Including their recent chart-topper, 'Break Up With Him.'
Credit: Michael Elins

Today, Old Dominion dropped Meat & Candy, their deceptively smart, occasionally cheeky, stellar debut. While it’s their first collection, singer Matthew Ramsey, guitarist/keyboardist Trevor Rosen, guitarist Brad Tursi, bassist Geoff Sprung, and drummer Whit Sellers have been successful players in Music City for years, penning hits for the likes of Jake Owen, Keith Urban, Sam Hunt, Luke Bryan, and more. (They’ve also been a band for years, some members since their college days in Virginia.)

As they just topped the charts with their debut single, the infectious “Break Up With Him,” EW caught up with the guys in New York City to hear stories behind tracks they wrote for other artists that became country No. 1’s.

The Band Perry, “Better Dig Two,” 2012: Trevor Rosen

Trevor Rosen: “I was writing on Music Row in Nashville with Shane McAnally one day — and this was back before any of us had any hits — and Brandy Clark was in the next room and popped in just to say hey before we all left for the day. I had my guitar in my hands and was just mindlessly picking and Brandy said, ‘What is that? That sounds really cool.’ So we all started messing around and about an hour later we had a decent start on that song but we were done for the day so we were like, ‘Let’s just record it and come back to it,’ except then we forgot about it [laughs]. A year later were at a writer’s retreat and when me, Shane, and Brandy got paired up, Shane said, ‘You know, I think we had something a long time ago.’ So we pulled it up and were like, ‘Holy s–t!’”

Dierks Bentley, “Say You Do,” 2014: Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen

Matthew Ramsey: “This was Shane McAnally, Trevor, and myself. I remember Shane walked into the room — you know, he does his thing where he’s all excited and busts into a room like Kramer and just dives right in. He was like, ‘This idea came to me on the way here…’ And he just started saying, ‘Say you do, say you might, for tonight.’ He was like, ‘I don’t even know what that means but I think it’s cool.’ And we were thankfully smart enough to trust him. Usually when Shane’s excited, it serves you well to go with it.”

“And sometimes songs are work and sometimes it seems like they write themselves. With that one, it seemed to write itself. I remember going home and listening to it over and over and over and textng these guys going, ‘I don’t know what we just did but I think it’s big.’ As a band, we were playing it out a lot and it was kind of hard to let go — they’re not always to let go. For the rest of the world, that’s Dierks Bentley’s song now and it helps us in our live show to add a little cred to what we do.”

Tyler Farr, “A Guy Walks Into A Bar,” 2015: Brad Tursi

Brad Tursi: “I was going to write with Jonathan Singleton and Melissa Pierce, and I had the idea of the title while I was pulling up to the studio. And it’s one of those titles where it was like, ‘Someone has to have written this song before!’ But we looked it up and we couldn’t find one — except Matthew has one! [laughs]”

Ramsey: “Now, every time I’m looking through songs on iTunes for song titles or whatever, I’m like, ‘Oh there’s ‘A Guy Walks Into A Bar’ and mine’s nowhere near as good as his. [laughs]'”

Tursi: So yeah, we just realized it hadn’t been written yet so we wrote it. And then Tyler Farr heard Jonathan playing it at a bar and put the song on hold right then. And it turns out there was a little bit of a feud with this song — Blake Shelton wanted to record it as well. I think Tyler did a great job with it.”

Blake Shelton, “Sangria,” 2015: Trevor Rosen

Rosen: “That was with Josh Osborne and JT Harding — we’ve written together for years and years. Josh had apparently tried to write that title with Sarah Evans and for whatever reason it wasn’t working. So he had that title he was like, ‘I was thinking imaging this with a girl singing, but what if it was a guy saying, ‘Your lips taste like sangria?’’ And we just sort of found that groove — we were going for Chris Isaac kind of sexy groove and I started playing that sort of Spanish-y kind of riff and it took off.”

“[And] It’s funny, you might think a song is so right for someone and, inevitably, they never cut it. When they said Blake had this one on hold I was like, ‘Alright, that would be cool’ but he wasn’t the first person I thought of, but now it’s impossible not to think of Blake for it. He made it his.”

Kenny Chesney, “Save It For A Rainy Day,” 2014: Matthew Ramsey, Brad Tursi

Ramsey: “This was a fun one. The morning of the write, I was in the shower and thinking about what we could write that day. That title came to my head and that twist — take a heartbreak and tuck it away — felt like something fun to write. I went in and played the chorus for Brad and Andrew [Dorff] and they were like, ‘Well yeah, let’s write the verses!’ [laughs] And that was a really easy write, it took us like 45 minutes to do the whole thing. About halfway through I was like, ‘Wow, this sounds like it could be a great Chesney song….'”

“And that never happens! The person you picture never cuts it! But magically it did. We laugh sometimes because Brad makes home demos a lot and I was asking him if he was going to make a demo of that song and he kind of said maybe and I said, ‘Well, do you want a Chesney-cut or not?’ And the next thing you know we’re singing it with him in Gillette Stadium, which was insane.”

Old Dominion, “Break Up With Him,” 2015

Rosen: “It started at soundcheck. Whit started playing the beat, I started playing, and we dropped into a groove. When that happens, a lot of times I’ll grab my phone and start recording it — so I recorded the groove and we put it aside. We were driving that night — and this was back when we had a van, not a tour bus — and everyone was pretty much asleep but Matt popped up and was like, ‘Man, I was thinking about that groove, I had this idea…’ We were trying to be quiet, not to wake everyone up so he started whispering about what if it was a one-sided phone conversation – so one of the first things he said was, ‘Hey girl, what’s up?’ just trying to be quiet, but that started the whole thing. So we worked on it quite a bit there and then we were rehearsing in Texas a couple years ago and we brought it back to the band and we all hammered it out together.”