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Old Dominion Becomes Hottest Band in Country After Successful Breakout Year

Feb 09, 2017 04:00PM ● By Nicole Gould

Photo by Dove Shore

Growing up, Matthew Ramsey was indecisive about the career he wanted to pursue. Lucky for country fans, he took a chance and followed his passion for music to Nashville. Upon his arrival, Ramsey met up with some old buddies, songwriters Whit Sellers (drummer), Geoff Sprung (bassist), and Brad Tursi (guitarist), eventually leading them to Trevor Rosen (multi-instrumentalist).

While creating music together started out as a way for these songwriters to have fun and make a few extra bucks, Ramsey admits they began to notice a fan base develop. Before they knew it, these Virginia natives, with the exception of Trevor, decided it was time to officially declare themselves a band, ultimately leading to the creation of Old Dominion.

“We weren’t trying to make a run for it, we were just playing music and songs we love and as we got some success as songwriters, it kind of drew attention to the band and we thought ‘Hey we should take this more seriously’.” – Matthew Ramsey

They earned their first No. 1 with their debut single, “Break Up With Him,” which spent two weeks at No. 1 on Billboard, one week on Mediabase, and six consecutive weeks on SiruisXM’s The Highway’s Hot 45 Countdown.

Following in the footsteps of “Break Up With Him” and “Snapback,” Old Dominion received their second No. 1 with their most recent single, “Song For Another Time” from their debut album, Meat and Candy.

2016 was a rather successful year for Old Dominion, as they walked away with the ACM New Vocal Group/Duo of the Year, ACCA Breakthrough Group/Duo of the Year, AIMP Artist-Writer of the Year, and Music Row Breakthrough Artist.

The band was recently nominated for Country Song of the Year with “Snapback” at the 2017 iHeartRadio Awards. Tune in to the iHeartRadio Music Awards Sunday, March 5th, 8 p.m. and catch all the nominations.

Old Dominion will be performing at Rams Head Live Friday, February 17th, 7 p.m. Tickets are $27.50 in advance and $30 at the door.

Photo by Dove Shore

 

I’ve read somewhere that you have a degree in Illustration. What drove you towards becoming a country artist over pursuing a career in Illustration? How did the creation of Old Dominion come about?

I was the kind of student in high school that didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I knew I loved music and making art. When it came time for college, it seemed like the right decision to go into illustration or art, because there were probably better job opportunities in that field. I played music all through college. Once graduation came around I realized if I wanted to do either career successfully, I would have to focus on one and not half ass both. I chose music just because I loved it and I loved writing music and performing.

I grew up with Whit Sellers (drummer) during middle school. He ended up in a band throughout college in Virginia with Geoff Sprung (bassist) and couple of other friends. We played shows together and that’s how we met Brad Tursi (guitarist), who was in another band. One by one, we moved to Nashville and we were playing music here, which led us to Trevor Rosen (multi-instrumentalist).

We wrote a lot of songs together—I mean these guys were all my buddies—and we decided to play some songs we’ve been writing for an extra $40 here and there for fun. That sort of snowballed as we kept playing. We weren’t trying to make a run for it, we were just playing music and songs we love and as we got some success as songwriters, it kind of drew attention to the band and we thought “Hey we should take this more seriously.”

I’d say 2016 was a pretty successful year for Old Dominion, especially after being presented four different awards. When the band first began performing, did you ever imagine you’d reach this level of success, and so quickly? (ACM New Vocal Group/Duo of the Year, ACCA Breakthrough Group/Duo of the Year, AIMP Artist-Writer of the Year, and Music Row Breakthrough Artist.)

No, but somewhere in the back of our heads of course we did. We had to think hopeful that something like this would happen. But, on the other hand, we had this motto that we would say it’s never going to work. We’re friends and no one gets to be in a successful band with their buddies and have it work. Anytime something good would happen we’d say it’s never going to work, don’t get excited. Thing just kept happening. Every step of the way we’re all still amazed that we’re in this position and very grateful we are getting to do this and waiting for someone to walk in and tell us to go home.

How did it feel to earn your first No. 1 with your debut single, “Break Up With Him,” which spent two weeks at No. 1 on Billboard and six consecutive weeks at No. 1 on SiriusXM’ s The Highway’s Hot 45 Countdown?

That’s an amazing feeling especially because of how that song came about. We were just making each other laugh and that’s the only song that the five of us have written together. For that to be the one that broke down the door for us was extra special because all five were there for the creation of that song front to back.

It’s not always common that a song is written by all of the band members. Can you tell me a little bit more about where the inspiration behind this song developed?

It’s funny, we actually have all the steps of that song recorded. We started that song, we wrote it while playing around the country. We were playing at this corporate company picnic and we were at sound check and we started jamming like bands do and we fell into this little groove. We thought it was cool and recorded it.

Later at like 2 a.m. on the way to our next gig, I had this idea. Trevor was awake and everyone else was asleep. I told him my idea and started whispering in the phone, so I didn’t wake anyone else up. We kind of went down this road of making each other laugh. All five of us got back together a few days later in Texas to rehearse and finish it up. It wasn’t a true story or anything, we were just trying to write something funny and thought it would make people smile. Turns out it resonated with a lot of people.

After such a successful turn out with the release of “Break Up With Him,” what made you decide that “Snapback” was the right choice for your next release? If people have seen the video, they know it was filmed in a skate park. Can any of you actually skateboard?

We had some songs on the album, Meat and Candy, that were the candy songs on there and most substantial heart felt songs. We knew we wanted to get to those, but “Break Up With Him” was such a big hit, that’s what a lot of people knew of us, was that side. We didn’t want to completely left turn and put out something super serious. “Snapback” was a good bridge between it.

Not really. I have a long board that I carry on the bus and in an arena I’ll do that. I can’t do any tricks or anything like that. We’re all pretty hopeless on that. Jeff made an attempt at the end of the video.

What’s it like to go from opening for Kenny Chesney to headlining your own tour? What has been your favorite part about touring? What has been one of your most embarrassing moments while on tour?

It was amazing. We gained quite a few fans from that tour. I always had wondered how beneficial it is for the opening bands to be on the tour and for us it turns out it was hugely beneficial. We still have people coming to our shows telling us they didn’t know us until we opened for Kenny. He definitely got us out there for our success. It’s really been an amazing experience. We’ve taken a lot that we learned form Kenny and applied it to our own show. It’s been incredible.

They happen all the time. One of the most embarrassing moments happened during our first year on tour with Kenny at Gillette Stadium in Boston. During the last song, I was running up the huge stairs, wearing new boots that had no tread on them. I went to jump and my feet flew over my head and I landed on my back. It was on the jumbotron in front of how many thousands of people and I completely busted my ass. It actually knocked me out for a second. I was in pain for like a month after that. It was pretty brutal.

Let’s talk about your most recent single, “Song For Another Time,” which hit No. 1 on Billboard in December 2016. This song is definitely unique lyrically. Can you tell me a little bit more about the process of putting this song together?

I heard someone say that’s a story for another time and for whatever reason it kind of hit me and I don’t know why it was a song for another time. I had no clue what that statement meant to me until I brought it to the guys as an idea. I don’t know what it means, but I think it could be cool.

We ended up telling the story about a relationship through other song titles. We started to build this story by trying to pick up iconic songs people would know that would fit into the story. It was not as big of challenge as you would think. It seemed to naturally fall into place when we started throwing out the major songs. We never really had to struggle to cram one in there. It kind of showed up right when we needed it to.

What are you looking forward to most touring with Miranda Lambert on the Highway Vagabond Tour?

It’s going to be great. We had a chance to play a few shows with her while touring with Kenny. We definitely like to watch and see what we can take away from it. She has a lot we can learn from. She’s a great person and makes great music too. It’s a great way for us to start the year.

What can we expect next from Old Dominion?

We’re about halfway done with our next album. The next single we put out is going to be off the new album and fairly soon actually. We still have a handful of them we’re trying to pick from. It’s been a challenge. We’ll finish the new album and a new single will be coming soon.