Old Dominion Interview: Matthew Ramsey Opens Up About Group’s ‘Vulnerable’ New Album
Ever since “Break Up With Him” hit the country radio airwaves in 2015, Old Dominion have dealt with matters of the heart instead of churning out the party songs associated with many of their pop-friendly peers.
“We’re not big partiers,” the band's lead singer, Matthew Ramsey, tells The Boot. “We’re not throwing down every weekend, so we write what we know. These are things we know and experience a little more than party song-type of people.”
Ramsey and bandmates Trevor Rosen (guitar, keyboards), Whit Sellers (drums), Geoff Sprung (bass guitar) and Brad Tursi (guitar) up the soulful introspection and Alabama-inspired harmonies from past releases on their self-titled third album, out Friday (Oct. 25). In the process, the group digs deeper into the real emotions many of us face during the workweek before getting rowdy on Saturday or seeking redemption on Sunday.
“Subject matter-wise, it’s a much more vulnerable album, I would say,” Ramsey reflects. “We definitely speak to our personal lives a bit more openly. Or just to the human condition and everyday life that every human experiences -- you know, the ups and downs of relationships.
"I think the more open you can be about yourself in these situations, the more people respond to them," he adds. "We saw that a little bit with the last album, but we went a few steps further with this one.”
Standout album cuts “Smooth Sailing” and “American Style” may not be chant-along anthems, but they bring the upbeat feel associated with summertime hits. Ramsey isn’t worried about these songs arriving ahead of the first weekend that fans in several parts of the country will catch up on new releases while lounging in sweatpants, though.
“We’re just trying to write great songs,” he says. “Some of them were maybe written in the summertime. The album is going to live forever, and people can listen to them anytime they want. Summer will be around again.”
Ramsey loves reminiscing about growing up with '90s country on the radio and a Pearl Jam CD in his Discman, but don’t expect Old Dominion to indulge the nostalgia crowd with its forward-thinking music. Instead, he and his bandmates are dancing with what brought them, from working once again with producer Shane McAnally to sticking with a proven approach to songwriting.
“We’ll miss if we try to do that,” he says of embracing a retro sound. “We’re not good enough to target something like that. We just go where the song takes us.”
Going where the song leads them, after all, is what turned friends with individual career goals into a group with a collective vision. “We were writing songs together and we were playing music together because it was fun,” Ramsey recalls. “There was no decision to form a band and make a run for it.
"We were a band and then suddenly found ourselves with a little success," he continues. "The snowball started, and we thought, ‘Well, wow, we actually have something here. Let’s see if we can push it as far as it’ll go.'"
With Old Dominion’s self-titled album stacked with earnest earworms, expect that snowball to pick up steam -- with or without the song of next summer.
50 Country Albums Everyone Must Hear Before They Die