Old Dominion is having quite a year. As if having their single "Break Up With Him" from their self-titled debut EP rushed to country radio and signing a record deal with RCA Nashville weren't enough, starting in May, Old Dominion will be hitting the road to open for Kenny Chesney's The Big Revival Tour.
Therefore, it is no wonder Old Dominion is ending up on so many 2015 band to watch lists. After all, this is a band truly destined for greatness... their impressive songwriting and high energy live shows make for an irresistible combo that will certainly keep fans new and old coming back for more.
Thankfully I was able to catch the guys in between shows to speak with lead singer Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen (keys/guitar/vocals), and Geoff Sprung (bass) about the incredible year the band is having, their loyal and ever-growing fan base, and their excitement about the upcoming Chesney tour.
The Reel Spin: First of all, congratulations on the success of "Break Up With Him." It must be really exciting the way radio and everyone has really latched onto it.
Matthew Ramsey: Thank you... yeah, it's pretty exciting times for us right now, so we're just going to keep riding it as far as we can.
TRS: Absolutely. One of the things that I think is so unique about that song in particular is the way that all five band members had a hand in writing this song. Is that what the writing process is usually like for you guys... collaborative?
Ramsey: That's the first one that we've all five written together. It started as a song in a sound check, you know? We were just kind of fooling around on our instruments playing a groove, and somebody pulled out their phone and recorded it, because we thought it was cool, and later on down the line, we sort of finished it in pieces together. So, that's the first time we've ever all five written together, but as far as our normal writing process goes, it's usually a group of us, or a couple of us at least, involved in the writing of our songs. We have some outside writers that we work with too that are a part of it too.
TRS: You mentioned that it kind of started with a groove. Is that normally the way it works, groove comes first, lyrics later... or do sometimes lyrics come first?
Ramsey: Usually, but it's different every time. Sometimes somebody will come in with an idea, a title, or something like that. Or other times it just happens through conversation, just through naturally hanging out together and our conversation will lead to something. Sometimes somebody plays something that's inspiring and you go from there. That's the cool thing about it. There's kind of inspiration everywhere and you learn how to pick up on it and have your ear tuned to it, and just wait for it to hit, follow it as soon as it does.
Trevor Rosen: Be ready for it when it happens.
TRS: Right. That's awesome. You know some fans may not be aware, but you guys have actually been in the business for a while, not only touring as Old Dominion, but writing for other artists like Luke Bryan, Craig Morgan, The Band Perry, Keith Urban, etc. Do you think all that experience has helped prepare you guys for the success the band is having right now?
Rosen: I think it definitely has, especially just honing our songwriting skills. We spent a lot of time just trying to compete with some of the best writers in the world in Nashville. Just honing the craft and trying to compete in the songwriting game, helped us get to the point where when we started collecting songs that fit us, we had a higher caliber of songs.
Geoff Sprung: I think the other thing is that we've all been in the business so long that we've been really realistic about our expectations and about the time that this could take or that it could have never happened, so I think it makes us a little more excited when it does.
Photo Credit: Pamela Thomas
TRS: I'm just excited for you guys that things are coming together. For me, it's all about your live shows. I had a chance to catch one of your live shows recently, and it was incredible. Just the energy you bring to the show . . . and you guys have such loyal fans. It's so awesome to see. They knew how to clap just right to "Beer Can in a Truck Bed" just right... it was awesome. Do you feed off that energy from your fans?
Ramsey: Absolutely. There's no way not to. Like Geoff said, we've been doing it for so long, and the fans were not always a part of it, you know? So now that we have fans, it's so gratifying to get that push pull back from the stage to the audience. It excites us. When we're excited, they get excited, and vice versa, so it definitely is an interactive show I think. We have fun with each other, and we have fun with them. I think that really is the strong point of our live show. What show did you see?
TRS: I actually caught you guys at the Whiskey Jam [at Winner's in Nashville], and I feel so lucky to have been able to see you guys at such a small venue like that. But just the fans around me... when you guys took the stage, everybody was pushing to get to the front to see you, and of the night, you guys had the hard core fans.
Ramsey: It's really fun to see that happen.
TRS: Definitely. Seeing that interaction between you guys and your fans, it was hard not to come away as a fan. I definitely did, because I felt like it took the show to another level. That energy was awesome to see. Does it feel kind of surreal now to have the fans sing your songs that are on the EP back to you now?
Ramsey: Yeah, you know that's been the big surprise lately. It's one thing if people know the words to the song that's on the radio... that is a real thing in itself, but when you start playing songs that are not on the radio that are just on the EP or on Spotify or something, and people know all the words to every one of those songs. That's when we started looking at each other like there is something big happening here. It is an amazing thing, and like you said, surreal is the only real word to describe it.
TRS: Yeah, absolutely. Speaking of the EP, the songs on there are about love, reflection, all of that... are you constantly writing new material, or are you too busy with touring right now, or how does that work?
Ramsey: We're constantly writing. That's the good thing about this band. There are three of us that have publishing deals already. Like you said, we've been writing for a long time, and luckily we write really well together.
TRS: That's great...
Ramsey: We're constantly writing on the bus, wherever we can... at sound check, when we're at home. When we get home, there's no real days off. As soon as we get home, we go and start writing. The biggest problem we have is too many songs. Just trying to figure out what songs we feel like we can let go.
TRS: Is it hard to let go of songs that you've written and give them to other artists?
Ramsey: Sometimes. It has been in the past. We weren't always at a point where we could afford to hold onto those songs. That was our living. We had to let them go. Sometimes that was hard. Believing in this band and knowing that at some point we were going to get to a point where we would have to do that. It's only just now that we've started holding back songs until we decide whether they are Old Dominion songs or not. If we decide they are, we hold them, and if they're not, we let them go.
TRS: It's probably a good feeling being able to hold onto them a little longer now until you're sure...
Ramsey: Definitely. It's hard to turn off that songwriter switch. When you hear a song, and you know it's a hit, it's hard to turn off that part of you that goes who can we get to record this? And then we have to go wait a minute, we're a band, we don't need to decide. [Laughs]
TRS: [Laughs] Right, maybe we should save this one for us...
TRS: Are there any artists out there right that you consider really inspiring and you look up to what they're doing?
Rosen: There's a lot of different artists. Some of them are our good friends, like Brandy Clark is a good friend of ours. She's amazing. Sam Hunt obviously has pushed the envelope. But we're excited about everybody and everything. It's not just country music.
Ramsey: And obviously we're going to be on bigger tours, and every time we get to be on stage with a bigger artist like I'm sure we're going to learn a ton from watching Kenny Chesney this year. Any time we get to sit on the side of the stage and watch an established artist and see what they do and connect to their fans, that really pushes us to do better.
TRS: That was something I was going to mention. You spent the fall on the road with Chase Rice, and then this May you're going to be joining Kenny Chesney for The Big Revival Tour. That's pretty exciting... how are you guys feeling about all that?
Ramsey: It's crazy. We're in Seattle right now. We were pulling into town, and coming around the corner and we see the stadium, and you realize that the next time we come back to Seattle, we're going to be playing that stadium. That is impossible to wrap your head around. You get this kind of rush of adrenaline and also butterflies in your stomach at the same time like holy crap.
TRS: That's going to be something to look forward to. Were you surprised when you found out you were going to be doing the tour?
Ramsey: Yeah, we thought it was a joke. We thought somebody was playing a trick on us.
TRS: You guys had another milestone recently as well... playing the Grand Ole Opry.
Ramsey: We debuted on Opry about a year ago, and it's a strange thing to see yourself in the pictures. That's one of those things... it happens so fast. You get out there, you play your song, and you're off. Then the next day you see the photographs of you on the Grand Ole Opry, and it's a wow moment for sure and a historic moment for any artist.
TRS: It sounds like you guys are having all kinds of milestone moments, and I wish you all the very best success.
Ramsey: Thank you very much.
For tour info and more on Old Dominion:
Website - olddominionband.com
Facebook - facebook.com/olddominionband
Twitter - @olddominion
Interview by Pamela Thomas