Old Dominon's Matthew Ramsey on New Album & How They're More Than 'Pick-Up Line Band'

Old Dominion
Dove Shore

Old Dominion

Since releasing their debut LP, Meat and Candy, in November 2015, country quintet Old Dominion has celebrated two No. 1 songs on the Country Airplay chart, earned a Gold certification on the album, and supported superstars Kenny Chesney and Thomas Rhett on tour. On August 25, they're getting ready for round two with their sophomore effort, Happy Endings.

The 12-track album is a representation of the group's evolution, featuring the same feel-good vibes they brought with Meat and Candy, but perhaps bringing a little more variety than their initial record -- including a collaboration with Little Big Town on a song called "Stars in the City" and a live-recorded track "Can't Get You."

Old Dominion frontman Matthew Ramsey suggests that the nuances fans will hear on this album are due to the confidence they’ve established as a band.

"There's definitely some differences in this one, where we didn't feel as much pressure to be like 'Hey, look at us,'" Ramsey tells Billboard. "I feel like we've got some attention now and we can stretch our legs a little bit."

Just after the group announced their release plans for Happy Endings, Billboard caught up with Ramsey to big a little deeper into the album's title, some of his favorite tracks, and what he hopes fans take away from their next LP. Check out our interview with Ramsey and the album track list below.

How do you think you guys have grown as a band and as songwriters in the last two years?

When you tour as much as we do -- since [Meat and Candy] was released, we've played probably 400 shows or something crazy like that -- you can't play that much and write that much and not change. We've lived together, we've been through so much and experienced so much -- our lives have changed dramatically around us, so that can only help seep into what we're writing and how we're playing together. It's definitely changed us as a band. Which still sounds like us, I think, it's just a more developed us.

How did you end up with the title Happy Endings?

We were on a boat with some radio people listening to the music and we were talking about a song called "So You Go" on there. Somebody said, "That has a happy ending." And, we were like, "Well, does it really have a happy ending?" Then we started to realize that a lot of the songs on there could be a question mark of whether or not they're happy endings or not. So we were on the boat with all these drunk radio people, we were drunk, and we were like, "We should just call it Happy Endings!"

We're pretty proud of what we did, and I think we did what we set out to do -- which is take what we've built, and the doors that we've opened with Meat and Candy, and just kind of go to the next level. We didn't want to show any weak spots and show that we're more than a pick-up line band -- we wanted to show a little more depth than we did with Meat and Candy.

How did the idea for having Little Big Town on the "Stars in the City" harmonies come about?

One morning, I had to meet our producer for breakfast and [Little Big Town singer] Karen Fairchild was in there; we talked for a second. And then we had to go into the studio and work on that song -- that night, I got on the bus and was listening to the mix of it, I had my eyes closed and for whatever reason my day was going through my head. It popped into my head that they would be perfect for those parts and would add so much. We didn't honestly think they would do it [Laughs].

The vocals on "New York at Night" sound a little different than the others -- why is that?

That's Brad [Tursi, the band's guitarist] singing that song. My mom did the same thing -- she was like, "Is that you?" I was like, "You should know that that's not me" [Laughs].

In the end, yes, I'm the singer of Old Dominion, but we're a band of great singers and great musicians, and we just respect each other so much. I think that's a great thing to have for our fans -- again, this is helping to bring the bigger picture of who we are as a band to life. It shows off his talent and the depths of talent we have as a band.

Is there a song or a couple songs that mean the most to you personally?

"Still Writing Songs About You" -- that one hits me every time. For some reason, I really feel that song every time we play it. I just love the sound of it, and I feel like everybody probably has that person that they never fully forget or never can get past. Even if they're not broken up, even if they're married, it's like, man, you are still the person that this song is about or will always remind me of. It doesn't necessarily mean you're broken up or you're together -- everybody has that person that they will be hung up on forever.

There's a lot of songs that Andrew Dorff is on as a writer. He was a great friend of ours that passed away this year, and I think it means a lot that he's part of this album to me and Brad and Trevor personally, because we were really close to him. Songs like "So You Go" and "Not Everything's About You," we remember vividly him being on the road with us writing those songs. He wrote "Save It For A Rainy Day" with us with Kenny Chesney, too. He's a huge part of who we are as a band now, and it does feel good to be able to stand on stage and play these songs and watch them affect a crowd of people and be a part of people's lives and feel like he's there with us.

Is there a song that feels like it best represents you as a band now?

There's these real organic-sounding songs on there, like "Not Everything's About You." I think that is a huge representation of who we are as a band, with the harmonies and the music style of that song. That really sounds like a band to me.

Songs like "Written in the Sand" that are more on the pop style of things doesn't really sound like a band, but from a songwriting standpoint and the music that we're listening to right now, together, and I think that shows that. So there really is all different flavors of us as a band on this album.

Is there something you hope fans take away from this second album, whether it's about the songs themselves or Old Dominion as a band?

I can't get too specific with that, because I've learned that people perceive music in their own way and attach it to their lives in ways that you'd never expect them to, which I absolutely love. The only thing that I will say I hope people come away with is just the simple fact that we're here to stay. I hope that people hear this and go, "Man, Old Dominion is going to be around forever." That’s really what I want to do, show that we're not just a flash in the pan and we're going to be writing songs and playing shows for years and years. Hopefully we do become a part of the class.

We take what we do seriously, but we don't take ourselves too seriously, and I think that kind of helps us stay focused on what's important -- and that is the music, our fans, and our families. And we're trying to take care of all of that.

Happy Endings Track List

No Such Thing as a Broken Heart
Shoe Shopping
Not Everything's About You
Hotel Key
Be With Me
Written in the Sand
So You Go
Stars in the City
New York at Night
Girl is a Gun
Still Writing Songs About You
Can't Get You (Live)