Up-and-coming country music artists are sure to be lining up to open shows for Old Dominion.
It’s not just because they’re the reigning Group of the Year for both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music, or that they have amassed seven number-one singles and one billion-plus on-demand streams. And it’s also not because their anticipated third studio album, which drops Oct. 25, already boasts one number-one single. It’s because the news has undoubtedly leaked out that they thank their opening acts with expensive watches.
When they finished their last tour, they gifted Mitchell Tenpenny with a Panerai and Jordan Davis with an Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch.
“We’ve been terrible about giving end-of-tour gifts to the people that we bring on the road with us,” admits lead singer Matthew Ramsey during a visit with WWD at the Ludlow Hotel. “We decided to do better and bought a couple of watches. That was a fun moment, to give them something that we’re into and see that they’re excited to.”
Watches have become something of an obsession for the members of the band, which consists of Ramsey, lead guitarist Brad Tursi, bassist Geoff Sprung, multi-instrumentalist Trevor Rosen and drummer Whit Sellers. Thanks to their success, they’ve also got a bit more pocket change these days and some of that is going toward beefing up their watch collections.
Ramsey and Sprung are the most knowledgeable about watches, although Tursi has indulged himself as well. Ramsey tells the story about how it was Sprung who caused him to buy his Rolex Oyster Perpetual.
“I was trying to get him to buy a Rolex,” he recalls. “We were on our trip around the world two years ago and decided to look at watches. We said, ‘We deserve it, let’s get ourselves something.’ We wound up in Brisbane and a couple of blocks away is a Rolex store. We were trying things on but in typical Geoff fashion, he chickened out. I found this one and had never seen the grape face before. We left, had a cup of coffee to talk about whether or not to buy it, and I finally decided to get it.”
Searching for another scapegoat, Ramsey then points the finger at Tursi as the culprit behind his purchase of a 1958 Rolex Air-King.
“This one came when I was trying to get Brad to buy. We had a day off in Minneapolis, we had lunch and drinks and across the street was a jewelry store that had a lot of vintage watches. We got a shot of tequila and Brad said to me: ‘That is a $10,000 shot of tequila.’ There were all kinds of great watches there and he was hemming and hawing and I was giving the sales pitch, hard. The guy in the store said, ‘Dude, you need to work here.’ I don’t know why, but I wanted him to buy one, it was a challenge. Then I looked down and saw this. It’s very simple and I like vintage things. We did another tequila shot in the store and it worked, we both bought. He got a 1978 Rolex GMT root beer.”
Sprung adds: “And me, nothing.”
But eventually, Sprung took the plunge, too.
“I’m a small watch guy and I wanted something to wear to an awards show. It was three days before and I bought this digital Casio, which was $60, but it was so fun, a wink and a finger gun-like moment. If you look back at the photos from the red carpet, you can see me wearing a $60 digital Casio with a $6,000 suit, which made it even more fun.”
His next purchase was more expensive: a Bell & Ross GMT that he picked up in L.A. “I always wanted a GMT because you can do multiple time zones and know what time it was at home, especially since we do all this international travel. This is the one I usually wear.”
He says he leans toward “gold-colored, fun watches. I’m not ready to roll around New York City with a real gold watch on, but I Iove the look.” He bought a Golden Turtle Seiko “because it’s fun and flashy, and growing up my dad always had a gold Seiko on.
“And I just got this gold G-shock, which, if you’re a watch nerd, you know made a big splash when it came out last year. It was the first bulletproof digital watch when it came out in the Eighties and they just did a metal version. And when I saw it came out in a gold version — “Gold-colored,” Ramsey interjects with a laugh — anyone who knows my quirky ridiculous personality knows I would want a digital watch with that kind of bling.”
There are other watches in the guys’ collections, including Ramsey’s Apple watch that he wears for working out, as well as his most prized possession, a 1990 Bugs Bunny Armitron. “I think it was for Bugs’ 50th birthday, and I just had to have it. My parents told me no, but then they surprised me with it for my birthday. It was awesome. I was 12 and this is still the original band. The only thing it needed was a battery.”
So what’s on their wish list now that their stars continue to rise?
“We all talk about the moment we can get real gold,” Ramsey says.
Sprung adds: “I know the one I want: a mid-Eighties gold Rolex gold Datejust, which is the model that my dad’s Seiko was modeled after. When you’re a kid and you look at grown-ups, that was the real grown-up watch. I’ve held in my hands but didn’t buy it.”
Ramsey says: “I was close, too. There’s a special-edition Omega Speedmaster New York edition that they only sell in New York City and I hunted it down the last time we were here. I got lost in Chinatown all by myself, which was an interesting experience, and I walked so far by the time I finally got there that I didn’t care about the watch anymore. I just wanted to go sit down. But the Speedmaster is cool.”
There’s not going to be a lot of time to sit down for Old Dominion after their self-titled album arrives. The group coproduced this album for the first time, alongside Shane McAnally, and it has already spawned the chart-topping hit, “Make It Sweet.” The band’s tour for the album runs through at least February and the opening act is once again Tenpenny along with Meghan Patrick, both of whom should expect an expensive parting gift when the tour ends.
“But please tell people we give out Swatch watches,” Ramsey says with a hearty laugh.