Seriously, Old Dominion’s ‘Happy Endings’ Is a Serious Album
Old Dominion's lead single from Happy Endings carries a more serious tone than most from the group's debut album. Expect more like it.
While "No Such Thing as a Broken Heart" is ultimately a feel-good, reggae-inspired country jam, the song's signature lyric ("What am I gonna tell my kids when they see / All of this bulls–t that goes down on TV / When the whole world is down on its luck / I gotta make sure they keep that chin up") will knock your snapback off. That, singer Matt Ramsey tells Taste of Country, is what the group wanted to do with their sophomore album, out Aug. 25.
"I think that was the first conversation I had with Shane (producer Shane McAnally) about making this album," he says. "To show a little more of a serious side and show off our songwriting chops a little bit."
The best example is "Written in Sand," a glossy ballad that finds Ramsey wondering where a relationship is headed. McAnally and Old D's Trevor Rosen and Brad Tursi helped him write a song that asks "Are we written in the stars baby, or are we written in the sand?"
Find familiar longing in "Still Writing Songs About You" and "Be with Me," and look for a few sharp arrows during "Not Everything's About You" and "A Girl Is a Gun." It's stunning to find these well-rounded emotions coming from a group one could only describe as "feel-good" up to this point. Like the first time a new lover gets mad, the turn is uncomfortable before it becomes a satisfying sign of growth.
Old Dominion being Old Dominion, you'll still find traces of the wry wit found on Meat and Candy sprinkled across Happy Endings. "Shoe Shopping" is the best example, unless you're fortunate enough to spend any amount of time with the fivesome. It's difficult to keep an interview on the rails — 45 seconds into their conversation with ToC, Ramsey, Tursi, Geoff Sprung and Whit Sellers were busting on Rosen for his excessive use of the band's talk-back microphone. Instead of using it to make notes to his fellow musicians during a live performance, he'll order a beer or comment on a girl's T-shirt.
Just as the band was sincerely gushing over Little Big Town's performance during "Stars in the City," Rosen joked, "I thought they were gonna tank it to hold onto the vocal group of the year award." For the record, LBT did not tank it. Their harmonies during the chorus are unique, distinct and perfect.
For a moment during "No Such Thing as a Broken Heart," Ramsey wades into social commentary — something that happens no place else on Happy Endings. Still it's worth wondering what the father will tell his kids about all this bulls--t they see on TV?
"It’s hard," he says. "My kids definitely see the news and get scared, and you just have to say what the song says: you can’t be afraid of that stuff. You have to live your life and not be scared and try to put on a brave face and not let all that stuff get you down."
Singers, songwriters, fathers ... album by album, the layers of Old Dominion are peeling back. Happy Endings may not be the album you expected, but it's the album they needed to make.
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