Songwriting class helps students find soulful collaborations across continents

Any Nashville songwriter will tell you that some of the most meaningful collaborations come during crisis. Vanderbilt undergraduates in a songwriting class at the Blair School of Music got a taste of this when they partnered with peers on the other side of the globe, who also were dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, to co-create original songs.

Odie Blackmon is a Grammy-nominated songwriter and lecturer at Vanderbilt Blair School of Music

When lecturer Odie Blackmon, a Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer, decided to teach his class online during the pandemic, he put a twist on things by teaming up with the Queensland Conservatorium in Australia.

“Even though they were thousands of miles apart and often from very different life backgrounds, they were dealing with a lot of the same issues,” Blackmon said.

Blackmon, who has written for performers such as George Strait, Martina McBride and Lee Ann Womack, said it’s common in the professional world to be paired with strangers—either in the same room or virtually.

“So this is pretty real-to-life and a great experience all around,” he added.

The students at the Queensland Conservatorium are all planning to become professionals in the music space while Vanderbilt’s songwriting class is open to all undergraduates. Blackmon and his Australian counterpart matched students by genre and strengths and created songwriting pairs for the two-week final project.

Vanderbilt student Cameron Robinson (right) partnered with music performance major Cat Gallagher (left) from the Queensland Conservatorium in Queensland, Australia.

Cameron Robinson, a human and organizational development major and lineman on the Commodore football team, said this class and his songwriting partnership with music performance major Cat Gallagher created a much-needed positive outlet during the pandemic.

“This was definitely a blessing. I was nervous that I’d have a partner that wouldn’t take it seriously, because I love creating music. But just building the song and vibing and laughing with Cat was great,” said Robinson, a Mobile, Alabama, native.

He and his partner agreed that coming up with a sincere song on top of time zone and technical challenges made the project tough, but also incredibly fulfilling.

“We spent time getting to know each other, and we poured ‘us’ into the song. What you’re listening to is just a reflection of what was already on the inside,” Robinson said.

The pair said the soulful song they wrote, called “Her Troubles, His Pain,” tells a personal story with the universal themes of love, struggle and heartbreak.

“I loved working with Cam and combining our shared soul and gospel interests,” Gallagher said. “I just wish I could come to Music City for real!”

Blackmon said he is already making plans for new collaboration projects internationally and across the U.S. for his future songwriting classes.

  • Listen to Cam and Cat’s full song, “Her Troubles, His Pain,” in the YouTube video below.