For Old Dominion, their third single – “Song For Another Time” – might just be their most charming, and certainly their most unique, yet.
“This song means so much to me and I’m so proud of how it came out,” frontman Matt Ramsey tells PEOPLE of the band’s follow-up to their big hits “Break Up with Him” and “Snapback.”
What makes it so special? The lyrics are actually made up of 20 other song titles – and the song almost didn’t make the album. It was written on their tour bus one evening last summer on the Kenny Chesney tour, just days before the album was finished.
“Then we played it at a sound check one day,” Ramsey, 38, says. “We were in I think Gillette Stadium and it was massive sounding. It just sounded so big, and we all just looked at each other and said, ‘Man, we are making a mistake if we don’t get back home and record this song!’ We called our producer and the record label and said, ‘Please let us book a flight home and assemble this team for one more song,’ and we did. A lot of the background vocals and things like that were recorded in dressing rooms and hotel rooms and things like that on the road, because we had to get it done. We’re so happy that it’s getting a shot.”
The initial idea for “Song For Another Time,” first came to Ramsey from hearing people say the phrase, “Well, that’s a story for another time.” We were on the back of the bus and I said, ‘I have this title called ‘Song For Another Time,’ and I need some help figuring out what that means,” says Ramsay. “We wound up thinking, ‘What if we could tell a story about a couple that is losing each other, but they’re still trying to hold on and hold onto this moment. And tell it using song titles.’ The band, along with co-writer Matt Jenkins, had the song written that night.
Ramsey breaks down the 20 song titles name-checked in the song:
“Marina Del Rey” (George Strait)
“Trevor threw that one out. I think that’s the first song that he ever learned to play on piano. It’s an iconic George Strait song that, if you’re a fan of country music like we are, that’s a big one. It’s poignant for the story that we were telling because it’s got that happy and sad mix. It’s this amazing relationship, but it’s over, but I’m happy it happened, but I’m sad it’s ending.”
“Just such an iconic song. We wanted to pick songs that people would definitely know and feel, and they’re definitely emotional songs, especially in the verse. That’s one that’s such an emotional and sad song that we had to throw it in there.”
“I Can’t Make You Love Me” (Bonnie Raitt)
“That’s one of my, and I know it’s one of Brad’s, all-time favorite songs. It’s so painful and it just rips my heart out every time. It’s so simple and there’s no real tricks in it. It’s just raw, from-the-heart words, and it just fits together so perfectly. To reference that song, that’s the pain that I think this couple is getting ready to feel, that real pain. But before that happens, let’s enjoy this moment.”
“Brown-Eyed Girl” (Van Morrison)
“Once you get into the chorus, we wanted those fun songs that a couple could listen to together and sing, and “Brown Eyed Girl” is one that everyone has had a moment with – driving down the road singing, ‘Sha la la la la.’ That is just, let’s get lost in this moment and have fun right here now, song. It’s the ultimate song for that.”
“Sweet Caroline” (Neil Diamond)
That’s one too. These are just explosions of joy. That “Sweet Caroline,” you just hear it at a baseball game, everyone goes, ‘Ba-ba-ba.’ It’s those fun little images of people just enjoying themselves.”
“Free Fallin'” (Tom Petty)
“The giant chorus of these two people just in that moment, like you want to be free fallin’ with somebody. Tom Petty is obviously a huge influence on this band. There was a club that we used to play a long time ago, probably eight years ago, we used to play all the time, and they used to call us the heart-breakers all the time because half of our set was Tom Petty songs.”
“Small Town Saturday Night” (Hal Ketchum)
“That one was a huge influence for Trevor. He was a big Hal Ketchum fan. He’s one of the people that inspired him to go to Nashville. That song meant a lot to me too growing up, because I am from a small town, and that song described everything that we did.”
“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” (Righteous Brothers)
“You know, we’re big Top Gun fans, so that’s always on our minds. In the writing process, you have to turn it back to the hook a little bit. We’re happy, happy, happy, let’s figure out a way to say, “Before you lose that lovin’ feelin’,” and point the lyrics back to our hook a little bit. That one is one that worked well there.”
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“Dancing on the Ceiling” (Lionel Richie)
I’m a huge Lionel Richie fan and I think that one might be one that flips under the radar sometimes, with at least the country audience. I just think Lionel Richie is a genius. ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ is one of those songs that excites me and makes me want to party and have fun. I like how it fit there.”
“Teenage Dream” (Katy Perry)
That was probably one of the harder ones to figure out what should go in that spot. We had all these iconic songs and we wanted something current. We needed something that we felt like was a big song, but was also a newer song. ‘Teenage Dream,’ as songwriters, that’s another that we always talk about. What a perfect song. It has that mix too, it’s a happy song, but it has this sad undertone to it too, just like ‘Song For Another Time’ does.
“Paradise City” (Guns N’ Roses)
That’s Brad right there. He’s a Guns N’ Roses guy through and through. That was his first concert ever. He went with a church youth group to a Guns N’ Roses concert, which is odd. It’s funny, we have a little intro that plays before we play live, and it goes through snippets of a lot of these songs that are in it. For just 10 seconds, when the crowd hears that guitar for the Guns N’ Roses, they go nuts.”
“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” (Hank Williams)
“That’s like the pinnacle of sad country songs right there. Pretty soon, that’s what he’s going to be feeling. Pretty soon, I’ll be so lonesome I could cry, and that set the hook perfectly. That’s a song for another time, that’s not for right now. Right now, I want to be with you.”
“One More Day” (Diamond Rio)
“One More Day” is one that, I remember that song first coming out when I first moved to Nashville. That was one that took me off guard and sounded so different. Again, I’m always impressed with lyrics that seem so simple and it sounds like someone just talking to you, and so easy to sing, and so easy to say. Those lyrics really hit home, and it’s a really powerful song.
“Take Me Home, Country Roads” (John Denver)
“Some of them just fell into place perfectly, and that seemed to be one of them. Each song almost creates a different image for me when I’m singing it. I can close my eyes and when I hear that song, I get an image, and when I say those words in our song, I get the same image. It is just a windows down, back in my hometown in Virginia, just riding down this little back road that I used to go down all the time.”
“Oh Pretty Woman” (Roy Orbison)
“That one was just like, be my pretty woman. You are right now, and when you’re riding down that country road with a beautiful girl by your side, that’s what she is.”
“Sunday Morning Coming Down” (Johnny Cash)
“That was another iconic country song that I grew up listening to. Lots of people have covered that song, Kris Kristofferson wrote it, and then Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson, and I feel like all of those iconic country guys recorded that song. It means so much to country music, and it fit nicely there.”
“Pink Houses” (John Mellencamp)
“‘Pink Houses’ is one that we’ve actually been playing a lot right now in our set because we love it so much. It’s just a great anthem song, and it paints such a great picture of America and humanity. I felt like we needed to put that in there because we spent a lot of time as a cover band in the past, and we’ve played that song a million times probably, and we still love playing it.”
“Candle In the Wind” (Elton John)
“That’s such an image – that candle in the wind – just those words alone, ‘You live your life like a candle in the wind.’ To put a relationship into that realm, ‘We’re a candle in the wind,’ you don’t need to say anything else. You know exactly what that means, and those are some words that mean one thing and one thing only.”
“Always on My Mind” (Willie Nelson)
“That one is in the same category for me as “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” It’s just so perfect, and so simple, and so painful. It breaks my heart every single time I hear it, and it’s like, I want to hear it again, but I don’t want to hear it again. It’s so painful.”
“I Will Always Love You” (Dolly Parton)
“That’s another one that, it’s so fortuitous that we even thought of these songs that they fell into place like they did, because that again is just such a sad song. It’s that push and pull, tug of war of happiness and sadness of, ‘We were great, and in my heart we’ll always be great, and I will always love you, even though I can’t anymore.'”