RCA Nashville’s Old Dominion spoke to MusicRow about their 2016 Breakthrough Artist of the Year win at the 2016 MusicRow Awards, as well as the hurdles to success the band has faced. A quintet of songwriters, the boys have managed to keep upwards of 200 dates on the road while achieving outside cuts and maintaining families at home. Lead singer Matt Ramsey explains the marathon his band has just begun.
Read more about Old Dominion’s award win in the new MusicRow Awards print issue, available now.
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MusicRow: Do you feel the support of all of Nashville’s music industry?
Ramsey: We do, especially when we win an industry-voted award like this. Every time we come back to Nashville and see the people in the community we spent years working with, everyone tells us they are rooting for us and are proud of us. So we definitely do feel the love.
How does decision making happen with your team and band members?
It’s a five-way partnership. We’re all five equal decision makers in the band and we are all usually on the same page. If we’re not, it’s never a fight. It’s more a discussion where everyone is willing to listen to any idea. We certainly know that we don’t know everything, which is why we have this team of people to help us make those decisions. It’s usually fairly easy to get everyone on the same page.
One of your songs released as an independent band, “Shut Me Up,” was left off your major label release. What went in to that decision?
We felt like it had run its course by the time it got to making the album. We already had an EP out and “Shut Me Up” had got pretty high on satellite radio’s countdown and people knew that song. We just wanted to get as much new music out as possible with Meat and Candy, so “Shut Me Up” was left off to make way for a new song.
What do you think it was about your No. 1, “Break Up With Him,” that really connected with fans?
It’s a fun song. For the most part, people get the joke. It is real life and definitely a thing that happens. We’ve seen it numerous times. Couples come up to us and say that they are together because that song gave them the courage to realize they were with the wrong people. That’s a great thing for us. There’s a big part that is luck. You never know what’s gonna connect when it gets out there.
Tell us about the fan reception of follow-up singles “Snapback” and “Song For Another Time.”
A fair amount of people still ask us what a snapback is. They love the song and a lot of times we open our show with that. It’s a big sing-along. We wanted to bridge ourselves into something more serious from “Break Up With Him” to something that is more substantial as far as songwriting, which would probably be “Song For Another Time.” So we felt that “Snapback” was a good middle ground, as far as the sound of the song, from a fun summery song to more serious subject matter.
We’re lucky we even have “Song For Another Time” on the album because we thought we were done recording the album. We were out on the road and Matt Jenkins was out with us and played through the song at soundcheck and we fell in love with it. So we convinced everybody to let us fly home for one day and assemble the entire team to record that one song.
What are the challenges new artists faces that songwriters don’t?
There are a lot of challenges. One would be finding time to write. We spent so much time in town writing every day to play 200 shows a year. All of a sudden you have all kinds of other things to do. You don’t have that time to write and lose that sense of songwriting community you have built. We’re lucky that we write together, but being a new artist definitely eats into your writing time—out there doing what you need to do to push your album.
Early on you’ve been given the stage at many stadiums, what have you learned works or doesn’t work when compared to a smaller stages?
Anything that works in a stadium will work in a smaller venue. It just doesn’t go the other way—things that work in smaller venues don’t necessarily work in stadiums. We learned to work on our transitions from song to song to eliminate dead space. Especially with a new artist, you have to keep the set list moving and energy high. We still watch Kenny [Chesney’s] show every night and take notes.
What can we expect in the next phase of Old Dominion?
We’re writing a lot now. We’ve figured out the groove of writing on the road and thinking ahead at what our next album will be like. We’re playing some of them in our set right now to gauge the fan response. We’ve got all kinds of shows, some 160 shows this year, so touring through the fall.
In countless ways, we’re lucky we’re songwriters together in this band. It’s not just one person but the whole band contributing. We’re lucky to be out here constantly bouncing ideas off each other and our fans to get their response.
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