the ‘place to be’ for songwriters.

She knew she needed to make the move.

“I came to Music City in the early eighties with a guitar, a grocery bag full of my songs on cassette and a big ole dream,” said Jan.

Jan networked her songs around town, with her signature fearless zeal, and within months she was going in to Nashville to write every day.

“It might have been in a vault at the Sound Stage Recording Studio, or in a closet at Tree Publishing, sandwiched in between Buddy Killen’s and Donna Hilley’s offices, but I went in to write every day,” said Jan. “I would also go out into the studio at the Sound Stage to play the grand piano in between sessions, until the players came back from lunch.”

Jan got to know a lot of the players and executives in town through her daily writing efforts.

“They might have thought I was a little crazy, but I didn’t care,” Jan recalls with a smile. “I had a passion for writing they could see and they were all pretty nice to me. Being a little busty blonde probably helped a bit too.”

Despite her work ethic and talent, it wasn’t always easy for Jan.

“Back then, no one wanted to write with a girl, and there weren’t many girls on the Row,” Jan remembers.  “But one day I met Wood Newton, who had just signed a publishing deal with House of Gold and he said he’d write with me.”

During that first session they wrote a song that would later become a hit, titled “Love Have Mercy.”

Jan knew they had something.  She believed in it so much, she drove in early one morning and waited outside of Bob Montgomery’s office on Music Row (he was then the head of House of Gold) for him to come into work. When Bob arrived, Jan jumped up and handed him a cassette of “Love Have Mercy” and said, “Bob, here’s money in the bank.”

Bob chuckled, but he did listen to the song. He ended up bumping another tune on a Janie Frickie album to record it. “Love Have Mercy” became both Jan and Wood’s first major artist cut.

After that, Jan signed with House of Gold, and later with Warner/Chappell, getting cut after cut for countless artists from Whitney Houston to Pam Tillis, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Brian White and The Osmonds to Air Supply and Melissa Manchester (click here for a full list).

While continuing to write, Jan moved to LA in 1990 where she worked as an actress in TV appearing in shows like Frasier and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and films like “Sgt. Bilko”. It was during this time that Jan penned songs featured in the movie “My Cousin Vinny,” “Hangin’ With The Homeboys,” “The Thing Called Love,” and many other feature films.

Jan also wrote the theme song to Hollywood Wives.

“I had just read an excerpt of Jackie Collin’s book “Hollywood Wives” in Cosmopolitan Magazine while on a flight to Los Angeles,” Jan recalls. “It was such a sleazy piece of grease that I couldn’t put it down and I knew someone would buy the rights.”

As it turned out, Aaron Spelling was going to produce it as a TV series. Jan finished the lyric on the plane and wrote the music to Hollywood Wives with Jeff Silber in Nashville.

When Jan had a demo of “Hollywood Wives,” she cornered Chuck Kaye, the head of publishing at Warner/Chappell on Sunset.

“I dragged him into his office to listen to the song,” said Jan. “Chuck passed me off to George Guim, who had just come to work for Warner/Chappell that day. I got Val Knust, greatest secretary in the world, to type up a letter that I dictated to her and then had George sign it. Val then got that letter and my song to Aaron Spelling that afternoon by messenger. I was blessed with some angels around me.”

The letter she dictated to said: ‘Dear Mr. Spelling, One of our top writers has just completed a song that we feel captures the essence of Hollywood Wives. Sincerely, George Guim.’

“I look back and have to laugh at my passion and what I’ll politely call gumption,” said Jan. “The next morning we got word that they were going to use my song as the theme song for the Hollywood Wives Mini Series. And it only happened because I didn’t know that you couldn’t do things like that. Sometimes it pays to be naïve.”

It’s that kind of tenacity in business, along with a rare creative gift and big heart, that makes Jan a successful songwriter with many hits to come.

Visit www.janbuckingham.com or www.reverbnation.com/janbuckingham to hear more.


February 5 2012

Mormons to Host Local Interfaith Music and Arts Festival in April


A group of Mormon musicians and artists is hosting a family-friendly music and arts festival on April 20-21 at the Wilson County Fairgrounds, about 30 minutes from Nashville, Tennessee.



Named Liahonaroo, the event will bring together artists and musicians from across the U.S. of all faiths to showcase their work in an outdoor festival setting. The name “Liahonaroo” was inspired by a compass called the Liahona that a Book of Mormon prophet named Lehi used to lead his family through the wilderness.

The event will be drug and alcohol free, and music performed will be appropriate for listeners of all ages. Ogden believes this will resonate with most Christians in the area, regardless of denomination.

“We wanted to create an event to celebrate positive and engaging music and art,” said Shantell Ogden, festival co-founder and performing songwriter.  “By hosting the event in a family-friendly venue, we hope to expand the reach of artists who deserve to showcase their talents.”

Shantell Ogden

Ogden feels this event will create an inclusive, welcoming experience for both fans and performers.

“I have a friend in a punk band who plays clubs regularly, and because of the environment and age restrictions his daughter hasn’t been able to see him perform,” said Ogden. “At Liahonaroo, artists and their fans won’t have to worry about things like that.”

Approximately 30 artists will be selected to perform at the two-day festival; all genres of family-friendly music are accepted.  While artists are asked to sell 10 tickets to the event as part of an artist agreement, they will also receive 50 percent of the ticket sales as payment for their performance.

The event will also include 20 booths for visual artists, jewelry makers and other related artists.

For more info, go to liahonaroo.com

October 5 2011


Stories Behind Songs (CD Cover)

By Dean Olson

Even the most casual listener of country radio can instinctively pick up on the genuine heart and soul of the genre.  There’s just something very romantic about a singer with an instrument pouring his or her life out in musical form.  Lyrics through music is a universal communication that connects with people on so many levels, and so much of country music is storytelling through this exceptional language.

Stories Behind Songs, Shantell Ogden’s follow-up to her 2008 debut album, Water Through Stone, is a beautiful example of a songwriter touching one’s heart by sharing from her own.  But unlike her first offering, this new album leans toward a fresher, more acoustic ambience.  The listener will appreciate the warmer, more personal tone, almost inviting them to come by and sit a spell on the back porch swing, perhaps holding a cold mason jar of sweet tea.   What comes next is the feeling of just hanging out with Shantell and her good friends as they grab their instruments for some joyful pickin’ and singin’.

If you haven’t heard Shantell’s singing style before, I can best describe her sweet, lilting vocals as comforting and charming.  She doesn’t sound like anyone in particular, yet the character she embodies is everything that is good about country music.  On one hand, she exhibits a youthful sparkle of such contemporary artists as Jennette McCurdy, Carrie Underwood, or Miranda Lambert.  On the other hand, she delivers a performance of engaging and romantic delight that you could easily place on the shelf with the likes of LeAnn Rimes, Deanna Carter, Hillary Scott or Sara Evans.  The more you listen to her, though, the more she just sounds like Shantell.

The album, recorded and mixed by Dave Smith at Nashville Song Lab, renders a very pristine acoustic sound, and features some of the finest musicians playing today, including Smith who plays a well-blended lead guitar throughout the project.  Backing up Shantell and Dave are a winning quartet of session players that would make any songwriter proud.  Percussionist Dave Bobrow and fiddle virtuoso Tigar Bell (Merle Haggard, Ricky Van Shelton) are featured on the opening track, “‘Til My John Wayne Comes Along,” with dulcet vocal harmonies provided by the tune’s co-writer, Donna DeSopo.  Piano player Montey Parkey (Alan Jackson, Darryl Worley) drops in on the very next track, “I Wasn’t Done Loving You Yet,” a moderately tempoed waltz co-written with legendary songsmith Thom Schuyler (S-K-O.)  Just the right blend of accompanying vocals is brilliantly presented by Marcum Stewart of the band Acklen Park (“Lost”.)  If somehow the decision was up to me, this track would be chosen to be a single.  Showing up fashionably late to the party is Kevin Post (Blake Shelton, Terri Clark) who lays down a welcome dose of soothing pedal steel, prominently audible on two tracks including “Stay,” an acoustic redux from Ogden’s previous disc.

The most upbeat and playful track is “I Miss Dating That Truck,” co-written by Scott Jarman and zestfully sprinkled with some of Dave Smith’s banjo playing.  The remaining cuts on the album played on my heartstrings, but in a very good way.  For example, frequent collaborator Bill DiLuigi and Shantell came together and wrote a song called “What Matters the Most” about her beloved neighbor and friend Onetia Lovell.  The imagery of this elegant lady of eighty-something years moving out of her home to be near her daughter in a care facility drew me in.  By the time I heard the chorus, I felt a lump in my throat that resonated into my chest and touched my heart.  That’s the kind of visceral connection I was mentioning earlier.

A similar effect came over me when I heard “Love Always Finds a Way.”  This song was inspired by a story sent to Miss Ogden from Alpharetta, Georgia by Louis Sillay, about the first time he saw his bride of more than 65 years, Laura Lee.  Translating these true life tales and immortalizing them into song is what I believe is good and right with country music, and Shantell has that gift.

Stories Behind Songs is showcased as country album, but the acoustical coffee-house styling of her arrangements invites a wider appeal.  The song “That Girl,” for instance, deserves to be noticed as a crossover single that can hold court with folk-rock chanteuses such as Juliana Hatfield, Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin.

It is my perspective that Shantell Ogden is living a performing songwriter’s daydream.  She has put in more than a decade’s worth of writing, touring and recording songs.  And she hangs up her shingle in the mecca of the proverbial country artist – Nashville, Tennessee.  She has many fans and is adored in her artistic community, and one of her latest co-writing efforts found its place into the Music Row Top 100.  Given all her recent achievements, she seems to come off as the same girl who left the family dairy farm in rural Utah to head for even greener pastures (and fewer cows.)

To sum it up with my favorite food metaphor, I recommend you try today’s special.  Shantell Ogden is serving up a warm piece of apple pie topped with some country spices and a secret ingredient thrown in to keep you coming back.  What might that ingredient be?  You’ll have to taste it for yourself.

♪ ♫ ♩ ♬  ♪ ♫ ♩ ♬  ♪ ♫ ♩ ♬

Shantell’s website has lots of cool information and free music if you get on her fan list.  For more information, please visit  www.shantellogden.com.

DEAN  Eclectic Songwriter

Category: Album Reviews, Dean Olson, Expert Panel, Shantell Ogden | Comments Off on ALBUM REVIEW – STORIES BEHIND SONGS