Nashville is so chock-full of talent that it is easy to gloss over a songwriter’s bio. Take Shantell Ogden’s awards for example. IMEA Songwriter of the Year (twice!). Songwriter of the Year. Americana Song of the year. Album of the Year (twice!). You get the feeling she’s good at what she does.
But Beyondish did not pluck her story from a news release. We went down to Nashville, ponied up to the bar at The Listening Room Cafe, and we were blown away! Ya could have heard a Bud drop.
Ogden is opening for Sawyer Brown next month in her home state of Utah. We’re pleased as punch she agreed to answer a few questions for our Ask A Songwriter series.
Must-know breakfast spot in Nashville? And what is your fav dish there?
As an East Nashvillian I love Nashville Biscuit House for breakfast, and my go-to is an omelet and biscuit there. As a special tip, if you go through the drive-thru with your dog, they will give you a REAL piece of bacon. My pup Thelma Lu really loves that!
Best venue to hear local Nashville music that no one from out-of-town has heard of?
When people come to visit me I always take them to the American Legion in East Nashville for honky-tonk Tuesday nights. Great traditional western bands and dancing and people of all ages. It’s one of the places you can still feel the heartbeat of Nashville, far from the crowded Broadway.
What town, city or part of America most influences your music?
I grew up on a farm in a small town in rural Utah, and any small town or rural area is an inspiration for me. I’ve lived in a few different parts of America, including Oregon, Georgia and Massachusetts and in every one of these places I found a small town to run away to when I needed to reconnect with my roots. There’s an authenticity in small towns that I try to capture in my music.
Your top favorite town to perform in (besides Nashville)? One must-go-to place to eat there?
This is like picking a favorite pair of shoes, and I love shoes! If I had to pick one, it’s always an honor to play in my hometown of Richfield, Utah because of so many friends and family there. This year I’ll be opening up for Sawyer Brown, which is a double bonus because I love their music! I think Steve’s Steakhouse is the best restaurant in town for salads, rolls, and of course, a great steak.
Best part of being a songwriter/artist?
Music is something that connects us to each other and connects us to our own feelings. When I look out in an audience and see someone crying because something in a song of mine touched them, that is the best part. It’s not because of the tears. It’s because I know that they connected to the song and they were moved by it.
Hardest part that a non-artist would never know?
Most people don’t know that 60,000 songs per DAY are added to Spotify. The competition for ears is unreal in today’s world. Many artists think that they they can just make a great record and release it and something will magically happen and millions will hear it. The reality is you have to work hard at everything in your career – including building relationships with news media, social media, radio, booking agents, etc. No one is looking for you, you have to go out and build your own career.
Where do you feel most inspired to write?
For me it’s not about the space so much as it is the right vibe. That vibe is created when there is trust in the room with your co-writer and when you are both there to write the best song – without ego. That’s when you know you’re going to get something good.
Fellow musician who had a big influence on you?
One of my mentors and a great jazz musician at Berklee College of Music, Daniel Ian Smith, gave me some really invaluable wisdom in a time when I needed it most. He basically explained you have to decide what role you want music to play in your life and what price you will pay for that. For example, if you wanted music to be your only job, there would be months you wouldn’t be able to pay your bills because that is the nature of music. There’s a lot of uncertainty in it. He also said it was important to find a partner in life that understood that music was a need and a responsibility – so they would support you in the time and effort it took instead of seeing it as something that competed with the relationship. I’ve reflected on this many times over the years.
Favorite Nashville restaurant(s)?
Since I live on the East side, I stick to my neighborhood which is a food mecca. Lucky for me! Mas Tacos is great for fish tacos. Rosepepper Cantina is also a favorite for southwestern fare (and a laugh from their billboard). Wild Cow is go-to for vegetarian and Margot’s is fantastic for upscale dining. If I’m in a rush, I’ll grab a coleslaw hotdog at I Dream of Weenie or a chicken salad sandwich at Eastwood Deli. There’s also Five Daughter’s Bakery for sweets.
Singer or songwriter you’d most like to have a meal or drink with? And where?
This is a tough one! I have met quite a few famous people in Nashville and even been fortunate enough to become friends with some of the incredible hit songwriters here. One person I’d like to sit down with for a visit would be Tony Arata, who has written countless hits. He has this incredible record called “Such is Life” and every song is just stunning songwriting in my book.
You grew up in rural Utah. One place that brings you back to your childhood? And what was your favorite dish there?
My family’s business was the Ideal Dairy when I was growing up – something that was started in the 1920’s by my great-grandfather. We had the farm/cows and then a processing plant where we made our own ice cream and other dairy products. We then sold these products at a small retail store and going there having ice cream was my favorite place in the world. If I had a great day, we celebrated with ice cream. If I had a bad day, we cheered up with ice cream. Every holiday – ice cream. It’s no surprise I still love ice cream!
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