My Music Row Story: BMG’s Chris Oglesby
The “My Music Row Story” weekly column features notable members of the Nashville music industry selected by the MusicRow editorial team. These individuals serve in key roles that help advance and promote the success of our industry. This column spotlights the invaluable people that keep the wheels rolling and the music playing.
Chris Oglesby has been in the music publishing industry for more than 30 years. He joined BMG in 2013, where he now serves as Sr. VP of Creative, overseeing the creative publishing team in Nashville and furthering the collaborative efforts between BMG’s roster of artists and publishing clients in both Los Angeles and New York, as well as BMG’s BBR Music Group (Broken Bow Records, Stoney Creek Records, Wheelhouse Records).
Oglesby has been involved with numerous hit songs, including George Strait‘s “Check Yes or No;” Kenny Chesney‘s “Young;” Kane Brown’s “Heaven” and “Good As You;” Carrie Underwood’s “So Small,” “Temporary Home,” and “Last Name;” Keith Urban’s “God Whispered Your Name” and “Only You Can Love Me This Way;” and Martina McBride’s “God’s Will.”
Oglesby began his career at Almo/Irving Music, signing Grammy award-winner Craig Wiseman, before joining Dreamcatcher Music. He would later join former BMG Music Publishing where he spent a decade working with a roster of established songwriters and emerging talent.
MusicRow: Where did you grow up?
I was an Army brat. We moved around a lot. I was born in Hawaii and we moved to Taiwan, Colorado, Illinois [and other places]. After the military, my dad became a minister, so we continued to move around. I claim western Kentucky is home because that’s where my family came from, but I grew up mostly in southern Illinois.
What brought you to Nashville?
The music industry, of course. I came to be this country music star who was bigger than Kenny Rogers and Ronnie Milsap put together. I discovered music publishing, which I knew nothing about, and it changed literally everything about my life as soon as I did.
How did you discover the music industry as a kid?
I grew up singing. My dad was trying to be a star in the music industry, so when he became a minister, our family sang southern gospel music. We traveled with an evangelistic team called the Donaldson Brothers. In a two-pole tent, we would go set up in different communities and our family would sing. When I went to college, I continued to sing. My hope was that I would move to Nashville and be discovered.
What happened when you got to Music City?
I enrolled in Belmont. I somehow convinced Karen Conrad to give me an internship at AMR Publications. After I was there for a year, she encouraged me to meet and talk to her husband, David Conrad, and I went to work for him. Karen and David really set me on my journey as a music publisher. They had big influence on me—they taught me how to treat people.
Why do you think you fell in love with the publishing aspect?
It’s interesting because I knew nothing about music publishing, but the first time I heard a song being written, being tweaked up a bit, being demoed, put on hold and recorded, and then heard it on the radio—it was unbelievable. Life changing stuff. It was actually a song called “Love Won’t Wait” that was on The Whites‘ greatest hits album. I was there when that was written. I started meeting all these amazing songwriters who wrote these songs that I had just spent five years going through college singing. I started hearing the stories about the songs. Then the creative aspect of music publishing took over. [I was asking myself] what makes this song work for this artist or what makes these writers work together. It’s very creative and the creative part of music publishing is what drew me in.
After you worked for both the Conrads, where did you go from there?
I went to work for Bob Doyle and Kye Fleming. They had started a little publishing company called Dreamcatcher Music. I did that for a little bit and then went to work at BMG following that.
Now you are head of creative for BMG’s Nashville office. How did you develop your style of music publishing?
I’ve learned so much along the way from different people. Karen had a very unique approach to music publishing, which was very successful. Her approach was blanketing the town with all of the songs, making sure that A&R people are covered with a bunch of new music. David was more of a sharp shooter. His approach was, “Let’s send this one to this person.” They both worked with writers differently. I took a lot of what they did and how I saw them interacting with writers, and then tried to apply as much of it to me as possible. Obviously in those situations you see things that work and you see things that might work well for them, but maybe not well for you, so you’ve just got to mix and match. It was great to see both of their approaches.
In addition to Karen and David, who have else have been some of your mentors?
Troy Tomlinson has been a massive help, as has Jody Williams, Kerry O’Neil and Tim DuBois. One mentor that I’ve had for probably 25 years that I did not meet until last year—which is kind of a weird thing to say about a mentor—is John Maxwell. All of those people have had a profound effect on me in my path and journey through the music industry.
What moment have you had that your kid self would think is so cool?
I had one of those moments right before Thanksgiving. I went to Kansas City to see Carrie Underwood and Jimmie Allen, and I got to take my 11-year-old niece. It was her very first concert. We were hooked up from top to bottom. I look at that experience through her eyes and I just feel so blessed to be able to do that. To go to those things and be fully in the moment of what’s happening, but at the same time, it’s my job. Sometimes it’s hard to be in both those things at the same time, but how cool is it that we get to go to a concert or No. 1 party? That’s our job!
When are you most fulfilled in what you do?
When I see opportunity put in front of a songwriter for growth followed by success—and I had a small hand in it—that’s the most gratifying thing that you can do. Not only do I love it, but somebody’s dreams are coming true. Somebody’s not going to have NES come turn their electricity off. When you can pull all those things together, I can’t think of anything else that would be more rewarding than watching someone else succeed where you played a small role in their success. I love that part of it more than anything.
What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
To live like you’re dying. [Laughs]
In addition to that, just add value to people. When you add value to somebody else, it’s going to come back to you a hundred times over.
What are some of the best attributes about our Music Row community?
The friendly, competitive nature that exists within our community is so healthy. We’re all after the same things. We’re all very competitive, but at the same time, we know that the success of somebody else helps us all. That for me has been incredible to be a part of through my whole journey.
I feel like our two streets have laid an incredibly strong foundation, not only for a genre of music, but how to work together in unison and in a harmony with one another, no pun intended.
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