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Matthew Ramsey Old Dominion interview

We get the lowdown on the band’s new album Happy Endings.

Old Dominion
Credit: Sony Music

Old Dominion are gearing up to release their new album Happy Endings on Friday.

The album contains the hit single No Such Thing as a Broken Heart and is the band’s follow-up to critically acclaimed 2015 debut Meat and Candy. Fans of the band have been able to enjoy selections from the album already as a number of tracks are available to stream and download ahead of its release.

I caught up with Matthew Ramsey, the lead vocalist and one of the main songwriters in the band, to find out more about Happy Endings, discuss the eye-catching cover, and find out what the band’s plans are when it comes to a headline UK tour in the future.

Why did you decide to call the new album Happy Endings?

It’s always hard to come up with an album title. This one came out of a discussion that we were having about one of the songs, So You Go, which leaves it up in the air as to whether there is a happy ending. Some people think it is a happy ending and some people think it’s just re-entering the same vicious cycle of the relationship. We just kind of went back and forth, ‘is it a happy ending? Is it not a happy ending?’ We said ‘happy ending’ so many times we all were laughing and said you know maybe that’s the album. We looked at our record label head and said ‘what do you think?’ and he said ‘I don’t care what you call it!’ so Happy Endings wound up as the title.

I see you’re continuing not to put a picture of yourselves on the cover and instead you’ve got a patchwork effect. Why did you decide to use that as the cover of the album?

You know as far as not having our photo on the cover, we just always think it’s more interesting to have some visual art on there than just a picture of us. People can find out what we look like if they want. The cross stitch, needlepoint thing… Whit had found a cross stitch of Walter White from Breaking Bad and he showed it to us and said ‘what if we do something like this? This is cool’. We started looking at these old school samplers and things, and we thought if we took little images from the lyrics of the songs and put them on there, it would be interesting.

The album’s lead single No Such Thing as a Broken Heart is proving to be a big hit for you guys. Tell me about the track and how it came to be.

We wrote that actually on the back of a bus one day. It’s funny sometimes when you write, you have an idea of what you want to write about or a title and that day we didn’t, we just kind of started writing. We had a little groove going. The first thing I said was ‘I wonder if Jack and Diane ever made it?’ and that just sent us down a road and we didn’t really know what we were writing about. We were just getting things off our chest about life and and the attitudes you need to have to make it. These were genuine questions and feelings that we were having. Trevor said ‘you gotta love like there’s no such thing as a broken heart’ and we realised that was the crux of the whole song. We shaped it all around that.

 

You’ve been releasing a number of songs from the record ahead of its release and there are a lot of different sounds on there…

There’s quite an array of sounds on this on this album. They’re very different. I think we just kind of wanted to pick a good sampling of what people can expect. There’s poppy stuff, there’s more bandy stuff so we just kind of wanted to show the full scope of the album.

Little Big Town feature on the album track Stars in the City. How did that collaboration come about?

I was falling asleep one day and it came into my mind that they could sound amazing on that song. We’re not real close with them and we don’t really know them well but I felt like it was worth asking if they would contribute. They are some of the sweetest nicest people you’ll ever meet. They were excited once we asked them to do it.

You’re coming back to the UK later this year to tour with Thomas Rhett. What can we expect from your live show when you come over?

We just have a blast playing music. We love the fact that we get to do it for a living. It’s amplified even more when we go overseas and realise there are people over there that like our music too. It’s still kind of hard to wrap our minds around so you’ll see a lot of smiles on our faces. We’ll play songs off of our first album and our second album, and songs that we’ve written for other people. We have a lot of fun onstage and we try to have that rub off on the crowd.

Old Dominion

Credit: Sony Music

I remember when you did C2C: Country to Country in 2016 and everybody was talking about you. Are you tempted to plot our your own UK headline tour?

I think we would love to at some point. It’s definitely something that we want to but it’s a slow process to build that fanbase. We just have to put in the work so we can make sure we don’t bite off more than we can chew before we come over.

The song I keep getting drawn to on Happy Endings is Not Everything’s About You. Did you pull together your experiences to write that song?

It was written one day with with our buddy Andrew Dorff who has since passed on. It was a great day and I remember it very clearly. We were in some little dance hall in Texas and it was raining, and we were smoking cigars and just having a blast doing what we do. I had written down the title because you hear people say that not everything’s about you. It’s just a nice moving on song. There are a a lot of songs out there that are about ‘I can’t get over you’ and there’s a lot of songs that are about ‘I’m completely over you’ but there aren’t many about that process of getting there and how hard it is but how good it feels to finally be able to start letting go when you know they’ve been the centre of your world.

You co-wrote most of the songs on this record. Was there a particular song that you were passionate about having on the record?

Still Writing Songs About You is one that I really wanted to make it. I was a little worried that it wasn’t going to make it. It’s the most country thing you’ve ever done. It’s more traditionally country and has themes in it like whiskey and women, Dallas Texas and six strings, things like that which aren’t typically the type of lyric that we write. To me it just seems like a really heartfelt and beautiful song, and I really wanted to show that side of us.

 

Was there a song on the record that you would say was a really tough one to write?

I don’t think there is one that we laboured over writing really. There is one that we had a hard time recording including which was Can’t Get You, the last track on there. We recorded that one originally for Meat and Candy but it just didn’t sound right so it didn’t make the album. We tried again for this one and it was the same thing. We just could not get that to come across like it does live. We know that our fans love it when we play it live but for whatever reason we could not capture it in the studio. I think that’s because of the energy that a crowd brings to us and draws out that performance. We just thought ‘well if we can’t do it in the studio good enough, why not just put a live version on the record?’

What would you say you learned from the first album that informed the recording of Happy Endings?

We learned who our fans are. We didn’t really know when we first put out an album if it was even going to work. We definitely learned that our fans listen to the words and the lyrics, and every piece of it. They really dig in. They want to know what we have to say. They make it the soundtrack of their day and their life, whether that be going to work or at work, or on the weekend or whenever. That’s what we wanted. I think we learned who they were and we felt comfortable showing them a little bit more of our mature songwriting side because we knew they would listen to it.

Old Dominion’s new album Happy Endings is released on Friday 25th August 2017 through Sony Music. 

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