Devon O'Day: Prolific and Profound
by Susan Marquez
Devon O’Day hosts a Nashville-based southern American family-oriented radio program that is true to her southern American roots. Raised in the Louisiana delta farming community of Jonesville, Devon spent a lot of time on her grandfather’s 80-acre farm. When she was in junior high, her family moved to Alexandria, Louisiana, where Devon and her actor/sister, Faith Ford, sang backup on the Super Country USA radio show. It was on that show that Devon became fascinated with the bluegrass culture. “I wondered how people became fiddle players.”
Her family once had an old house in Texas. “When the house was torn down, there was an old feed sack behind a door, and inside was a fiddle my great-grandfather once played. That fiddle has been passed down in our family, and now I have it. If only that fiddle could tell us its stories.”
Devon’s road to broadcasting wasn’t a straight one. She attended the University of Louisiana in Monroe and then moved to New York, joining her sister Faith, who moved to the Big Apple right out of high school. Devon did post-graduate work in the writer’s program at New York University and became a model with the prestigious Ford Modeling Agency. She also studied acting at many well-known acting studios, choosing voice-over work as her specialty.
“One day, I was on the roof of a building in New York on a modeling job,” recalls Devon. “The photographer asked me to get up on a ledge, and when I expressed my concern about falling, he replied that I shouldn’t worry because they were insured. That’s the day I decided to leave New York for good!”
It occurred to Devon that she didn’t have to go back to the Louisiana delta. On a wing and a prayer, Devon moved to Nashville.
“I got an apartment on Music Row, and my sweet dad drove up in a used Plymouth Horizon he bought for me. I applied to a hair salon as a receptionist and considered going to cosmetology school. I really loved the salon culture.” But broadcasting was tugging at her heartstrings. Devon sent letters to TV stations and radio stations.
“I applied to WSIX six times. Finally, I decided I needed a better name for broadcasting.”
Devon was born Suzanne Ford. “I decided I needed to change my name, which made my mother crazy. There was a place called Devon’s Farms in the Belle Mead area of Nashville. I thought it sounded like a strong name. I kept trying to find a name that started with D for a last name. I answered the phone while on a temp job and heard the name O’Day. I decided that was it!” She applied again for a job at WSIX as Devon O’Day, and they called her in for an interview. “They said they had heard of me, which was impossible, but the name worked. I tell people always to be persistent and don’t take no for an answer.”
Gerry House, who had the country’s number one morning show, hired her as a producer. “I told him I was an on-air personality, but he said if I wanted a job, I was a producer. That was the best decision I ever made. Gerry made me work hard, but I learned things you can’t learn in school. His show prep was unreal.”
Devon wrote for TV shows, and she has been a prolific songwriter. She has written songs for Hank Williams Jr., Ray Stevens, Trace Adkins, Neal McCoy, and a number one hit by George Strait called “The Big One.” She co-wrote songs with Dove-award-winning songwriter Kim McLean for Lee Ann Womack, Pam Tillis, Marty Raybon, The Freemans, and Soul Real. Devon’s voice has been heard on all major television networks, and she has hosted specials for Bravo, Lifetime, and PBS. She has been the voice on many commercials, and she has narrated over fifty audiobooks.
Music is a passion for Devon, and she has shared her love of music on syndicated programs, including Country Hitmakers, which is heard in 130 markets.
As New Media Host and Development at Main Street Media, Devon has a show that features authentic Americana music.
“It is a lifestyle and music show, and I have the opportunity to introduce a lot of great music to the public.” Devon introduced her listeners to bluegrass when she was on air at WSM. “My only caveat with my show is that the music has to be really great – according to me. We have people who interact with the show every day in real-time, so I get immediate feedback. I’ve heard people say they’ve never heard people play like that. They hear the intricacies and harmonies, and they see it as something true. They can’t turn away.”
Devon has never had children but says she has been called “the Earth Mother of Music Row.” Because she is a songwriter, she listens to up-and-coming songwriters’ work and helps them. “I introduce them around. One year, I fed twenty-eight of them for the holidays. I fed Big and Rich before they were big or rich.”
Devon’s other passion is animals. She lives on a farm in Lebanon, Tennessee, where she cares for special needs livestock, including a blind steer named Stevie Wonder and Barney the hero pig, a chick magnet. “He lives in the chicken house.” Devon has written three books about animals, including a devotional book entitled Paws to Reflect: 101 Devotionals for the Animal Lover’s Soul.