By Rae-Claire Embre, The Miami Student
Photo courtesy of Rae-Claire Embre
Old Dominion charmed the audience of Brick Street Bar with their classic country charisma and rock n' roll sexiness last Wednesday.
The performances of their country hits captured the audience's attention, their energy reminiscent to a wild whiskey-filled, summer bonfire party. The boys had no trouble connecting with the audience, taking selfies on their phones and accepting drinks given to them by attendees, creating a palpable connection and carefree environment, perfect for a country band show.
The band, which has been compared to the iconic country band Alabama in a recent Rolling Stone article, has become one of the hottest "breaking bands" in country music.
Matthew Ramsey (lead vocalist, electric guitarist), Brad Tursi (lead guitarist, background vocals), Trevor Rosen (acoustic guitarist, keys, background vocals), Geoff Sprung (bass, background vocals) and Whit Sellers (drums) organically formed their band Nashville over several years.
Ramsey and Sellers grew up together in Virginia and some years later a mutual friend reintroduced them when Sellers and Sprung played a show together. Tursi, who went to college with both Sellers and Sprung, then joined the band with Ramsey, Sellers and Sprung. Later Rosen joined, who worked with Ramsey as co-writers joined after, now comprising the five-piece band.
"It just kind of happened," Ramsey said. "When we first started it was kind of like 'me' and my buddies playing and it just became a band."
And they trademark themselves on this very fact: they are a band with no front man and a background band, reviving the vintage and traditional phenomenon that is the band.
They chose the name Old Dominion as a testament to their southern heritage where four of the members are from, "Old Dominion" being the nickname for the state of Virginia.
In terms of their sound, Rosen said the band keeps their minds open.
"Naturally when we are writing we are not setting out for something like this," Rosen said. "If somebody does something cool or starts a cool beat then we are like 'hey that sounds cool.' We aren't trying to figure out a sound that should be on the radio we are just trying to chase down whatever sounds good to us."
Their self-titled EP, released in 2014, combines both the classic country sound, with gritty rock and even a little bit of Hip-Hop. The five subsequent tracks speak to classic country audiences addressing boozy parties, passionate love and regrettable decision-making, all while combining different musical sounds and influences.
"I think because we've listened to all different types of music and we enjoy it when someone does something cool in any of those veins," Tursi said. "It sparks our attention. Its kind of like subconscious influence."
Each member writes almost everyday whether on their own, or with each other.
"We might have other people that we write with as well so [the process] can start at a sound check or we could be hammering it out in a room," Rosen said, referring to their track "Break Up With Him."
The band have been independently establishing themselves as successful songwriters in Nashville before and during their band career. Members have composed country hits for bands like The Band Perry, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan and more, which makes them accustomed to writing radio friendly and catchy songs for the wide range of country audiences.
"Just to think like how many songs are written everyday and for your song to even get heard, first of all, is a miracle and then for everybody to like it is another miracle and then for it to get recorded and then released in itself is awesome," Tursi said.
Recently, Old Dominion has been part of the Spotify Emerge campaign that recognizes new up-and-coming artists.
"We are the only country band on there," Ramsey said.
But, that is not all the band has in store. Their long stretch of touring, which began last Wednesday with their performance at Brick Street Bar, will continue until late this year when they support Kenney Chesney's "Big Revival Tour."
"[Chesney] recorded a song that Brian [Tursi] and I wrote called 'Save it For a Rainy Day,'" Ramsey said. "He was familiar with us and he liked our music. We were put in the running with other acts but for whatever reason, we beat them out."
They will also be supporting Eli Young Band and Brett Eldredge for parts of their tours before they meet up with Chesney late spring.
"It's an impossible journey and it is pretty gratifying," Ramsey said, reflecting on the band's career a s a whole.
With such a positive response in Nashville and now at the beginning of their tour, Old Dominion looks forward to their journey across the country on their unnamed bus.
"We have three names floating around, Ramsey said of their tour bus.
"The Fridge," Tursi suggested.
"Oprah!" Sprung said back.
"We're still working on it," Ramsey said. "I think the name for this bus will reveal itself."