t’s not exactly breaking news to suggest that Music Row isn’t a hotbed of casual spontaneity in terms of its day-to-day operations. Album releases are scheduled many months in advance, same with how studios are booked solid for the foreseeable future. Songwriter’s Gmail calendars are typically packed with carefully slotted co-writing sessions, with each morning and afternoon of a given week looking like an expert game of Tetris.
It’s not unheard of for the most major of record labels to painstakingly plot out the breaking of a new artist, which sometimes results in a new record being shelved for a certain length of time. It’s all about proper planning, checking market trends, protecting yourself against risk, optimizing any move you make for the highest reward.
Consisting of Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, Whit Sellers, Geoff Sprung and Brad Tursi, modern country pop band Old Dominion has seen all the methods and strategies a record label might employ since forming in 2007. As with any rule, however, there are exceptions. And with a couple of gold records and a handful of No.1 hit singles to its name, Old Dominion is a band that’s earned the right to absolutely be one of the proverbial hit-making exceptions to the often restrictively controlling record label rules.
For the five-piece band’s new self-titled RCA Nashville record, producer and longtime ally Shane McAnally was enlisted to helm the free-spirited sessions that resulted in a record that’s already spawned a couple of hits in “Make it Sweet,” the group’s most recent No.1, as well as the breezy, groove-intensive “One Man Band.” Aside from a few musical and lyrical bits and pieces here and there, what listeners experience on the new record was conceived and perfected in the studio by the band and its producer acting as craftsmen toiling away in a tool- and scrap-filled workshop.
Lead singer Matthew Ramsey found the sessions to be just what the group needed at this point in its existence. The picture he paints of free-flowing creative brainstorming is more or less the opposite of what many efficiency-focused, quick turnaround Nashville recording sessions are often like.
“It was very relaxed, and at times, very spontaneous,” the Virginia-native says over the phone, with a slightly mischievous chuckle growing more obvious. “There would be times when we’d be sitting in the control room and we would be like, ‘O.K. what are we going to do next?’”
For what it’s worth, from Ramsey’s perspective, his label bosses weren’t wringing their hands and fretting too terribly over the band’s carefree approach. Some might think such hands-off freedom is the result of a band winning autonomy after netting its corporate minders an office full of gold plaques and stockholder earnings, but Old Dominion hasn’t yet toiled under the overbearing eyes or watch-tapping fingers of any such executive overlords up to this juncture.
“Our record label has always been supportive of what we want to do,” he says. “They’ve never so much as poked their head into any session of ours. I do think they sensed our excitement about what we were doing and how we were doing it.”
The video for “One Man Band” complete with raw, behind-the-scenes footage of the group and their producer at work in the studio, might as well be a cinema verité fly-on-the-wall piece of documentary film-making. Mixed in with footage of the guys playing the song live on a concert stage, are clips of the band taking notes, referring to their phones and goofing around in the studio while the song developed from nebulous idea to a fully-formed work of art, ready for mass consumption.
“The video is a good snapshot of what its like to be in this band,” Ramsey says. “It’s a very collaborative, constant discussion about what the next move is, what the next song is, what the next album will be like.
In fact, the origin story of that song specifically offers another glimpse into the democratic conceptualization the band employs as often as possible.
“We usually look for the collective agreement when deciding how a song should end up,” Ramsey explains. “‘One Man Band’ was a song we had worked on a little before the studio. It had more of a reggae feel to it with more of a full-band thing. But one night before we played a show, Brad played something by himself in the dressing room and we all looked at each other, and just knew that was how the song would need to be once we got into the studio. The right path usually reveals itself to us in terms of what will work best.”
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The best friends. The best people. Thank you @mattkjenkins @joshosbornesongwriter @shanemcanally and @trosen41 for continually taking time out of your busy schedules to help me raise money for those in need where I grew up. Your music and laughter reach further than you realize.
Of course, it’s safe to assume that even the most analytical, number-crunching, spreadsheet-reading bean counter would be put at ease by the presence of one of Nashville’s hottest producers joining a proven group of hitmaking musicians. As a producer for a recent string of critical and commercial successes from Kacey Musgraves, Sam Hunt, Midland, and of course, the previous two Old Dominion albums, 2015’s Meat and Candy, as well as 2017’s Happy Endings, McAnally has earned widespread praise and trust for his impeccable ear and unflinching honesty.
The Texas-native is also a hit songwriter and musician, so his ability to relate to artists and execs in equal measure is certainly a commodity in Music City as precious as platinum. But McAnally and the men of Old Dominion have a bond forged by something deeper than professional respect.
“The beauty of our relationship with Shane,” Ramsey says, “is that we’ve all known each other for so long. He’s been with us since before we had any success or before he had any real success. His instincts are so strong. He knows our ins and outs, and strengths and weaknesses, and he’s quick to point out both, which he can do because he’s our brother.”
There’s no getting around the fact that in today’s modern country landscape, cranking out albums and singles which millions people will click on and spend money on is vital to a band keeping control over their music. Old Dominion is compromised of musicians who are also songwriters, and just happen to have a keen sense of how to construct a song that sells. Although some starving artists might automatically connect a song’s commercial aspirations with its artistic merits–as in, the slicker the tune, the lower its true substance—Ramsey and his mates welcome the challenge that comes with crafting a “commercial song” that sells as much as it appeals to hearts and souls.
There’s a place for the bleeding-heart poet, the swaggering indie-minded rocker and the introspective coffeehouse balladeer. But for Old Dominion, its seat at the storytelling table is every bit as substantive, hard-earned and artistically challenging as anyone else’s. If intentions matter as much as the recorded output, and art is deeper than what simply shows up on the surface, then Old Dominion’s chosen medium is unquestionably valid. “In the beginning for us,” he explains, “it was very intentional for us to be a commercial band. We made no bones about it with our first album. We wanted to deliver an album full of radio hits and it served us well.”
He goes onto explain the value of understanding the system in which you’re working, as well as the importance of finding the right way to give people what they want while still saying what you want to as an artist. Ramsey says that now “the commercial side of things is so ingrained in us.” Because of that intrinsic nature, Old Dominion can now be themselves, while more coincidentally rather than purposefully, producing albums that sparkle.
“We like hooks and the sing-along element to the more commercial songs,” Ramsey adds. “It does take skill and hard work to speak to an audience about their lives and to have them feel something and for us to speak about our lives with a certain degree of vulnerability, while still packaging it nicely in a commercial song. That all takes a lot of work.”“When you learn how to write songs in Nashville, there are some unwritten rules, for lack of a better term, on how to create a song that’s commercially viable. You learn the rules and then you learn how to let go of them and push them a little bit. But ultimately, the more commercial songs are what we’re drawn to and what speaks to us creatively.
With another album sure to be a hit, thanks to songs that are surely to blow the roof off any room the group performs in, regardless of how massive they may be, Old Dominion’s goals are likely to remain as simple moving forward as they were when it came time to make this infectious, pleasing new album.
“It was special because there really wasn’t any hard plan when we went in,” Ramsey says. “We just went in to make music together, which is really all we ever want to do.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Spanning nearly 50 years, the music of Don Williams continues to connect adoring fans around the world, reminding them of simpler times and traditional country music. Now in 2019, Don celebrates two remarkable milestones; first being the 45th anniversary of Don’s first #1 hit “I Wouldn’t Want To Live If You Didn’t Love Me” and secondly being the first country artist to tour post-death as his touring band will be performing live with Don’s vocal and presence appearing via special technology.
“It has taken us over a year to get this show together,” says Don’s longtime manager Robert Pratt. “Fans will experience something that is truly remarkable as they will see performance footage of Don that has rarely been seen and all of Don’s vocals were taken from live recordings as they were performed around the world. In addition, I am honored that Keith Urban is serving as the shows curator.”
In total, Don Williams’ illustrious career generated a total of 17 #1 Hits and 38 Top 5 Hits on Billboard’s Hot Country Charts. 2019 also marks the 40th anniversary of his #1 hits “It Must Be Love” and “Love Me All Over Again.” He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010, and was best known for his straightforward, yet smooth bass-baritone voice and soft tones which earned him the nickname The Gentle Giant of Country Music.
Don Williams: Music & Memories of The Gentle Giant takes its residency at Nashville’s famed Schermerhorn Symphony Center for three nights starting October 31 and will reflect on the Country Music Hall of Fame members music, accompanied by the Nashville Symphony.
Williams – (1939-2017) – was one of the earliest Country artists to take their music globally. In addition to his North American success, The Gentle Giant toured extensively throughout Europe and Africa and his legendary songs reached all corners of the globe and continue to capture the hearts of fans worldwide. His catalog is among the most streamed music from his era.
About Don Williams:
Williams first came to prominence in the 1960s as a member of the folk group The Pozo-Seco Singers. The trio recorded several hit records, with the biggest being “Time.” By 1971, Williams had gone solo, and had signed a publishing deal with Jack Clement. The Hall of Fame producer was so taken with Don’s style that he offered him a recording contract with his JMI Records in 1972. Early hits included “Atta Way To Go” and “Come Early Morning,” as well as “We Should Be Together,” which became his first Billboard top ten hit from 1974. He then moved to ABC / Dot (Later MCA), where the hits increased. Tracks such as “Rake and Ramblin’ Man,” “Tulsa Time,” and “Nobody But You” helped to make him one of the most-played artists on Country Radio in the 1970s and 1980s. He took home the Male Vocalist of the Year trophy from the Country Music Association in 1978, and notched his biggest hit in 1981 with “I Believe In You,” which also crossed over to the top-30 on the Hot 100.
Subsequent moves to Capitol Nashville and RCA kept Williams o n the charts into the 1990s, as he continued to play for huge crowds on the road. His success in the United States is well. Tickets for these shows are on sale via Ticketmaster and are also currently available with Nashville Symphony season ticket packages at NashvilleSymphony.org, 615-687-6400 or the Schermerhorn Symphony Center box office.
At first he had resentments toward me and tried to hide them,
but we both felt something needed to be resolved.
For some reason it was hard to talk directly at the REAL subject.
I knew that he had heard a lot of things about me from his mother…
not all good.
Some were probably true.
Then he went away for a few more years before we tried again.
The next time was better.
We both had had time to think things over.
People told us we walked and laughed exactly alike.
We understood each other’s humor.
We were sitting with our wives in a barbecue restaurant
on one of his visits.
We both reached for the check, and I said,
“I’ve never done a damn thing for you,
so I’m going to do this one thing, and then THAT’S IT!”
He said this: “Aw, gee, pops. I wanted to go to college.”
We all broke up laughing.
That was the last time Misty and I saw him alive…
at least I think so.
That whole period is sort of mixed up in my mind.
He was riding his motorcycle in traffic
when the car in front of him hit the brakes.
Donn’s bike hit the car and threw him.
We rushed from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale to the hospital,
and he looked perfectly healthy,
except he was brain dead.
I talked to him anyway.
After that it’s all a blur.
Somebody pulled the plug and Donn died,
There was a little funeral in northern Tennessee.
I keep thinking of things I should have said and done differently.
I guess that’s natural.
Maybe someday we’ll get another chance to hash it all out.
The 50th anniversary celebration of Dolly Parton’s Opry induction will soon be available to watch from a living room near you. Dolly Parton: 50 Years at the Grand Ole Opry, a special airing on NBC, will highlight the country icon’s return to the Opry stage for her milestone anniversary. “I’m so thrilled to be celebrating my 50-year anniversary with the Grand Ole Opry,” Parton said in a press release. “I’m also excited that NBC wanted to share in this milestone with me. Together we hope to entertain a broader audience on what the Grand Ole Opry is and what it means to me. We have some special treats, surprises and great performances by some very talented artists and I’m looking so forward to sharing it with you.”
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It’s finally #DollyWeek and we couldn’t be more excited! Hope you see you at the #Opry this week! 🦋💫 #Repost @dollyparton My first performance as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1969. This week we’re celebrating 50 years ❤️ Time sure flies when you’re having fun! #DollyOpry50
“Dolly Parton’s impact on country music is beyond description, and she remains a cherished icon,” added Doug Vaughan, Executive Vice President, Special Programs, NBC Entertainment. “Dolly will always have a home at NBC and we can’t wait for her to deliver her wonderful collection of hits to the Opry stage.” In addition to celebrating her 50 years as a Grand Ole Opry member, the special will feature new interviews from Parton, as well as a new performance. In addition, Dierks Bentley, Emmylou Harris, Chris Janson, Toby Keith, Lady Antebellum, Margo Price, Hank Williams Jr. and others will take part in celebrating the legend. Dolly Parton: 50 Years at the Grand Ole Opry airs Tuesday, Nov. 26 from 9-11 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
Fresh off the success of his hits “This Is It” and “Five More Minutes,” country crooner Scotty McCreery will play the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 11. Joining him as special guests are country singer-songwriter Heather Morgan and up-and-comer Adam Doleac. This will be McCreery’s first time playing the historic venue in six years. “When you play in Nashville, you’ve got to be on you’re A-game, and when you play the Ryman Auditorium, you have to give it everything you’ve got,” the singer shared. “I cannot wait to be back on that stage where my heroes have performed.”
McCreery took to Instagram to announce the show in a video. “I’ve been looking forward to this for a while now,” he said. “We’re going to have a fun night.” McCreery will head overseas later in October to play shows in London and Manchester, England, as well as Berlin and Cologne, Germany, selling out both of his London shows. In November, the country star will join Old Dominion on their fall tour, and he will host the 2019 iHeart Country “One Night for Our Military” Veteran’s Day radio special, performing alongside the likes of Jason Aldean and Kelsea Ballerini.
Blake Shelton is teaming up with the Hallmark Channel again this holiday season, announcing a made-for-TV movie titled Time for You to Come Home for Christmas. Shelton is not expected to act in the film but is signed on to produce the project, which is sequel to his 2018 movie Time for Me to Come Home for Christmas. Both films are based on the song “Time for Me to Come Home,” which appears on Shelton’s 2012 album, Cheers, It’s Christmas. The hit country hit maker wrote the song with his mother, Dorothy Shackleford, and along with the Christmas movies it has also led to a book titled Time for Me to Come Home in 2013.
According to reporting by Entertainment Tonight, Time for You to Come Home for Christmas will star Lucas Bryant (Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD) and Alison Sweeney (Days of Our Lives), who will play a military veteran and young widow heading back to their Virginia hometown for Christmas. Over the course of the holiday and despite mysterious factors which seem likely to keep them apart, a wholesome love story will begin to snowball.
Time for You to Come Home for Christmas is part of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ “Miracles of Christmas,” and will premiere December 6 at 9 p.m. ET.