Songfest Panel Archive

Odie Blackmon

Grammy Nominated Songwriter

Odie Blackmon  As a Nashville songwriter, Odie penned the 2005 CMA Single of the Year I May Hate Myself in the Morning, which was also nominated as Grammy Song of the Year.  Odie wrote George Strait's #1 hit She'll Leave You with a Smile, Gary Allan's #1 hit Nothing On But the Radio, and Tammy Cochran's I Believe  He's the winner of 3 American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publisher Awards, and many others.  Odie currently teaches the art of songwriting and the Nashville Number System (a form of musical shorthand) at Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music.  You can also purchase his DVD entitled The Craft of Writing Hit Songs, a step-by-step tutorial.


songwriter Ashley Cleveland   

Grammy Wining Songwriter

Ashley Cleveland  Listen to Ashley Cleveland's body of work and you'll hear why countless fans are captivated by the Knoxville, Tennessee native. Her passionate singing is matched only by her fearlessness in crafting her music. That approach made her the first woman to win a Grammy for Rock Gospel Album (1996's Lesson of Love) and three-for-three overall in that category over the years (1999's You Are There and 2008's Before The Daylight's Shot). Her newest album, God Don't Never Change, is a collection of vintage gospel songs, and range from Blind Willie Johnson's title track to the '70s Edwin Hawkins Singers classic Joy Joy.


songwriter-producer Kenny Greenberg

Grammy Winner

Kenny Greenberg  Growing up in Cleveland, OH, Kenny moved to Nashville at the age of 21 to play guitar. Since that time he has worked with many of country’s top artists including Taylor Swift, Brooks & Dunn, Gretchen Wilson, Willie Nelson, Lee Ann Womack, Toby Keith, and Faith Hill.

Kenny wrote the Amy Grant hit House of Love and SheDaisy's Little Goodbyes, and has produced Ashley Cleveland's three Grammy winning records, Edwin McCain's platinumMisguided Roses, instrumental music used on VH1, Beverly Hills 90210, NBC Sports, and many others.  But it's his studio that gets him critical acclaim these days, including a spot in EQ Magazine's "Room with a VU" section.


Tommy Polk

Tommy Polk  Tommy grew up on the banks - both sides - of the Mississippi River in Vidalia, LA and Natchez, MS.  He started writing songs at 14.  Tommy entered his first recording studio with original material while at Belmont University in Nashville. By 1981 he was working professionally under the wing of Ralph Murphy.  In 1989 he signed as a writer with Warner Bros, which led him to writing for EMI, Acuff Rose, Blue Water, and others. He's penned songs for Martina McBride, Crystal Gayle, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Jessica Andres, Diamond Rio, Irma Thomas, and others with top ten singles "Look What Followed Me Home" by David Ball and "I Don't Want You To Go" by Carolyn Dawn Johnson.  The multi-faceted Polk published 3 stories for the Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul series, owns a public-speaking business, Tommy Polk's Creative License Workshops, and plies the hospitality trade with bed and breakfasts in Clarksdale and Natchez.



Previous Members of our Hit Songwriter Panel


songwriter Victoria Banks

Victoria Banks  Described by Nashville's Music Row Magazine as one of "the best songwriters in the business," Victoria made Billboard chart history by co-writing the highest new artist debut song ever released, Jessica Simpson's "Come on Over." She also scored the #1 most downloaded song on iTunes with Jessica Simpson's "Remember That," penned the ASCAP and SOCAN award-winning Sara Evans hit "Saints & Angels," and co-wrote Johnny Reid's hit "Dance With Me." She's also received recognition on both sides of the border for her song "City of Dreams," a tune she wrote following the tragic Nashville flooding in May.


songwriter Byron Hill

Byron Hill  For more than 30 years, Byron Hill has been a professional songwriter in Nashville, with songs that have generated more than 650 recordings, earned 77 Gold and Platinum awards, ten ASCAP awards, and 24 U.S. and Canadian top-ten chart hits.
Byron moved to Nashville in 1978 and almost immediately started writing hits, starting with Joe Sun's Out Of Your Mind and Johnny Lee's Pickin' Up Strangers.  In 1984, Byron began four years as an independent songwriter/publisher, having hits with such artists as Ray Charles, Kenny Rogers, and Anne Murray.  Since 1988, he's been a staff songwriter and a producer for some of the biggest names in the business, including multi-platinum star Gary Allan and the Canadian vocal group Hey Romeo.


songwriter Kostas

Kostas  The question is not "who has Kostas written for," but rather who hasn't he written for.  Starting with Patty Loveless' No. 1 hit Timber, I'm Falling in Love, Kostas has written literally dozens of Top Ten songs for artists like Allison Krauss, Trisha Yearwood, Brooks and Dunn, Dwight Yoakum (Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose), Wynonna, George Strait, The Dixie Chicks (I Can Love You Better), Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Conway Twitty, and a host of others.  Yoakum's Ain't That Lonely Yet earned a Grammy Award in 1994.  Loveless' Blame It On Your Heart earned BMI's award for most performed single in '94.  He also penned The Lonely Side of Love and On Down The Line for her follow up albums, songs that also reached the Top 10.  Kostas himself has won eleven awards from BMI and was 1990's NSAI Songwriter of the Year.  Kostas has homes in both Nashville and Montana, where he resides on his "guitar ranch"


writer-producer Ralph Murphy

Ralph Murphy  Born in England during World War II, by the age of 19 Ralph had moved to Ontario, Canada, Los Angeles, New York, and London, making his way in the music business. Murphy signed his first publishing deal with Mills Music in 1965, and by the next year was producing records for CBS, Fontana, Carnaby, and Decca. In 1969 he was back in New York as Director of Production for Belwin/Mills Publishing, producing albums for April Wine, Chris Bartley, Rock Garden and others on two different record labels. Ralph's songwriting career includes a #2 hit for Jeannie C. Riley, "Good Enough to be Your Wife" and Crystal Gayle's #1 hit "Talking in Your Sleep, just one of the more than twenty Number One records to his credit." He's also written for Randy Travis, Ray Price, Kathy Mattea, Shania Twain, and a host of other artists. You can see some of Ralph's basic tips and hints to songwriting on his website,


Mark Selby

Mark Selby  Mark has written more than 10 top-40 singles and 4 #1 hits, including those he has co-written with wife, Tia Sillers.  Wynona, Trisha Yearwood, Lee Roy Parnell & Keb Mo, Jo Dee Messina and many others have recorded Selby's songs.  Mark has 4 albums, including 2008'sNine Pound Hammer, and 2006's Mark Otis Selby...And The Horse He Rode In On, a solo acoustic set.

As a live performer, Mark has shared the stage with B.B. King, Jeff Beck, John Mayer, Robert Cray, Lynyrd Skynrd, Delbert McLinton, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, to name a few.
American Songwriter Magazine wrote of Mark, "As a singer/songwriter, Mark Selby's in the same league as Bruce Springsteen, with meaty words, a compelling voice, and tracks that have more groove than a vintage vinyl record."

Tia Sillers Click here to hear Lee Ann Womack sing Tia's song, I Hope You Dance

Tia Sillers  Tia wrote her first hit song right out of college, "Lipstick Promises," with George Ducas.  "Blue on Black," which she co-wrote with now-husband Mark Selby and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, holds the record as the longest number one in rock chart history: a whopping 17 weeks.

On the country charts, Tia co-wrote Pam Tillis' number one hit "Land of the Living" and the Dixie Chicks' mega-hit "There's Your Trouble."  Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance" earned Tia ACM, MBI, ASCAP, NSAI and Grammy Song of the Year awards. The song was performed at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway, and is the theme song for the new movie,Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys, sung by Gladys Knight and a thirty piece Gospel choir.