Old Dominion are helping fans set sail for summer with their fun-loving new single, “I Was On a Boat That Day,” riding the waves of a good buzz and leaving their worries at the dock.
Featuring a breezy country sound and all about getting over a breakup in booze-cruising style, it’s the first track revealed from the band’s upcoming fourth album — a fresh blast of their irreverent country approach. But according to front man Matthew Ramsey, the track is actually super old.
Speaking with Sounds Like Nashville about the band’s refreshing new jam, Ramsey revealed that “I Was On a Boat That Day” had its beginnings around the same time as their “Break Up With Him” breakout — “So, like eight years ago,” he says with a disbelieving laugh.
“But it had a different angle and a different feel back then, it was more like an alibi type of song – like ‘Don’t blame me! I was on a boat that day!'” Ramsey explains, saying the band had abandoned the track until just last summer. “Finally, for whatever reason, when we were in Asheville, North Carolina, working on this next project, we brought it up again and figured out a new angle – which was ‘You can’t be sad on a boat.’ [Laughs]. A boat day is a good day.”
He has a point. As a frequent boater himself, Ramsey knows how much fun can be had on the water — and the band knew just how to bring that feeling to life. Writing in typically clever Old Dominion fashion, the guys combine sunny singalong lyrics and a rowdy beat with a theme that’s always primed for a good time — even when the seas of life are stormy. Throw in a squeeze box and a fifth of dark rum, and you’ve got the up-tempo sand-bar anthem of the summer.
Meanwhile, “I Was On a Boat That Day” marks a historic first for the band as well, since Ramsey says it’s “the only song we’ve ever recorded that is all acoustic.” And the laid-back vibes are even captured in the band’s new imagery.
One often-used shot shows the band in full Miami-Vice mode, looking suave in loose-fitting suits and enjoying cigars in a tropical garden. But you’ll never guess who set it up.
“There’s an interesting story about that photo actually,” Ramsey remembers. “We knew we were gonna be in Key West [Florida] for our first show back … So we thought, ‘Well, while we’re in Key West, let’s use our week down there to collect all this imagery around boats and the tropical setting.’ That photo was actually taken in Kenny Chesney’s backyard! He has a house down there, and we knew we had a photo shoot later that afternoon. But we were all hanging out, having drinks and having a good time, and he was like ‘Why don’t we just do it here?’ And he starts basically art directing our photo shoot, so he like arranged us in his back yard, and it was hilarious. We had all had, you know, a few drinks in us. [Laughs]”
Looking forward, “I Was On a Boat That Day” is just one of the dozen or so new tracks that will be part of Old Dominion’s upcoming fourth studio album, which the guys created last year during a getaway studio trip to Asheville, North Carolina. Getting out of Nashville to let the creative forces flow, Ramsey says they would write songs in the morning and then record them that afternoon, aiming to come away with some in-the-moment magic. And it all went much better than expected.
“I think as a true band, that’s always been the way our heroes made music, was just to go into the studio and see what happened. But we have never had time to do that,” he says. “Then when touring got shut down, we thought ‘Well, now we have all this time on our hands. If we’re gonna ever get the opportunity to see what would happen, let’s pick a studio, go out of town so we don’t feel any pressure to fulfill any responsibility here at home. We can just be creative, and see what happens.'”
That’s what they did, and although they only expected to leave North Carolina with “4 or 5″ songs, Ramsey says they ended up with a whole album. The singer goes on to say fans can expect more tempo — like with “I Was On a Boat That Day” — and some classic Old-Dominion balladry, as they’ve done on hits like “One Man Band.” But he cautions that not having a plan does make things … unpredictable.
“We didn’t bring any songs into the studio that were previously written, so it was created spontaneously right there,” he says. “So, it can be a little all over the map with all different styles, because whatever a certain song needed, we just followed that.”
The band is expected to keep following their muse, and announce the album’s release date soon. But in the meantime, they’re getting back in the swing of touring. Following that first show in Key West, they’ve already begun headlining their full-scale An Evening With Old Dominion: The Band Behind the Curtain Tour, and along with a batch of fair and festival dates, they’ll embark on the We Are Old Dominion: Live From The Ballpark Tour of minor league baseball stadiums July 17 in Jackson, Tennessee.