Old Dominion may not yet be a household name but its members are behind many of the songs you hear in country music today. During the past 10 years of writing and honing their sound as a band, a number of their songs have been recorded and released by an impressive list that includes The Band Perry, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Chris Young and Craig Morgan. And while it has been nice to experience radio success as songwriters, the band has their scope unwaveringly aimed at delivering their music personally to the people.
Consisting of four Virginians and one Michigander, Old Dominion eventually came together in Nashville, Tenn. But the seeds were sown years prior in Virginia where a few of the members grew up.
“I had been doing my own thing musically for a while, but I knew Geoff (Sprung- bass) and Whit (Sellers- drums), and I was always a big fan of their band,” says frontman Matt Ramsey. “A few years after I moved to Nashville, they ended up moving here too, so of course it was a natural fit to play together.”
In the fall of 2003, Matt was introduced to another Nashville newcomer, Detroit-area native Trevor Rosen, at a songwriter round. The two had immediate musical chemistry, and soon forged a writing partnership that was to lay the foundation of Old Dominion.
“Matt had formed his band with Whit and Geoff, and I found myself jumping up onstage with them quite a bit,” says Trevor. “At one point I said to Matt, ‘I know all your songs and write half of them with you anyway, I should just be in your band’. I said it half-jokingly, and I’m not entirely sure he ever gave his official blessing, but I started showing up and just never stopped.”
The final piece of the puzzle, Brad Tursi (lead guitar) was no stranger at all. Brad had attended James Madison University in Virginia with Geoff and Whit, where their bands crossed paths frequently. When Brad joined Old Dominion in 2012, he brought with him a melodic, hook-driven style of guitar that rounded out the OD sound. It also added another seasoned songwriter into the mix.
Out on the road, the live show is dialed in. Opening for acts including Trace Adkins, Brett Eldridge and Jake Owen, their sound has tightened into a cohesive blend of country lyric and rock instrumentation, fused with pop and hip-hop sensibilities. It even led to a debut on the world-renowned Grand Ole Opry.
The extensive touring has also helped ease the transition into the studio. Working with Grammy-winning producer Shane McAnally and acclaimed studio veteran Ilya Toshinsky at the helm, Old Dominion is one of the few bands in country music to write, record and perform all of its own music.
“For us it just made sense to play on the record,” says Brad. “We are a band. As a band you really want to try to capture the essence of what you do live on tape, and there’s really only one true way to do that.”
“There’s nothing like playing a song you’ve written and watching the crowd sing the words back to you,” says Ramsey. “We’ve experienced it a bit when we play ‘Wake Up Lovin’ You’ or ‘Better Dig Two’ and that’s great, but it’s that much sweeter when we are the artist releasing the song.”
"There's nothing like playing a song you've written and watching the crowd sing the words back to you."