By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski, GetOut
The last time Old Dominion played Country Thunder, very few were aware of the band’s talents. This year when it performed at the Florence festival in early April, it was different.
The single “Nowhere Fast” from its debut album “Meat and Candy” has garnered spins on pop stations, including Sirius XM’s The Pulse. Old Dominion won the Academy of Country Music’s best new vocal duo/group of the year prize. It was also nominated for vocal group of the year at ceremony, but lost to Little Big Town.
After nine years as a band, it’s making a national splash.
“We’ve been a band for a really long time,” said lead singer Matthew Ramsey, whose band opens for Kenny Chesney on his “Spread the Love Tour” on Saturday, May 7, at Chase Field. “We’ve been playing little clubs and touring in a van and stuff like that for years and years and years. We made little EPs and gave them out for free.
“We had one on iTunes once we started getting satellite radio (airplay). It’s hard to do that as an independent band.”
Old Dominion found a record label to help and it was then time to release “Meat and Candy,” a title that refers to the waves of intense and then fun songs.
“It’s hard to break into the radio world,” Ramsey said. “We needed a record label to do that. Once the record label came on board and we got a single rockin’, it was time to release our full-length album.”
The reviews have been stellar from the Nashville-bred band. NPR called “Meat and Candy” “first-rate craftsmanship.” That was something that thrilled Ramsey.
“We were geeking out pretty hard on that,” Ramsey said with a laugh. “We’re all NPR fans. We listen to that a lot. To hear our name mentioned on that was a big moment for us to go, ‘Whoa, this is real now. We’re actually out there in the world.’”
The last 12 months have been filled with landmarks. Last year Old Dominion also toured with Chesney, marking the first time an independent band was invited on a stadium tour.
“That was a huge moment for us,” he said. “To have our first No. 1 song this year, that was mind blowing. We’ve had a lot of moments that left us saying, ‘Can you believe this is really happening?’”
The first Chesney tour was definitely a learning experience for Old Dominion, Ramsey said. He expects Chesney — as well as Miranda Lambert and Sam Hunt, who are also on the bill — to school them further this spring and summer.
“We’ve learned so much from that guy,” he said. “He’s the best there is. From a performing standpoint, you just learn about connecting with your fans and song choice.
“From a business standpoint, you learn about his organization and the people he hires and surrounds himself with. I’ve never met someone on the tour who’s in a bad mood — ever. They’re all so happy to be there. He takes care of us when we’re out there. We learned how to tour and how to do it the right way.”
It has also spoiled Old Dominion.
“I love playing baseball stadiums,” Ramsey said. “We have to figure out our set length. We have to get as much bang for our buck as we can. We want to get out there and make sure we’re energetic. You have to be a bigger band on a bigger stage.
“You can take your time when you’re at a club. You have a long set and you can talk to the audience a little bit more. You can hear the people and you can feel that energy.”