It’s been 12 years since Old Dominion formed in Nashville. Now, frontman Matthew Ramsey says the band is more comfortable and confident than ever; which is why, he says, the band self-titled its upcoming third album, out Oct. 25 on RCA Nashville.
The album’s infectious lead single “Make It Sweet” became the quintet’s sixth No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart in April, and the self-reflective follow-up “One Man Band” remains in the chart’s top 10. Working alongside longtime collaborator Shane McAnally, the band also co-produced for the first time. “When you first sign a record deal, there’s a lot of ifs and maybes and we’ve pushed past a lot of that,” Ramsey says. “We’ve grown as a band.”
How did you end up co-producing this album?
It was sort of a non-decision. It’s just the nature of how we make music with Shane — he’s like the sixth member of the band. So when we got into studio to make this album, it all started with a recording session that we were quite honestly unprepared for. So we said, “Let’s see if we can write a song and record it in the same day,” — and we had two days of doing that. The very first thing we wrote was “Make It Sweet.” That set the tone for the whole album. And then we did it again with “Hear You Now.” We definitely started out on a much different foot than we had in the past. We were making music together, we weren’t just recording songs.
You co-wrote 11 of the 12 songs on the album. Is there one song that holds more meaning to you now than when you first wrote it?
“Some People Do” — it’s definitely one that is ever changing. That song is so different than anything we’ve ever done, where we find ourselves kind of intimidated by it. But, the reaction has been undeniable. People send us notes and messages about that song and what it means to them — a lot of people can relate to either needing to change, or wanting to change, or needing someone else in their life to change. It really has kind of stretched what it means to be an Old Dominion song.
Is there a line you’re especially proud of on that song?
That song is very simply written. As a songwriter, there are other lines in other songs that I’m more proud of for different reasons. In “Some People Do,” there’s the line where it says, “Neither do I” — it’s saying: I know you don’t understand, neither do I, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to try to show you the truth every day. That is a very real and relatable sentiment, and I’m proud that we just said it and didn’t try to paint it up with pretty words.
Is there one song that best defines the band at this moment?
I would say you hear a lot of us on “My Heart Is a Bar.” A lot of musicianship comes through, you hear a lot of really strong writing. And just the way we are performing together is a really special thing.
That song is very vulnerable, too. You’ve always had deep songs, but this album seems more introspective.
I think in the past, the deeper songs that we’ve had, we’ve been pretty good at throwing this veil over them — the deep part of the song was hidden in the catchy hook. We moved away from that a little bit this time, we just let the vulnerability show and the rawness of the words that we were writing just be out there. We thought that it was time for something like that.
Your current single “One Man Band” does that well.
“One Man Band” is the perfect mix of what we’ve done in the past and where we’re headed. There are all those elements of the clever turn of phrase that we’ve worked really hard on, and this new direction of [showing] emotion, too. The way that song has resonated with the audience, it’s reassuring that this project is going to be well received.