10 Questions with ... Old Dominion
January 10, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- Matthew Ramsey, Lead Vocals
- Trevor Rosen, Guitar and Keyboards
- Whit Sellers, Drums
- Geoff Sprung, Bass Guitar
- Brad Tursi, Guitar
Old Dominion has spent the past two years riding a wave of success that has led to a major label signing, a #1 single, their debut studio album release, and touring the country opening stadium shows with Kenny Chesney. But this group - consisting of "four Virginians and one Michigander" - has been touring and writing hit songs for years. With writing credits that include hits for The Band Perry ("Chainsaw" and "Better Dig Two"), Chris Young ("Neon"), Tyler Farr ("A Guy Walks Into A Bar"), Craig Morgan ("Wake Up Lovin' You"), Dierks Bentley ("Say You Do"), Kenny Chesney ("Save It For A Rainy Day"), and many more, the members of Old Dominion have perfected the craft of "blending old-fashioned Country charm, lyrical wit, and Rock and Roll grit in to radio-friendly hook-heavy Pop nuggets."
After dropping their major label debut album "Meat and Candy," and taking their single "Break Up With Him" to number one toward the end of 2015, the band is once again slated to hit the road with Chesney and friends this coming Summer. On the heels of their stellar 2015 and selection to the CRS 2016 New Faces show, Trevor Rosen sat down with All Access Nashville Assistant Editor Monta Vaden to discuss the group's accomplishments and what is on the horizon for 2016.
1. You've been voted in to the "New Faces" showcase for CRS 2016, and while you've played to most of this cast of characters before during your radio tour, this setting will be a bit different. Can you tell us what it means to you to be chosen to play this show, and how you will prepare for the performance?
Trevor: First of all, it's a huge honor. It's such a small list of big artists, so when we heard we were chosen, it was pretty awesome. When you look at the list of people who have done it in the past, and then look at the list of people who did it last year - people like Cole [Swindell] and Sam Hunt - people like that, you look and those are some of the biggest stars in the industry. So it's a really big honor to do it. I don't know that we will prepare any differently, though. We've sort of had a whole year to prepare, playing shows with Kenny [Chesney] and doing some big stuff, so I think we'll just be excited to get out there and do our thing in front of some people who have maybe already seen us, but maybe haven't seen us, too. Anytime you play a show for just industry, or if it's people in Nashville - sometimes it just doesn't take on as much of a fan-type atmosphere. So it's pretty cool that they're planning on letting some fans in to watch. I think that will make it feel more like what we're used to, I guess.
2. Where were you when you found out that you had been selected as to perform at CRS 2016 New Faces, and how did you react?
Trevor: Yeah, we were on the road. I think we were on the bus. Will, our manager, called to let us know. He said, "Hey, guys, we just found this out, and it's pretty huge news. This is a really big deal." So we were all together, as we usually are. Today is one of those very rare occasions now when we're not all together! It was really exciting - everyone was excited!
3. The last time we had a chance to talk with you guys was October of 2014. A lot has happened in these past 15 months! How has signing with RCA Nashville changed the course of your career?
Trevor: I think it just took the course we were on and put it on steroids, really. I think we had a lot in place before that. A year ago, we had been really playing a lot of shows, and with our management we had really had a solid year of touring. And we had a lot of momentum on [Sirius]XM, and were starting to get played here a little bit across terrestrial radio. I think we had a lot of pieces of the puzzle in place, but signing with RCA basically just took it to a whole new level. It helped us reach a lot of the radio stations and a lot of the people we couldn't reach on our own. It just made people take notice and let everybody know we were in the game for real. Actually being with a real label and having a radio promotions staff like the one we have - which has been absolutely amazing - just sort of took what we were doing and really sort of took us from the minors and helped push us up to the major leagues, I think. It's hard to believe that a year ago, we were still in a van!
4. Last time we talked, we asked if you guys have gotten tired of each other while riding across the country in a bus - but you informed us you were still working out of a van! Have you made your way to a bus yet, and if so, how has it changed the travel dynamics?
Trevor: It changed everything! You go from sleeping on each other on a bench to basically traveling in your home. That thing HAS become our home! We spent more time on the bus this past year than at our own homes. We couldn't believe it. Everything changed this year. We got the bus at the end of January, and in the span of the last 10 months, we got a bus, did a stadium tour, had an album come out, had a #1 song. It's like in less than a year, everything has changed!
5. As far as showmanship, you guys are old pros. You've been touring for quite some time and last Summer had the chance to open some dates for Kenny Chesney, and you'll be back out on the road with Chesney this Summer. What have you learned from watching Chesney on stage, and what takeaways do you have from playing such large stadium dates?
Trevor: I think it just teaches you a lot about a couple different things. One of the things is song selection. Like you said, we've toured a lot and played a ton of shows, but when you play to that many people in that big of an area - especially when you're one of the first acts on the bill - you definitely pay more attention to your song selection. You want to bring the energy and really start the party to set it up for the other performers, so that's one thing. The other thing is just about how you use the stage. You've got a lot of area up there. When you're in a little club, you can only move so far, but when you're in that big arena and are trying to reach that many people, you learn how to use more area of the stage. You learn a lot - we got to watch Kenny Chesney every night! You watch somebody like that, who has been a pro for so long, and you learn how to really connect with those people who are 200 yards away from you. So it has been good to learn from the pros.
6. Your showmanship and creativity also came across in one of the most talked-about music videos of the year for "Break Up With Him," and with the cover art for your album, "Meat and Candy." Can you talk about the genesis of the idea for the "Back To The Future" theme for the video, as well as the concept for the album art?
Trevor: I'd say the genesis for almost everything we do - even the songs we make, half of the time - just come from us goofing around and having fun with each other. The video was just us on the bus - we were with the director, Steve, who was out filming with us for some other content - we weren't even talking about the video. But we all love the movie "Back To The Future," and we started joking around about that movie. Then, the conversation kind of naturally started steering towards, "Well, what if we did a video where we were the band at the dance?" And then it all just snowballed from there. And it was the same thing with the album, as well. With the title and the cover, we were joking around saying, "Well, we've got a lot of candy songs, but we really need some more meat on this." And someone goes, "Well, we should call the album 'Meat And Candy.'" And it was kind of like a passing comment, but we started thinking about it and thinking it would be a good idea. Then it turned in to saying, "Oh, you know what we could do? We could have really bright images of candy..." and that is the best thing about this band. And the best thing about the label we signed with. There is nothing that is off the table, and nobody is afraid to do something that is different. We always want to try to push the envelope a little and do something that is different. And, not necessarily trying to do something different, but just not be afraid to be different. If we have something that we think is a cool idea, then we just run with it. To me, that's one of the most important things - to try to be original. So, we were lucky enough to sign with a major label that isn't afraid to let us do that.
7. You guys have always worked to convey your individual personalities on stage and in your music. If you could describe each of your bandmates in one word that best describes their personality, what would you use?
Trevor: Oh man! Geez, I need to think about this. Just one word to sum up each person's personality? I don't know. Geoff [Sprung, bass guitar] would be "Hungry." I mean, literally, he's always hungry. Brad [Tursi, guitar] would be "Happy." He's sort of like the happy guy who always has a big smile on his face. I'd have to be "Goofball." Everything I do is just goofy. Oh, gosh, this is going to be printed, isn't it? I really have to be careful! There's definitely not a serious one - no serious one in the bunch. Everyone is a comedian, and someone different takes the stage every day to keep everyone entertained. It's someone else's turn every day. Whit [Sellers, drums] would be "Elusive." He's never seen, he just comes out to play. Ha! And let's see, what is Matt? He's the front man, so he has to have a cool one. Matthew [Ramsey, lead vocals] is "Swagger." He's definitely got the swagger. Man, I can't wait until all the guys see this and give me crap about it for the next year!
8. There are a lot of Pop, Rock, R&B, and other influences melding together to make today's Country sound different than it did twenty years ago. What did you listen to growing up, who would you cite as your biggest musical influences, and what genres - if any - do you pull from when creating your own music?
Trevor: We literally listen to everything. A lot of us played in Rock bands growing up, so we listened to a lot of Rock. Whit listened to a lot of hard Punk and Metal - and a lot of Pearl Jam and Nirvana, things like that. But we also grew up listening to Country music, too. And Hip Hop and Rap played a part. I grew up in Detroit, so I listened to a lot of singer-songwriter stuff from Bob Segar, and MoTown. We literally have been influenced by everything. And we have individually played in Rock bands. And we've played Country music. So, for us, it's no surprise to us that our music really incorporates all of those different genres and elements, because even when we sit down to write songs, we aren't saying, "Okay, let's write a Country song," or "Today, let's write a Hip Hop song." We're just sitting there going, "Hey, what you're doing there sounds pretty good. That's pretty cool. What if we added this?" So there are no boundaries on it. So, what ends up coming out is this melting pot of all those different influences. We just try to make music we like - we don't try to fit it in to a genre. Genres and categories are things that people need to have to put music into and compartmentalize it, but we don't do that when we're making music. We just make music we would want to listen to and that we hope other people will like. That's really the bottom line. And I know people are protective of the Country genre. A lot of people will say, "Oh, that's not Country music." And I get that, I do, but that's funny, because I can't think of a single person I've ever met or that I know who only listens to one genre of music. If you go to anyone's iPhone or iPod and look at their list, it's a bunch of different stuff from all different eras and genres. And it's the same with us. I think the common thread, really, in Country music is just lyrics. I think Country has a more direct lyric that is more relatable to people, but musically it's all over the place and always has been.
9. Old Dominion has collectively held the pen behind some of the biggest hits in recent years - and now you have a stellar album of your own out with "Meat and Candy." How did you decide what songs to keep for the group versus what to pitch to other artists?
Trevor: It wasn't necessarily easy. Some of those songs were pitched. It just ended up, timing wise, that some of them hadn't been cut yet. "Break Up With Him" might have been the only song we never pitched. I don't know why, other than we all wrote it, and it definitely sounded like us, so I think that one is the only song that never got pitched. But all of the other songs did. And really, some of our cuts like "Wake Up Loving You" and "Say You Do" and those that were cut might have ended up on our album if they hadn't been cut. It's really just a timing thing. When those songs got cut, we weren't in the position to be holding anything! We didn't - I mean, the band was in a van and wasn't making any money - we didn't know if anything was going to happen or take off for us, so we were just trying to cut our teeth as songwriters at that point. But when we started narrowing down the songs for the album, I think we had already had an opportunity to try them out, because we play so many shows that we really were afforded the luxury of playing them live and seeing what people think and what they responded to and getting a feel for whether or not they sounded like us - whatever that meant. It wasn't easy. And even at the end, when we thought we were done with the record, we ended up writing "Song For Another Time" and said, "You know what, I think this one needs to be on there, too." So right up to the very end, we were still fluctuating. But I think - there's no exact science - but we just get an idea from recording them and playing them live as to which ones sounded like they would fit together on the same album. And basically we just took our favorite songs. We had a lot to pick from, and the songs that ended up on the album are really our favorite songs - the one that, after the song is over, you want to hear it again. To me, ultimately, that's the bottom line of mine is making sure it's a song you want to hear over and over again. So for us, those are the eleven songs that we couldn't get out of our heads.
10. With so much material to choose from - and a collection of songs on the album that you've told us are all your favorite songs - how do you guys narrow down on what will become a single? "Snapback" is currently impacting Country radio in a big way; how did you select that to be the follow up to "Break Up With Him," and how will you pick from your catalog for the single or singles to follow?
Trevor: It's tough. "Break Up With Him" sort of just happened, so that one made itself a single. It's tough, though. "Snapback" is already getting some radio play and was before we even technically went for adds on that one. But it's tough, because we really made an album where we felt like any song on it could be made a single, and we'd be really happy with it. So, when we have these discussions, it goes all over the place. It's like, "It could be this song. Or it could be this song. But let's not forget about that song." But with "Snapback," we felt like it was just a lot of fun and still keeps it up-tempo a little bit. And it seems to keep it fun while still bridging the gap to some of the "Meat" on the record. "Break Up With Him" was a tongue-in-cheek, kind of funny song - definitely the "Candy" - and "Snapback" still has that element of fun to it, but has a little more of an edge, musically, I think. It bridges the gap a little bit to the rest of the album. It's hard to say what we may end up picking in the future. It's a function of timing - you don't know how fast the songs are going to go, you don't know how many singles you will get to pick. So we will see how "Snapback" does, and how long it takes to run its course. We have a couple of ideas of songs that are in the running, but there's just a lot of factors that influence those decisions. We're really not sure. But the good part is, we feel like no matter what song gets picked or the label wants or we end up wanting, whatever we go with, we feel pretty confident in the whole album. So, if someone came to me and said, "Hey, this is going to be your single," I would be like, "Okay, sounds good!" That's a good feeling. I think "Song For Another Time" is one we feel confident will probably see the light of day at some point. We love it, and we've heard from a lot of radio people that they want to hear it, too. So that's the only one that, if I had to make a guess about the future, I think I'd feel relatively comfortable saying that will see the light of day at some point. I don't know when. And who knows, I could be wrong, though.
1. You've been "the new guys" on several tours now. Looking at other "New Faces" in the industry, who are the guys and gals that are up-and-coming who impress you? If you were to go out on a headlining tour this year with support acts, what "New Faces" would you like to bring with you on the road and why?
Trevor: Wow, that's a good one. Okay, so not just because they're on the New Faces show with us, but I'd say Brothers Osborne, for sure. We've known them for a long time. I've always loved them. I remember watching them at a bar down in Key West like six years ago. They were jamming, and I was thinking, "Wow, who are these guys?" That was before I even knew who they were. I think Cam and Kelsea [Ballerini] and Chris [Janson] are obviously all amazing. There's just so many good new artists out there that are coming up. A lot that don't even have record deals yet that you see around town. These guys like Jacob Davis and people that are coming up. And then there are some that are established that people still just don't know as much about - like Brandy Clark! And it's nice seeing a guy like Chris Stapleton take off like that. It's a luxury that we in Nashville have taken for granted. We've seen him for years and loved him. But sometimes it just takes having that chance to get somebody seen and heard. That was the way with us, too. We were around for a long time, but then someone decided to just take a chance and play the music. It gave us a chance to be heard and let the people decide if it was something they wanted to hear. That's one of the most exciting things, I think, is that in Country music it seems like it has gone back to a place where the people are getting a chance to decide what they like, and then that's the music that gets heard.
2. After countless radio visits and radio shows, is there anything that radio does NOT know about you that you can - or would like to - share here?
Trevor: I know what they can expect - they can expect us to be having fun! You've seen the show before. We look like we're having a good time, because we ARE having a good time! We genuinely get along, and we genuinely love to play shows. As many shows as we played this year, every time we're getting ready to go on stage, we're always excited. It's just one of our favorite things to do, to get up there and play for people. That's what everybody can expect is to see us have fun and maybe get a chance to play some of the songs off the new album that, for the people who have seen us before, maybe haven't seen us play some of these songs from the album before. It'll be a high-energy, fun show. This year's lineup is just a great lineup. I always hope that we don't have too much to do around the New Faces show - which we seem to always have things to do around it - but I hope we can just have a chance to sit there and watch these other artists. I'm still a fan! So, when we end up on the same bill as one of these people, a lot of times we don't get to watch them, because we have to go do meet and greets or something, and I'm always bummed, because when I'm done playing, I want to go out and watch these guys. This is such a great lineup, and I hope I get the chance to see the whole show.