Interview: Matthew Ramsey of Old Dominion talks Happy Endings album, writing with Shane McAnally and Andrew Dorff and the UK fans

Old Dominion have easily become one of country music’s most loved bands over the last couple of years. Their debut album Meat and Candy was critically acclaimed and the band found themselves a large fan base all over the world and deservedly so. With hit singles such as Break Up With Him, Song For Another Time and Snapback, Old Dominion have proved themselves as well gifted song writers as well as musicians.

On Friday, Old Dominion released their second studio album Happy Endings which is just as masterful and well crafted as Meat and Candy. I caught up with Lead singer Matthew Ramsey a couple of weeks back to discuss the new album, song writing, the UK fans and more.

Enjoy!

 

Hi Matt, how are you?

I am good, how are you?

How has your week been? What have you been up to?

Oh, we have just been on the road all week; it’s been good.

You visited the UK as a band for the first time last year as part of C2C Festival; how was that experience for you and did you expect to get the response that you did?

We did not expect the response that we got – we had no clue what we were walking into. We were pleasantly surprised; people were getting into it. They knew all the words from the entire album which was incredible, so we are really excited to come back.

You were one of the highlights for many people and I particularly enjoyed your Bluebird session with Shane McAnally.

Oh, yeah! That was fun! (laughs)

I didn’t know what to expect, so it was so funny.

What is he like to work with? As you work together a lot, he must be a laugh in the writing sessions?

Oh yeah, he is an incredible person. We started working with Shane long before any of us had any success including him, we were just a bunch of songwriters and good friends. He is such a creative force, with such an incredible ear and fantastic personality. As a producer, he has just got that way to bring out the best in you. He is such a great person.

You are just about to release your new album Happy Endings, which I love by the way. I received it yesterday and my 18 month old son made me dance with him for ten songs in a row – he loves it.

(Laughs a lot,) That is great!

You can advertise it now as ‘toddler approved’.

We always say that when kids like it – it means it’s a good song.

Haha, yes. It seems that Hotel Key is his favourite

Haha, that’s amazing!

How would you describe the album – and would you say you have grown as artists since the first album?

Yeah, definitely. I think that was the goal – we wanted to show that we have grown. We have been touring a lot, playing so many shows, writing so many songs together – so you can’t really help but grow, but really we wanted to kind of show our developed side with some heavier subject matters. Maybe talk about a little bit more than ‘pick up line’ songs.

How long was the process of putting this album together? I assume some of the songs have been around for a fair while as a lot of the album is co-written with the late Andrew Dorff. I imagine he was a friend, so I am sorry for your loss; what was he like to write with?

We are always writing, so even when Meat and Candy came out we were still writing – it’s something that is engraved in us. Andrew was a great friend of ours and a great co-writer of ours for many years

It must nice in a way to still honour his work?

Yeah, it’s nice that he is a part of it – and a big part of it. We have written a lot of great songs together and we are really happy that he is on the album.

You work with Little Big Town on the track Stars In The City. What inspired that pairing – are they a group you have always wanted to work with?

I was listening to one of their songs one day after we had worked on it in the studio and it just came to me when I was falling asleep one day that it would sound incredible to get Little Big Town on it. We don’t really know them that well. We had met them and talked to them a few times, but we just took a shot in the dark and asked if they would appear on it. They were so gracious and amazing to work with that it was just a super cool moment on the album to have them on it.

It is a great track, I love it!

Thank you!

Why the album title Happy Endings?

So we were talking about one song in particular on the album, So You Go, and how the end of that song is kind of left with: ‘Is it a happy ending?’ ‘Is it not a happy ending?’ Then it kind of became clear that a lot of the songs on the album had that open ended question to them and everybody wants a happy ending, so………..

I love the album, cover. What prompted the cross stitch cover?

We wanted to do something a little different and we saw a cross stitch of Walter White from Breaking Bad and thought it would be cool to something like that and it ran from there.

Is there an actual cross stitch in existence?

Yes! They found a woman in Arkansas to do it and she spent about a month on it so it is an actual cross stitch.

That is awesome.

I love the single Shoe Shopping. What was the idea behind it?

I was actually in a shoe department one day and there were lots of women trying on shoes and I thought it was interesting to make it about a relationship.

You always have really interesting videos, computer game themed, Movie themed and so on…

What has been your favourite video to film? Do you always have a lot of input in the videos?

I think the Shoe Shopping video. I really loved that one and I really loved No Such Thing As A Broken Heart, too. That one was crazy and a long shoot – but it was really fun.

Did someone really get engaged on the set of No Such Thing As A Broken Heart?

Yeah, that actually happened. They thought they were just going to be extras in the video but he knew that he wanted to come on and surprise her, so he reached out to us and asked if they could do it and so we said of course you can.

That’s sweet.

You are coming back to the UK in November with Thomas Rhett, which we are so excited about. How did that pairing come to be – and, as it will be a shorter set than a headline show, what can we expect? Will it be tracks from both albums?

We will play songs from both albums for sure and I am sure we’ll work out something with Thomas Rhett. Hopefully we can work out something to do together; he is a great guy and we have a good relationship so it seems like a good set for our show.

Any plans to do a headline tour, because you could easily sell out these venues yourselves?

People keep telling us that, but we have no real perception of how big we are in the UK. The goal is to eventually do that – hopefully in the next year or so. We just wanted to make sure that we didn’t bite off more than we could chew and we figured we should come over with a more established act and build our following.

Well you have the fan base here, very, very much so.

That’s good to hear!

You have written songs for other artists such as Dierks Bentley – Say You Do (which is my fave off Riser) and Make You Miss Me and Ex To See for Sam Hunt. How easy is it to give your songs to other artists? Did you ever plan on recording those songs yourself or where they ones you always felt belonged to said artists?

That’s what we moved to Nashville to do, was to write songs. We didn’t really move to Nashville to become a successful band, we were just writing songs and back then we were still a band but it wasn’t what we were after. Then things started to take off in our songwriting career at the same time as the band, so it got to this point where we had to make a decision as to whether we were going to release songs to other people, or keep them for ourselves. I think we will still have songs that we will release to other people but we will definitely take a long hard look at them before we release them.

What is your favourite memory so far as Old Dominion, do you have any ‘pinch me’ moments?

Oh that’s impossible haha! We are making so many memories and it keeps growing and right now I am just in awe of the organisation that Old Dominion has become. We have such a big team, a growing team of people who are out on the road with us or back in Nashville and they are all depending on us and the music – and the fans are growing and making our music a part of their lives, too. You know things like that kind of really blow your mind. We are extremely grateful to be here.

What are you looking forward to about coming back to the UK?

I am looking forward to seeing and talking to you guys. Everyone keeps saying that we have a great following over there but it’s impossible for us to guess, so I am looking forward to seeing how it has grown since we have been there.

What do you get up to in your spare time?

We try and spend as much time as we can with our families. I like to relax and go fishing or go on a boat or something like that. We don’t get a lot of down time, so any time that we do, we like to spend with our families.

Well, we are so excited to be seeing you in November and I hope you play We Got It Right, as it is my favourite.

Oh cool, I love that song too.

Thank you so much for your time today, see you in November.

Absolutely, thank you for talking to me.

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