The Five Best Surprises We Saw at ‘Old Dominion and Friends’

When the Mother Church of country music announces a special benefit show called “An Evening With Old Dominion and Friends,” you know it’s going to be a night everyone will be talking about for days to come. First off, the fellas of Old Dominion are on an undeniable hot streak with hit after hit – and you can guarantee they’re going to play ALL of them. Second, when these guys invite friends to a party, there’s no telling who will show up! From former tour mates, mentors, and co-writers, the September 18 sold-out bash with the reigning ACM Vocal Group of the Year became a celebration of sorts as Music City welcomed home one of its best. Here are the five best surprises when Old Dominion took the stage at the historic Ryman Auditorium in support of the Ryan Seacrest Foundation and the Opry Trust Fund.

Kenny Chesney

We caught up with lead singer Matthew Ramsey before Old Dominion’s performance on the televised CMA Fest special last month, and he had nothing but the highest of compliments for friend and mentor Kenny Chesney. There’s a lot to learn from the world class entertainer when building your live show in front of massive crowds on multiple stadium tours the last few years. It’s hard to describe just how loud the Ryman became when Chesney stepped out to sing “Save It for a Rainy Day” with Matthew, Brad, Trevor, Geoff and Whit – but as big of a surprise it was, it made sense that he would be there to help celebrate such a memorable night for the band. After all, it was Matthew and Brad who penned the song which would go on to become a smash hit off Chesney’s 2014 album, The Big Revival.

Old Dominion's Matthew Ramsey and Kelsea Ballerini

Old Dominion’s Matthew Ramsey and Kelsea Ballerini; Photo Credit: Mason Allen

Kelsea Ballerini 

One of the best surprises of the night was when Kelsea Ballerini joined the guys to finish the end of “Written in the Sand,” one of their most successful releases to date. Ballerini, knowing a thing or two about number one songs, added a sassy dose of personality, representing for the ladies of country music. We were all excited when we learned she would be sticking around for a second song, and the sing-a-long continued when she jumped into “I Hate Love Songs,” co-written with Old Dominion’s Trevor Rosen and Shane McAnally.

Michael Ray and Old Dominion's Matthew Ramsey

Michael Ray and Old Dominion’s Matthew Ramsey; Photo Credit: Mason Allen

Michael Ray

Next out of the wings was Michael Ray, who we feel lucky enough to have seen back-to-back nights already this week. Only in Nashville! Ray is currently hitting the road as an opener for Old Dominion out on the Happy Endings World Tour, and we got a preview of that stellar lineup right here at the Mother Church. “Probably the nicest guy in country music right now,” Ramsey said as he welcomed Ray to the stage to perform his latest single, “One That Got Away.” Featuring Ramsey as one of the writers, the song clearly ended up in the right hands as Ray continues to make a splash at country radio with this total jam.

Sam Hunt and Old Dominion;s Matthew Ramsey

Sam Hunt and Old Dominion;s Matthew Ramsey; Photo Credit: Mason Allen

Sam Hunt

And last, but certainly not least, the final Old Dominion friend to raise the roof right off the Ryman was none other than Sam Hunt himself. “I was writing songs with these guys before any of us had record deals,” Hunt shared as he reflected on his longstanding friendship with the band. “Make You Miss Me” did incredible things for Hunt’s career off his 2014 debut album, Montevallo, and he looked no further than Ramsey when it came time to sit down and write it. The song (paired with a follow up performance of “Ex To See”) really came to life in front of us Tuesday night, and we were all reminded just how powerful collaboration can be when you combine just the right amounts of talent, drive and impeccable storytelling.

(L-R) Whit Sellers, Brad Tursi, Matthew Ramsey, Sally Williams, Trevor Rosen, Geoff Sprung; Photo Credit: Mason Allen

The Hits, ALL of the Hits

Well, it’s no surprise that the set list covered the band’s entire catalog of hits. But how could we not include them?! From the opening notes of “Song For Another Time” at the top of the show to the crowd-wide sing-a-long to “Snapback” during the encore, it was an on your feet, know all the words, special kind of homecoming for Old Dominion and fans alike. “Hotel Key” reminded everyone that there’s always an important place in the arc of a show for a summertime, feel good jam, “Nowhere Fast” nearly opened the flood gates as the band felt the weight of playing on such a legendary stage, “Stars in the City” highlighted their flawless harmonies, and “No Such Thing as a Broken Heart” proved that clapping along will never go out of style. Some things are simply effortless, and the way lead singer Matthew Ramsey delivers a lyric is enough to make anyone a believer – even when he tells you to “rip it off like a Band-Aid,” you should probably just go ahead and break up with whoever he or she is… I mean, the guy seems to know what he’s talking about.