“Better Dig Two,” “Wake Up Lovin’ You,” “Chainsaw,” “A Guy Walks Into a Bar,” “Say You Do,” “Neon,” “Break Up With Him.”
What do all of these songs have in common? Yep, they’re all top charting country songs, but more than that they all have among their co-writers members of Old Dominion: Matt Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, Brad Tursi, Geoff Sprung and Whit Sellers. “Break Up With Him” is the first song all five wrote together and it’s the current single from their EP, released last fall.
Three of the five band members hail from Virginia, the Old Dominion state, and a fourth attended college there. After college, they all headed to Nashville to pursue music and hone their songwriting chops.
“We got together as a band eight years ago,” said Matt Ramsey, lead singer, in a phone interview earlier today while riding on the bus to Charles Town, West Virginia, where the band will perform at The Event Center at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town at 8 p.m. Saturday night.
With a success jolted by the release of their EP, the band is on the fast-track now, even picked by Kenny Chesney to open on his Big Revival Tour that kicks off in May. They toured with Chase Rice last fall and are doing dates with the Eli Young Band now, filling in between with their own show.
“We’re the ’10-year overnight success’ band,” Matt said with a laugh. “We’ve been friends for a long time.”
Matt is from tiny Buchanon, Virginia, a small town off Interstate 81 in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“I was always into music as a kid,” Matt said. He played in the high school marching band and drum line. That’s how I met Whit (Sellers). He played for a rival high school.
“My uncle gave me a guitar and I started playing that around 13 and writing songs,” Matt said. After college, he headed to Nashville, with a degree in illustration from Virginia Commonwealth University. “The other guys went to James Madison University,” he said.
They all played around Nashville and toured with other recording artists. The band thing evolved from the guys playing shows together to perform the songs they wrote. The band’s name gives them that Virginia connection.
That previous road experience has made hitting the road together a little easier to do. “We kind of know what’s coming and we’ve seen examples of how not to do it and examples of how to do it,” Matt said. “And we have a great team around us.”
Chesney’s team is working with them for the big tour. “I wouldn’t say we’re nervous but we know we will need a certain amount of preparation for that stage,” Matt said. “So far, everyone on Kenny’s camp has been great. They’re going to treat us like gold.” Old Dominion is one of five opening acts and will have about a 25-minute set on the Big Revival Tour.
The Old Dominion guys are all good friends, too. “Individually, we all respect each other’s abilities so much. Three of us primarily — Trevor, Brad and me — moved to Nashville to become songwriters. With that experience we know how we want to sound and what we want to say. The other guys have spent years on their craft. We all respect each other’s abilities,” Matt said.
Nashville is a city full of songwriters, so “it takes a long time to scratch that surface,” Matt said. He and Trevor co-wrote “Until the Rain Stops,” the first of their songs recorded by another artist, Steve Holy.
“It didn’t do too much,” Matt said. “The first song with any success was ‘Wake Up Lovin’ You’,” recorded by Craig Morgan. The alarm clock going off in the song is Matt’s.
“I was making a home demo of the song up in my bedroom and for whatever reason I thought it would be kind of cool to record it,” Matt said, and it was used in Morgan’s recording.
It’s the one song Old Dominion wishes it had kept to record and it’s one they always include in their shows.
Old Dominion worked with Shane McAnally on their debut, self-titled EP. Since then, the band has signed with RCA Nashville and Matt says they will be heading into the studio in a couple of weeks, and again in June, to work on their first full-length album.
“We listened to many different things growing up,” Matt said. From country and rock to hip hop and R&B, it finds a spot in the Old Dominion sound. “It really is a conglomeration of what we listened to.”
If you’re going to the Charles Town show, just know that the band likes to have fun on stage “and that rubs off on the audience. Everybody ends up having fun,” Matt said.
He said their set will include some of the songs they’ve written that have been recorded by other artists (Dierks Bentley, Tylar Farr, The Band Perry, Craig Morgan, Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan and Chris Young) and some recorded by OD. Tickets are $25 and available from ticketmaster.com.