The 2015 release of Old Dominion’s debut album “Meat and Candy” put them on the map with the chart-topping singles, “Break Up with Him” and “Snapback.”
In the years afterward, they’ve built a reputation as one of Nashville’s resident country rockers. For band members Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, Whit Sellers, Geoff Sprung and Brad Tursi, earlier pursuits in songwriting led to the accidental union of Old Dominion and the success that’s followed.
Fresh off the release of their record “Happy Endings,” the five-member group is continuing a busy touring schedule with a stint on Thomas Rhett’s Home Team tour.
Ahead of the band’s Oct. 19 stop in Columbia, Old Dominion bassist Geoff Sprung opened up about the new album, the role of their fan base and life on the road.
What led you all into music and out to Nashville?
We all kind of knew each other before we came down here. Three of us moved down to be writers, and that would be Brad and Trevor and Matthew. Whit and I moved down to be studio musicians and tour musicians.
How did you all get to know each other to begin with?
It’s really kind of amazing. Matthew and Whit went to middle school together and Whit ended up going to college with me and Brad. We were in the musical circles together. How we met Matthew was through [Whit]. Trevor’s the odd man out; he’s from Detroit. So, we met him when we got down to Nashville.
What did the transition look like from being old friends to forming this band together?
It was cool, it was just an organic process. We all had ties from back home, so we were hanging out down here in Nashville just as friends. And then when you’re trying to get a songwriting deal, a lot of times part of it is to go out and showcase your songs. You go perform for industry people. So, anytime one of the guys that was shooting for a publishing deal would need to do a showcase, we’d all get together and be the band to help showcase those songs. After a while we kept hearing from people, “you guys sound like a band.” We kind of realized from outside that it was something really special. Then we started to pursue it.
How do you think working as songwriters and studio musicians before branching out with Old Dominion has helped shape the group?
It gave us perspective on the odds of success. We had a joke for years that we just kept saying, “This is never going to work, we’re never going to make it.” And it was just this idea that there are so many talented people in this town and they’re all working so hard. No matter how good they are, there is still an element of luck. So, one of the things I think it did was temper our expectations. It also made us really appreciate all of the success that we’ve had at all different levels. We’ll always have this sense that if this is as good as it gets, then we’ve already come out on top. Appreciation is the big thing.
What would you call your big break?
It’s funny, I think it’s a series of moments. Moments like opening for Kenny Chesney on the first tour we did with him. Playing in stadiums before we had a record deal was kind of insane. That was definitely a moment. For me, I think they happen a lot on stage where you get in front of a really appreciative crowd of whatever size and you start to really feel the buzz off the crowd. You all turn and look at each other off stage, all five of us and kind of wide eyed smile and go, “This is happening. This is a moment.” Mostly, when you get to share with your bandmates the success.
How has Old Dominion evolved from the first album to this second release?
AThe album sounds a little more mature, a little more substantial. When we put out the first album, the goal was so focused on making sure that every song could be a radio hit, every song could be a radio smash. Obviously, the songwriters in the band still have that mentality of making sure that it’s a catchy song, but maybe there’s shades and depth to this album as a whole. We knew that not every song had to be a single.
Were there different objectives in mind while creating this album versus “Meat and Candy”?
We were excited to show more of who we are and what we could be rather than just crafting 11 hit songs. Maybe there could be some depth and growth. The process was just as quick paced. It was still fast, but hopefully there’s a little more depth to it.
What are you hoping fans take away from this record?
I don’t think that part has changed much. We talked when we had the first album come out that we just wanted the music to be part of people’s lives. Whether it’s fun moments with their friends or heavier moments, it doesn’t matter. Just that it becomes part of the fabric of their memories and their lives and their experiences. So, that part I think is the same. We just want to connect with people and we want the music to connect with them.
You’ve toured with so many big names in the industry – have any of your former tour mates inspired you?
We always talk about Kenny Chesney. He was the first real person that we got to sit and basically study on tour. Also, he’s just a great example of someone that’s found a way to connect 100 percent with his crowd. Off stage he has an amazing organization, and the way he runs that organization and the people he surrounds himself with are amazing. What happens on stage is obviously super important, but then what happens off stage, the way you treat what basically becomes your family on the road has a huge impact on your business and your life. So, we really try hard to take that to heart.
You guys will be joining Thomas Rhett on the road for a few dates, one of which will be here in Columbia. Have you guys worked with him before?
I actually played for Thomas Rhett for a couple weeks. Back when Old Dominion wasn’t out doing 200 dates a year, I got a call from [Rhett’s] bass player who’s a friend and whose wife was having their first kid. He had to go home for the birth of his first baby and I went out and played with those guys for a few weeks. This year we did half a dozen shows with TR, just shared festival dates and stuff. So, we’re real excited. He’s got a great crew, and he’s a super fun guy to hang out with. I expect that there’s going to be lots of laughs, lots of smiles.
What can we expect next from Old Dominion? What are some of your hopes for the band down the line?
Everything seems to be going really well for us. As long as the fans keep showing up and listening to the music and appreciate what we’re doing we just want to keep doing more of it for all the people that appreciate it.
Sources: Billboard; OldDominionband.com