Tue., July 8, 2014 11:44am (EDT)

Learning The Music Biz At The Otis Redding Camp
By Grant Blankenship
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Updated: 2 weeks ago

MACON, Ga  —  
Stefan Billups, center, listens as Steve Moretti gives him feedback on his song during the Big "O" Singer/Songwriter Camp. Grant Blankenship/GPB News
Stefan Billups, center, listens as Steve Moretti gives him feedback on his song during the Big "O" Singer/Songwriter Camp. Grant Blankenship/GPB News
It can be a long road for a young musician from writing a song in their bedroom to a career as a songwriter.

The family of the late soul great Otis Redding gets that. For seven summers, the Big “O” Singer/Songwriter Camp has pulled back the curtain for young people on the world of the music business.

“My father was passionate about music programs, and particularly to push the importance of education paired with music,” said Karla Redding-Andrews. Redding-Andrews is Otis Redding’s daughter.

The two week camp costs $200, but most of the campers come on scholarship. The only qualification to apply is a drive to write and perform your own music.

Stefan Billups goes by the stage name “Hawke”. He comes from a long line of musicians. By the time Steve Moretti, a Grammy nominated percussionist and producer was presenting on the camp mainstage, Billups had worked on his song for the better part of two weeks and was ready to share it.

“Let me hear you play it, and I will try and give you my two cents,” Moretti told Billups after finishing his talk.

Billups plugged in and tuned up while other campers did the same.

“Ok, let me hear your tune, just him by himself,” Moretti said, “Just play and sing.”

Strumming softly at first, then faster, Billups began singing his lyrics with a closed eyed urgency.

“We both know we gotta be strong, gotta move, gotta carry on...” he sang.

Billups finished and Moretti gave him his two cents.

“What has to happen...so...there needs to be more separation between the pre-chorus and the chorus,” Moretti said.

“That’s what the bridge is for,” Billups said.

Later, Billups, still a little stung, holed up in an empty classroom to put Moretti’s words to use. Billups compared hearing the criticism of his song to what it might feel like as a parent to hear criticism of your child. But he wasn’t going to ignore good advice.

“If somebody has something that could make your child better, who wouldn’t say ‘Let’s do it’?” Billups said.

Karla Redding-Andrews acknowledges that taking criticism can be tough for young people, but not as tough as the real world.

“The industry is tough,” Redding-Andrews said, “You don’t have to be as perfect right now, but you need to be near perfect.”

In recent years the camp expanded from one summer week to two. Redding-Andrews hopes to one day do even more than that, expanding the scope of the program academically and geographically.

“I’d really like to see this become a full fledged music program with an academic academy tied to it,” Redding-Andrews said.

Redding-Andrews said she would love to take the program to Miami, Atlanta or Memphis.

“I have dreams to take this whole platform further, but we want to get home perfect, we want to get it right first,” Redding-Andrews said.