Trevor Rosen Of Old Dominion Talks Songwriting Inspiration, Pressures To Conform
These three acts will be performing at Tortuga Music Festival on Fort Lauderdale Beach in April. Here, we catch up with Chase Bryant, Joe Nichols and Trevor Rosen of Old Dominion ahead of the big event.
Trevor Rosen of Old Dominion (guitar and keyboards)
Where do you draw your inspiration for songwriting?
It’s equal parts inspiration and hard work. We don’t set up to be different, but if we have a weird melody we just run with it. Collectively, it’s always about writing something that we love. We don’t compromise what we do.
Do you feel pressure to conform?
Luckily, I don’t feel any pressure at all. We’ve been in this band for quite a while with it not working. We had this motto ... that we’re not getting cuts anyway so let’s write songs that we want to write. The second we did that was the second we started getting cuts by people. That’s when we started having success as writers. I don’t feel any pressure to conform. Not conforming is what works for us.
Old Dominion has written hits for Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley and other big names. What’s it like to hear an artist perform one of your songs?
We moved to Nashville to be songwriters first. To hear one of the top names sing one of our songs—it’s incredible. It’s very rewarding. Most of the songs that they cut, we weren’t at a point to have that success. For us it was life-changing. To have hits as a songwriter means you’re not thousands of dollars in debt. Having success with other artists is part of what helped us be in a band.
Top Hits: “Take It On Back”
Hometown: Orange Grove, Texas
You toured with Tim McGraw. What advice did he give you?
Tim told me one time that there are a million people out there that are more talented than you and me, but it’s not the most talented ones that make it—it’s those who work the hardest. For people like me, a young artist, people like me look up to those guys; someone who’s so humble and so kind.
You taught yourself to play guitar upside down and backward at the age of 3. There were also no recording studios in Orange Grove, Texas.
My recording studio was in my walk-in closet. … I was a young hungry kid that just wanted to play music. I had a lot of friends that I made in that town. It shaped me as a person. It shaped the way I live my life—to be humble.
You’re coming into this industry at a great time for country music. What excites you about it?
Evolution—guys like Sam Hunt, Chris Stapleton, Randy Houser, Luke Bryan—whether it’s old school or new school. Nobody really knows where it’s going to go. It’s like a train … It’s always been what country music has been like. It just changes with time. It’s like growing up … it’s like an organism. It just keeps changing. Country music has a lot of varieties and sounds.
Where do you fall along that spectrum?
I’m out in left field—I’m kind of country with a rock ’n’ roll flavor. I can play everything from a honky tonk, to a club, to a stadium and an arena. I fall right into country music.
Top Hits: “Sunny & 75,” “Yeah,” “Brokenheartsville,” “Gimmie That Girl”
Hometown: Rogers, Arkansas
You’ve mentioned that with your 2013 album “Crickets” and your 2015 single “Freaks Like Me,” you didn’t hold back. What’s different now?
My career is in an unchartered place right now. We’ve hit some dirt and valleys, but we’re on a good trajectory now. We’ve had some great success in the past few years.
You switched labels in 2013. Has that given you more freedom?
Definitely musical freedom. ... I don’t think my music has changed, but it’s expanded a lot. I’ve opened up to songs that are more progressive like “Sunny and 75.” I would have been more stubborn in the past.
Country music has changed tremendously since your first hit more than a decade ago. How do you see the industry evolving today?
People are wanting quality music instead of pop. I think the Eric Churches of the world are geniuses. It’s not my style, but I admire him. I also think Chris Stapleton is making great music—it’s different and he’s going to be a big factor in the country music scene.
What other genres and artists do you admire?
I love old rock ’n’ roll—more like folk rock ’n’ roll. I like The Band—that’s what country music used to be like. It was all about storytelling. Country music now is two verses and a hook. They’re more about telling a story.