We recently interviewed Margo Westmoreland Blehm about her journey into songwriting and music production. Here is her story.
Editor—Margo, you have a passion for creating new music and have written and produced a number of songs. Tell us about yourself and how you got into songwriting.
Margo—Thank you so much for this opportunity to share! I was raised Adventist, but while in college, took a few wrong turns. Though I never quit going to church, I lost my connection with God. I was living in San Diego, going to church every week, but feeling that there was really no way that God could forgive me for the path I had taken. However, something happened in life that made me realize that God had never forgotten about me and still had a plan for me. That melted my heart and brought me back.
In the process, God started changing me. One thing He changed was my taste in music. I had hundreds of CDs of all genres. Because I could see they did not lead my heart in the right direction, I was impressed to destroy them. Despite this initially being a hard decision to make, It was so freeing and brought me such peace. However, shortly after that, I was complaining to God that I had no music to listen to, since I had destroyed it all! I distinctly heard a voice say to me, very clearly in my head, “Write it yourself!” I thought, Really? I’m not even a musician! But I couldn’t get that thought out of my mind. So I started writing songs. It seemed ridiculous actually. I felt silly and insecure about what I was doing. For years my mother was the only person with whom I would share. But the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write.
My songs are deeply personal and very scriptural. In the back of my mind, I always thought, wouldn’t it be something if I could encourage some of my friends toward a closer relationship with God with these songs. It always felt like God gave them to me so I could share them. However, the thought of actually doing anything with them, recording them, literally terrified me. There was no way that was going to happen! But God had other plans, and long story short, at age 49, I recorded my first album, At Last. My family and friends loved it …and strongly encouraged me to continue writing. The songs kept coming, and we ended up recording seven albums in seven years, with God opening doors the whole entire way.
Editor—Music plays a huge role (for good or ill) in many people’s lives. The desire to write songs, even though you didn’t play an instrument, is incredible. How did you do it? Did you hum the melodies and record them so you wouldn’t forget them—then write the lyrics? Or, did you write the lyrics first. Tell us about the process you went through to write a song.
Margo—Well a little of all of the above! Most often, the songs come during Bible study or hiking. Sometimes the lyrics come first, sometimes the tune. Or…both together at once. Occasionally parts of the songs come to me in dreams. I used to wake up and hum the tune or sing the lyrics into a small tape recorder (prior to my iPhone!)
I wasn’t completely foreign to music. I had taken a few piano lessons when very young, and played bassoon in academy. But I wasn’t that good and never practiced… and hadn’t played any instruments at all (besides my CD player!) since I got out of high school 13 years prior. I could barely pick out a tune on the piano by that time, and could hardly read a single line of music. That’s why the whole concept of coming up with something I could actually listen to initially seemed ludicrous!
After I started writing songs, I eventually looked for someone to help me with the chords and accompaniment. But it’s hard to find someone who can figure out exactly what’s in your head! Finally I bought a little piano and begin teaching myself how to play by ear. As time progressed, I got more comfortable and had more and more fun with it. I also started taking cello lessons when I was about 30 years old, the same year I started writing songs. So you can hear that as well, here and there. (The more complicated, amazing cello parts were not played by me, however; they were done by my friend Cello John, just to be clear!)
Editor—Interesting! You have produced a number of CDs. Do you record them at home, or do you go to a studio? What is that process like?
Margo—Since I am not even the slightest bit “techie,” I need a recording engineer to help me. But as I mentioned, the whole thought of recording was and still can be terrifying. However, God brought an expert sound guy, Dale Price, into my life, who was exactly what I needed. He’s so relaxed and supportive that he puts me totally at ease…and the whole process ends up being really fun. We record in my living room at my piano, with his mobile recording gear. It really doesn’t get much more comfortable than that! However, I still get the jitters every time. There’s something about the record button that really messes with your head!
The guest artists usually record their improvisational overdubs at Dale’s studio, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with! But it’s so exciting to hear my songs “grow up.” Every time I get one back from Dale, it’s like a little dream come true. I really believe this never would have happened if God hadn’t providentially introduced us. From what I hear, many sound engineers don’t have the gift of graciousness, which was what I needed. God opened all the doors and used Dale to help me walk through them.
Editor – In the music world collaboration is often a big thing, and it looks like you’ve taken advantage of that and have collaborated with other musicians who can help make your songs bloom.
Margo – I’m so blessed to work with local musicians that God brought into my life, who are much more talented than me. Since 2013 Evan Goodson, Brad Smith and Dale Price have been adding their beautiful improvisations to my songs. When Covid hit, we became a virtual group, called Dandelion. This name came from a desire to spread the Good News like seed…Just like a dandelion. So if you like what you hear, give all the glory to God, and please share. If even just one person is drawn to Jesus by the music, it’s all worth it.
Editor—Thank you for sharing your journey with us. We love hearing how artists are able to write, record, and distribute their music, sometimes in the face of great obstacles. Blessings to you going forward!