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From Lake Oconee to Nashville

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From Lake Oconee to Nashville

Inspired by his Morgan County roots, Country artist Eric Dodd pays it forward

By Leila Scoggins

“It all started at Morgan County High School,” recalls Nashville recording artist and singer-songwriter Eric Dodd.

After beginning his high school career at Gatewood, Eric decided to transfer to MCHS for its prestigious golf program. “It was golf and guitar growing up,” he says with a smile.

Once at MCHS, Eric met several of his closest friends, Tom Dupree, Jesse Triplett and Bill Peters, many of whom he still plays music with today. Together, the friends formed a band called Vernacular. “That’s where we fell in love with music together,” Dodd says.

The teens spent hours writing songs in MCHS art teacher Ty Manning’s classroom. The songs formed the foundation for each of their music careers. “Ty was a huge inspiration, mentor and just a great friend,” says Dodd. “He played in bands in Athens and we thought that was so cool in high school. We looked up to him and learned from him.”

Manning taught the musicians the ins and outs of the business, from how to book a show, to lessons on playing in front of large audiences, to how to build a fan base. “He was certainly a big part of our roots,” Eric continues.

After graduating high school, Dodd went on to earn a golf scholarship at Georgia College. However, his collegiate golf career was short lived and ultimately led him to return to his roots and pursue a music business degree at the University of Georgia. For several years, Dodd traveled around the Southeast with his band playing 200 shows a year. In the meantime, he was making trips to Nashville seven to eight times a year. “Being a songwriter, you have to go to Nashville, that’s where the business is going on,” he explains.

Five years ago, he bit the bullet and left Georgia’s Lake Country for Music City. Since moving to Nashville, Dodd has put out several songs of his own, including “The Reason,” which is about his wife and recently hit three million streams, “Pretty Girl Lucky Guy,” and his latest, “Baecation,” which features Kelleigh Bannen and Raymundo. Several of his songs also were recorded by other artists, like Georgia-native Colt Ford, and up-and-comer Spencer Crandall.

“My goal is to get a publishing deal,” Dodd says. “A publishing deal is basically on Music Row, you go to a publishing house and write songs. I am an artist, too, but I am writing songs for other artists and having some success with other people recording my songs, which I absolutely love and it kind of tells my story as an artist.”

Dodd calls Nashville a song-rich town that he loves being a part of. Currently, he is writing with some of his heroes, like the guys who wrote many of Tim McGraw’s songs. Songs that Dodd grew up learning to play. “Being in the room with those guys means a ton,” Eric says.

He also had the opportunity to work with songwriters like Dylan Altman, who wrote Jason Aldean’s hit “Take a Little Ride,” and Eric Olson, who writes music for Country superstar Thomas Rhett, as well as two Canadian songwriters, Gavin Slate and Travis Wood. Personally, he has opened for Jake Owen, Old Dominion and Sam Hunt. “Every day is different, which is fun and makes it very interesting,” Eric continues.

As for his future plans, Dodd will continue songwriting as well as releasing his own new music. “We plan to release a lot of music this year,” he says with a smile. “It is so cool to see people take to these songs.”

Much of what Dodd writes is inspired by growing up at Lake Oconee and he loves any opportunity to come home and play a show at the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee, Oconee Brewing Company, or other local spots. “Lake Oconee has been very good to me,” he notes.

The Lake Oconee community not only influenced his songwriting and gave him his start, but it also impacted the style of music he produces. “Zac Brown had a bar here years ago and some of my first shows when I was 17 or 18 years old were opening for Zac at Zac’s place,” he recalls. “If you have been in the Lake Oconee area or Madison or Greensboro for a while, you have heard stories of Zac playing at that bar and cutting his teeth. He was kind enough to take me under his wing, show me the ropes and let me open for him.”

Brown has been a huge inspiration to Eric as he watched him come up through Atlanta to Nashville. Zac Brown’s inspiration has led Eric to do the same for many other up-and-coming musicians from his alma mater. So, when a unique opportunity presented itself last year, Dodd jumped at the chance to return to the stage where he got his start one last time.

Just weeks before it was set to be torn down, Manning led the charge to create an event to honor the old MCHS auditorium. The event was called the Last Jam and it took place on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. It featured current students as well as alumni. Among them was Eric Dodd, who kicked off the show in style.

“I loved seeing the students perform and there is just such a great energy at the school,” says Eric. “I love that everyone was supporting the arts and music education. I know Ty is a huge part of that but it takes everybody being involved. I was blown away by the talent of the students mostly. I enjoyed playing, of course, but the highlight was seeing these kids and it inspires me.”

Before the Last Jam, Eric had a chance to sit around and play with some of the students at the school. Several of the students even asked him the chords to some of his songs, which he found flattering. During his time at the school, Dodd gave several of the students his phone number. The students text Dodd from time to time to ask questions about the business. “You’ve got to give back, that’s what it is all about,” he continues.

After performing his own set, Dodd joined one of the school’s popular student bands, Poncho Mac, to play a few songs. The look in the students’ eyes was one of amazement as they had the opportunity to play alongside one of their idols. For Dodd, it was a full circle moment.

“I love that they [the students] are already out playing live (shows),” says Dodd. “That’s huge, because I see, even in Nashville, these people that are writing great songs that want to be artists but they aren’t playing enough shows.”

Dodd says the best advice he could give the MCHS students who want to be songwriters is to start writing early and write a ton. Performers need to figure out where they can get on stage to perform in front of people because it’s different than just playing in your room. “It’s hard work,” he continues. “You have to be doing something every single day to get better at your craft, whether its playing guitar, singing, playing drums, whatever it is, you need to be working that muscle.”