Behind the Band Name: Old Dominion

The origins of Old Dominion’s band name date back to the 17th century and has personal meaning to bandmates Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, Brad Tursi, Geoff Sprung and Whit Sellers. Though they all came together in Nashville, the name serves as a reminder of the state they’ve called home at some point in their lives. Below, we explore the meaning behind the band name, Old Dominion:

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Behind the Meaning

The band formed in 2007 and to honor their Virginia roots, decided to call themselves Old Dominion, which is a nickname for the state of Virginia. The term was coined by King Charles II during the English Civil War in the 1640s and 50s when Virginia was a colony. The English king bestowed it as a term of endearment to Virginia, as he believed the colony demonstrated loyalty to the monarchy during the war. The colony eventually declared “The Old Dominion” as its official slogan when it became one of the first 13 states in the U.S. in 1775. To this day, the state still embraces the nickname, as one of its public universities in Norfolk is named Old Dominion University.

As for how the band is connected to the state, frontman Ramsey and drummer Sellers both grew up around the Roanoke area and attended rival high schools where they played in the drumlines, Ramsey attending James River High School and Sellers representing Lord Botetourt High School. In fact, Ramsey says Sellers’ drumming was so impressive that he turned his attention to guitar instead.

“He was always way better than me. I decided to pick up guitar,” Ramsey said in a 2014 interview with The Roanoke Times.

After high school, they both remained in Virginia, with Ramsey attending Virginia Commonwealth University and Sellers enrolling at James Madison University, where he met future OD bandmates Sprung, who plays bass, and guitarist Tursi. In an archived band bio, Sprung revealed that the group “struggled” to come up with a fitting name to capture their Virginia roots, running through a list of state birds and flowers before landing on Old Dominion. “We assumed there was already a band called Old Dominion, but when we Googled it, all we got was a vet service,” he joked.

After graduating college, Ramsey moved to Nashville in 2000 to pursue a career in songwriting. He met Rosen, the only band member who doesn’t have a Virginia connection, in 2003. While Ramsey and Rosen were actively writing songs together, Sellers and Sprung also migrated to Nashville where they all joined forces as Old Dominion in 2007. Tursi joined the group in 2012 after leaving his previous band, Army of Me.

“We never really dreamed of being a band until it just naturally happened,” Ramsey told the Baltimore Sun in 2017. “All of a sudden, we were like, ‘Maybe we should take this kind of seriously because people seem to like it’…our individual successes fed the band, and people just started showing up.”

“It was kind of this organic thing,” Sprung said. “The band was doing as much as we could while pursuing other stuff and it hit a point where things got busy enough that we said, ‘We have to give this an honest go.’”

Prior to OD becoming one of the most beloved bands in country music, the members had their own success as individual songwriters. Ramsey and Tursi penned Kenny Chesney’s sunny hit, “Save It For a Rainy Day,” while Ramsey is credited on Sam Hunt’s “Make You Miss Me” and The Band Perry’s “Chainsaw.” Rosen is one of the writers behind Chris Young’s “Neon” and “Better Dig Two” by The Band Perry, with Tursi lending his pen to Luke Bryan’s “Light it Up.”

In the 15 years they’ve been together, the band members have grown from behind-the-scenes songwriters to multi-time CMA Vocal Group of the Year. Their success began with breakout hit, “Break Up With Him” in 2015, their first No. 1 hit as a band. This launched a string of chart-topping hits including “Song For Another Time,” “No Such Thing as a Broken Heart” and the most recent “One Man Band.”

Old Dominion photo by Mason Allen

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