by Len Lear
If there is such a thing as a stereotype of the female country singer, it is a young lady who grew up in a small town or farm in Texas, Alabama, Georgia, etc.; was not much of a student because she was always dreaming of singing about broken hearts in honky tonks and eventually arenas. She left home after high school to seek her fortune in Nashville along with thousands of other hopefuls who wind up waiting on tables as they pursue their almost-hopeless American Idol dreams.
Well, folks, meet Blair Bodine, 31, of Ambler, the complete anti-stereotype of the above except for the fact that she did move to Nashville to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter, did achieve stunning success along with a hatful of awards and just may wind up becoming a household name with a profile in People magazine.
Blair did not grow up singing to cows on the back porch. She graduated from Germantown Academy, then earned a degree from Columbia University in Asian Studies and followed that with a Masters Degree in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010 (not the usual background for a country singer).
While at GA, Blair sang in musicals and in choir. She began learning guitar at age 13. Her mom, Barbara, her biggest fan, “encouraged me try writing songs as soon as I had learned a few chords. My very first song was written in 7th grade as an alternative to writing a book report. It was about Bob Dylan, naturally.
“My parents had an awesome record collection. Growing up, I remember dancing around the living room (well, more like swaying, wistfully) to the sounds of Joni Mitchell, Carole King and John Prine, etc. When I started writing my own songs, I was really inspired by Dar Williams. She is such a strong, smart writer I’ve always admired.”
Of course, the odds against the young hopefuls who flood Nashville, Hollywood or New York seeking stardom are astronomical, but when Blair moved to Nashville in January, 2011, after finishing her education, her songwriting attracted attention from the cognoscenti almost immediately. In fact, since the release of her first album, “Blair Bodine” (“Very creative, I know”) in 2009, Blair has received multiple awards that recognize both her songwriting and performing abilities.
There is not enough room here to mention every award Blair has received for her music, but here are just a few: 2014 Grand Prize Winner, American Songwriter Magazine Lyric Contest; 2013 Finalist, Smoky Mountain Songwriter Festival; 2012 Winner, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Most Wanted Song Swap; 2011 Regional Finalist for NPR’s Mountain Stage Newsong Contest; 2010 Telluride Bluegrass Festival Troubadour Finalist; 2009 GRAMMY regional spotlight performer; and “2009 Best New Artist” Award by radio station WSTW 93.7 in Wilmington, Delaware. And Blair, who just played the Tin Angel in Old City on Oct. 9, said she was “thrilled” at just being selected as a finalist for the annual NewSong Contest. She will be performing at Lincoln Center in New York in January.
Which award has meant the most to Blair? “I was really humbled and surprised when I won the Grand Prize in the American Songwriter Lyric Contest,” she said. “As songwriters, we spend a lot of time alone, sitting on the corner of the bed, hammering out a song and wondering if it’s any good. That contest really helped me feel connected to a greater community of writers. I interpreted the whole experience as, ‘We hear you. Good work. Now, keep writing.’”
In addition to her performances, Blair worked as Director of Education and Community Engagement for the Nashville Symphony, “which made me feel really connected to the city and its incredible diversity of music … After a while though, I began to hunger for home and my family. It was almost as if a boomerang sensor was suddenly activated. I thought, ‘I’ve got to move back to the Northeast!’”
So last year she moved to New York, where she works for the Rock and Roll Foundation, which promotes education through music. “I research everything from blues to hip-hop,” said Blair, who will be releasing a CD of her new songs soon, “and all the ways in which music has interacted with and influenced society.
“As a result, my ‘day job’ can make me equal parts intimidated and inspired in my own personal songwriting, as I research some of America’s greatest writers, performers and recording artists … I love the storytelling inherent in country music and the tradition imbedded in folk music. Hopefully, I mix these elements into my writing.”
When asked who in her life has inspired her the most, Blair responded, “My parents. They have always encouraged me and my sister to follow our own voice, our own heartbeat. My mom is an educator, and my father owns his own business, restoring antiques and building custom furniture (Bodine Conservations). Together, they’ve taught me the power of creativity, collaboration and love.”
When asked about her your ultimate goal as a musician, Blair said succinctly, “Write songs. Sing them. Share. Repeat.”
Whom would Blair like to meet more than anyone on earth? “President Barack Obama. I’d like to learn about his perspective on current events, but mostly, I’d like to talk about music. He has such an incredible taste in music, it would be fun to hear his thoughts on artists, recordings, etc.”
But even more than Obama, Blair would have loved to meet William Shakespeare. “He was the ultimate songwriter. Hopefully, the entire conversation would have been in iambic pentameter.”
For more information, visit www.blairbodine.com.