Associate professor Odie Blackmon’s song among bes...

Associate professor Odie Blackmon’s song among best country songs in 50 years

A song written by Middle Tennessee State University College of Media and Entertainment associate professor Odie Blackmon has been named one of the top 25 country songs in 50 years. 

“She’ll Leave You With a Smile” was written by Blackmon over 20 years ago and recorded by King of Country, George Strait. The song was Blackmon’s first No. 1 song and was recently named (No. 8) among the top 25 country songs in the last 50 years by Country Aircheck, a country radio and music industry news outlet. 

“It was a complete surprise,” said Blackmon, who has worked as a commercial songwriting professor in the Department of Recording Industry for the last nine years. “‘She’ll Leave You With a Smile’ was the first song of mine that I heard on the radio. I was writing one day with a co-writer, and my girlfriend burst through the door and said, ‘Your song is on the radio!’ We all ran outside, jumped in the car, and just sat there and listened to it.” 

Besides the original album and single released in 2001, Strait has included “She’ll Leave You With a Smile” on multiple other albums, including the “50 Number Ones” compilation and most recently the 2023 vinyl album “George Strait – #1’s Volume 3.” 

More than 20 years after releasing the song, Strait still performs the hit song at his stadium shows, including a recent Nashville show. 

More than 20 years after its release, Strait still performs the hit song at his stadium shows, including a recent Nashville show.

“He’s playing at it at Nissan Stadium to 70,000 people, and they’re all singing it,” Blackmon said.

Blackmon’s impact on MTSU’s Songwriting program 

Blackmon earned his bachelor’s degree from MTSU’s Recording Industry Department, and then returned to his alma mater to teach in 2014. 

Since then, he has doubled the enrollment in the Commercial Songwriting program, recruited well-known adjunct professors and created courses. 

He also oversaw the planning and building of the Songwriting Center located in the Miller Education Center and helped raise $50,000 for the project. The center opened in 2023 and includes state-of-the-art songwriting classrooms, an atrium for live performances, and a collaborative workspace. 

Recording Industry faculty Odie Blackmon in the new Songwriting Center in the Miller Education Center. Odie Blackmon, Recording Industry faculty, standing center, with Kyra Gosney, seated left, Alex Wons, seated center, and Arden Johnson.

Gold and Platinum record plaques from alums who came before current students line the walls. 

“I think where I bring value is I have lived these students’ dreams. I know what it’s like to be an MTSU student and want to get into the music business and have success. I was one of those students sitting in those classrooms trying to figure it out. That’s why I love it so much and have such a heart for our students. I was like them trying to figure out how to do it, and that’s really the beautiful part of my job, ” Blackmon said.   

Blackmon also arranges unique experiences for students in the program each semester, like backstage tours at the County Music Association Awards or Q&A panels with people in the business. 

His social media accounts are filled with photos of current and former students praising their success, photos from former students at their album release parties and videos of Nashville billboards featuring the likes of former student and American Idol contestant HunterGirl, the stage name for Hunter Wolkonowski.

MTSU’s Commercial Songwriting concentration offers instruction designed for students interested in a career in the music industry like arrangers, artists, musicians, producers, singers, songwriters, publishers and more. 

— DeAnn Hays (

MTSU College of Media and Entertainment Dean Beverly Keel, right, presents alumna and ‘American Idol’ finalist Hunter ‘HunterGirl’ Wolkonowski, far left, with an honorary professorship Tuesday, May 17, during a celebration of her successes outside the Oldham Theatre located on the public square of her hometown of Winchester, Tenn. Assisting with the presentation is MTSU associate professor of songwriting Odie Blackmon, second from left, and Andrew Oppmann, vice president for marketing and communications. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)