Old Dominion Talk Swagger, Their New EP and Writers’ Regret
Spend an hour listening to SiriusXM’s country channel the Highway and you’re likely to hear Old Dominion‘s ‘Shut Me Up.’ The catchy country-rocker is also a Spotify hit, with over 1.5 million streams, and (predictably), it’s a big hit at the band’s live shows. It’s far from their only hit, however. You’ll hear plenty more of those on traditional country radio.
Songwriters Matthew Ramsey and Trevor Rosen are two-fifths of the band born mostly in Virginia (Rosen is from Woodhaven, Mich.) and assembled in Nashville. Separately or jointly, they’ve penned hits for the Band Perry (‘Chainsaw’), Craig Morgan (‘Wake Up Lovin’ You’) and Chris Young (‘Neon’) in addition to album cuts for Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan and more.
All six songs on the group’s self-titled EP are written or co-written by either Ramsey, Rosen, guitarist Brad Tursi, drummer Whit Sellers or bassist Geoff Sprung. Now that they’re finding success on their own, the group agrees it’s getting harder and harder to let more established artists cut their songs. In fact, there are a few they flat out won’t give away.
Taste of Country talked to Old Dominion before a showcase at Nashville’s Peter Nappi earlier this month. ‘Old Dominion’ will be released on October 7. Look for the band on tour with another SiriusXM star — ‘Ready Set Roll’ singer Chase Rice — later this year.
ToC: You guys are pretty much an overnight success story, right?
Old Dominion: [laugh] Yeah, pretty much. Pretty much. A 10-year overnight success.
Tell the crib notes version of your history.
Matthew Ramsey: Okay, so very quickly: Whit (Sellers) and I went to middle school together, I grew up with him. He went to college, met these guys (pointing to Brad Tursi and Geoff Sprung) who were all in bands together. I was also in college playing in bands on the same circuit and then I moved to Nashville and met Trevor (Rosen) and we started writing together a lot, and then one by one, these guys kind of moved down.
We started playing together and Trevor kind of jumped in and sang harmonies because he wrote half the songs that I was playing.
Trevor Rosen: I declared myself in the band.
Were you a country band?
MR: Yeah, I moved here to be a songwriter for the country market — the songs that we were playing were for the country market. And it hasn’t really changed stylistically too terribly much. Just as the songs got better, we got better.
As songwriters, how do you decide what you’re keeping and what you’re giving away?
MR: That is an excellent question. It’s been up to this point, we keep the ones other people don’t cut [all laugh].
TR: We haven’t had that problem until relatively recently. So we’ve gotten into a gray area. Matt always says you work so hard for so long to try to get cuts, and now that the band is starting to have some success, we’re also starting to have cuts. And we wanna have cuts (songs on other artist’s albums), but it’s tricky. When Blake Shelton or someone like that wants to cut your song, it’s hard to turn him down.
Brad Tursi: Also it’s like we know what we need and what we’re missing, so if we happen to write something like, ‘Oh this could be cool for us …’ we’ll try it out.
MR: We never set out to write an Old Dominion song, though. We just set out to write a great song.
TR: Brad talks about “the swagger.” If it’s got the swagger, then it’s right for us.
Who wrote ‘Wake Up Lovin’ You’?
MR: Trevor and I wrote that with Josh Osborne.
A song like that, the way Craig Morgan does it — he’s such a great vocalist. Is that a song that you could do justice?
MR: Yeah, we definitely have our version of that and it is at least as powerful as his. That was a hard one to let go of.
TR: When you asked that question, that is the one.
MR: That was, for a long time, the flag in the ground for who we were.
BT: We still close with that song.
Is there writers’ regret?
Whit Sellers: Not when you can pay the bills after [all laugh].
What is another song from your EP that you can’t wait for people to hear?
MR: ‘Break Up With Him.’ It’s starting to take on a life of its own … That one is always, no matter what show we play, it gets a reaction.
TR: That’s one we’re not giving away, by the way.
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