For Old Dominion And Michael Ray, Playing At Tortuga Fest Is More Than A Chance To Let Loose With Fans On Fort Lauderdale Beach
Grab your cowboy hat and slip into your coolest beachwear. The 2017 Tortuga Music Festival is bringing the foot-stomping action of more than 35 bands back to Fort Lauderdale Beach April 7-9.
The three days of country, rock and roots music will feature headliners Luke Bryan, Chris Stapleton and Kenny Chesney, while increasing awareness about ocean conversation initiatives though the festival's partnership with the Rock The Ocean Foundation.
An estimated 90,000 people flocked to Fort Lauderdale Beach for last year’s festival, but one fan favorite got unintentionally sandbagged for the second year in a row. Old Dominion hopes the third time’s the charm, as the country rockers are once again scheduled to blast out hits like “Break Up With Him,” “Snapback,” and “Song For Another Time.”
Lead singer Matthew Ramsey laughs out loud at the debacles, explaining Old Dominion was scheduled as the first band of the day in 2015, when a glitch at the entrance held back the crowds. “There was some issue with the codes … and they wouldn’t open the gate. But we had to play anyway, so we played most of our set to no one before the gates were even open.”
And, as Murphy’s Law promises, what can go wrong, will, because in 2016, Ramsey says they were the only band to get rained out. Not willing to give up on their fans, Ramsey says they dashed across the street to Bahia Cabana. “We hijacked some poor house band’s instruments and played a 30-minute set. So, we’ve been to Tortuga twice, but we haven’t got a fair chance to actually play it.”
It is that kind of dedication that led Old Dominion to win the 2016 ACM New Group of the Year and the 2016 ACCA Breakthrough Group of the Year with their first full length album “Meat and Candy.”
Ramsey says that Old Dominion, named after the state of Virginia where the band formed, is not a typical, fiddle-and-pedal-steel country group. “We always kind of tell people that we’re a rock band playing country songs,” he says. “I think the lyrical content is what steers us toward country music … but the rest of it is more like a rock band — just guitars, bass and drums.”
Humbled by the band’s success, Ramsey, 39, says he’s not sure why they have been so fortunate—but he is grateful. “We’ve never stopped, we’ve never gone away, and we’ve never given up,” he says. “We’ve always done what we think is cool and we’ve never chased after what we thought people wanted.”
Ramsey has a simple goal for Tortuga this year. “Hopefully no lightening will come, and we’ll just be able to do our thing and finally be able to play that festival!” he says, laughing.
Firing up the stage Sunday just prior to Old Dominion will be country crooner Michael Ray. The singer and songwriter hails from Eustis, a small town outside of Orlando made famous in Ray’s 2015 video for his No. 1 hit “Kiss You In the Morning.”
A combination of swoon-worthy features and Southern charm have made Ray country music’s newest sex symbol. And songs like “Real Men Love Jesus” and “Think A Little Less” testify to why he was nominated for ACCA’s 2016 Breakthrough Male of the Year.
Ray, 28, has a definitive country sound that matches his old-fashioned country values. He says that Florida has shaped who he is both musically and personally. “Growing up in Florida you already have a laid-back thing in your DNA,” he says. “We were on lakes and always around family and friends.”
He was exposed to country classics at an early age, playing songs by Porter Wagoner, Bobby Bare, Earl Thomas Conley and Merle Haggard. “I grew up playing the music scene with my grandfather and my family’s band,” he says, noting that Jacksonville rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet also influenced him. “It brought in a generation of music that was before my time, and some of it, even before my dad’s time.”
Ray’s desire to make a name for himself led him down the yellow brick road to Nashville, where he now resides. “I was playing bars all through high school around Florida and going back and forth to Nashville trying to figure out how things work,” he says. “All I knew was to go out, get a band together, get in a van and play anywhere you can. So, that’s what we did.”
Ray says he can’t wait to get back to his native Florida. “Come to one of our shows and hang out with us,” he says, as if extending a casual invitation to a backyard barbecue. “I’m pumped to be a part of Tortuga – to hear all the music and just be on the beach. It’s pretty incredible from what I’ve heard.”
Tortuga Music Festival takes place April 7-9 on Fort Lauderdale Beach. For ticketing call 888-732-1682 or visit http://www.tortugamusicfestival.com/tickets
(Lead photo via Facebook/Tortuga Music Festival)