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Brandy Clark and Old Dominion Laugh About Haters and Hot Rollers

The acclaimed songwriters meet for coffee and interview each other about everything from van life to forgetting lyrics

Becky Fluke
June 23, 2014 12:15 PM ET

Brandy Clark remembers what it's like to be one of the guys in Old Dominion. It was less than a year ago that she was a behind-the-scenes songwriter responsible for some of the biggest hits on country radio, including Miranda Lambert's "Mama's Broken Heart," the Band Perry's "Better Dig Two" and Kacey Musgraves' "Follow Your Arrow." Now she's a household name in country music, topping critics' lists with her own album, the stellar 12 Stories, and opening shows for Jennifer Nettles.

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Old Dominion's Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, Whit Sellers, Geoff Sprung and Brad Tursi are quietly successful in their own right, and hoping to change the amplification with their upcoming debut album. Ramsey is one of the lyrical masterminds behind the Band Perry's "Chainsaw" and Luke Bryan's "Goodbye Girl," while he and Rosen collaborated on Craig Morgan's "Wake Up Loving You." Tursi has written songs for Kenny Chesney, the Randy Rogers Band and for the ABC musical drama, Nashville. Rosen was Clark's co-writer, along with Shane McAnally, on "Better Dig Two." And all five have been hitting the songwriting pavement for years, writing for other artists as well as for their own LP, which will include their breakout song, "Dirt on a Road," and new single, "Shut Me Up."

Clark and Old Dominion met up one recent morning near Nashville's Music Row to play journalist for one laughter-packed hour. Making our jobs pretty easy here at Rolling Stone Country, they decided to interview each other, and we just sat back and enjoyed the show.

Clark: Where'd the name Old Dominion come from?

Ramsey: Old Dominion is the nickname for the state of Virginia, and four of us have ties to Virginia.

Tursi: Where'd the name Brandy Clark come from?

[Laughter]

Clark: My dad had a tattoo on his arm that said "Karen." He'd had three girlfriends named Karen. He wanted to name me Karen so that tattoo would mean something else, but my mom said no.

Ramsey: That's a way better story than ours!

Rosen: Was your mom's name Karen?

Clark: No. Sally! [Laughs] He had that tattoo until he died, and I think he thought naming me Karen would be the big fix. Okay, back to y'all. Did the writing come first or the band?

Ramsey: I moved here for the writing. I started writing songs because I wanted to perform them, but I didn't come here with that as the goal. I came here to learn to write better songs.

Clark: So you guys first got together as songwriters?

Rosen: Yes. I moved here for the same reasons. So we wrote a lot of songs together. Matt had the band together, and at some point we had been writing so much together that I just said, "I'm joining the band. You need me on harmony."

Clark: I got to see y'all play last week, and you have such great energy. You're one of my favorite live bands out there. What's your favorite gig you've ever played?

Tursi: We have a little following down in Rome, Georgia, that's really connected with the music. Everyone down there is singing along to every word. There's a song we have called "Day One," and it has a lot of words, so see the crowd know every word…

Ramsey: It's a commitment to know those words, because even I don't know them every night! [Laughs] But everyone was singing louder than us.

Tursi: So Brandy, you're going on tour with Eric Church. That has to be exciting.

Clark: I'm thrilled.

Ramsey: Are you taking a band?

[Laughter]

Clark: I am taking a band! Come on, we're playing Madison Square Garden!

Rosen: So how did that come about?

Clark: I think it was because he's a fan of my album, 12 Stories. I've been really lucky, not having a major label deal, to have press and to have other artists take notice. People like Eric, Kacey Musgraves, Jennifer Nettles… Jennifer gave me 51 dates this year. That's such a gift. It's one thing to say in an interview, 'I really love that person's music,' which she has a lot, but to really put your money where your mouth is and introduce that person to fans, that's huge.

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Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

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When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

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