Photo Amber Ainsworth/MJ

By AMBER AINSWORTH, Arts and Entertainment

He used to play hockey at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Today, Trevor Rosen is playing music across the country, on tour with his band, Old Dominion.

He got his start with piano lessons, eventually starting a rock band in high school.

Rosen, who followed in his brother’s footsteps to UM-Dearborn, didn’t think much about music in his college days; the band he played in during high school had started to unravel, with members moving and making it difficult to focus.

Trevor Rosen, pictured in a December 1996 issue of The Michigan Journal, played hockey for the Wolves during his time at UM-Dearborn
Trevor Rosen, pictured in a December 1996 issue of The Michigan Journal,
played hockey for the Wolves during his time at UM-Dearborn

While going to school, Rosen played in a band that performed in bars, though he didn’t really consider the possibility of music in the future. When he graduated, he got a job, continuing to play in cover bands for fun.

It wasn’t until the Woodhaven native moved to Nashville in 2003 to pursue songwriting that his music career really took off, fueled by connections he started to make as soon as he relocated. The people he met not only led him to the guys who would eventually become Old Dominion, but also to opportunities where he would be writing for some of country’s biggest stars.

Rosen said his rise to success has been a long process and hard work to get his music out there.

“I wrote hundreds and hundreds of songs before I got to the ones that had any commercial success.”

Rosen boasts an impressive list of songwriting credits; he has penned songs for artists such as Keith Urban (“Come Back to Me”), Luke Bryan (“Scarecrows”) and Blake Shelton (“I Really Shouldn’t Drink Around You,” “Sangria”), though he says, “I don’t ever really write for anybody.” When he sits down to write, he isn’t thinking about who may be singing the song, and when asked who he would like to write for, he didn’t have an answer.

Rosen’s songwriting successes are something that continue to surprise him, and he often thinks, “Wow, when did that happen?” when looking at the list of songs he has written.

“It never ceases to amaze me. You sit down with a couple people and put your heads together and in a few hours, you have a new song,” he said about his work, noting that he tries to write every day, throwing around ideas with a guitar in hand.

Rosen wrote songs with Old Dominion singer Matthew Ramsey before the band formed through a formation Rosen describes as both organic and accidental.

“We never said, ‘Hey, let’s start a band,’” he said.

Instead, he started to back Ramsey at shows; the other guys joined in. As everyone began playing together often, Old Dominion planted its roots.

“At some point, we just looked around and said, ‘We should try to pursue this.’”

Being friends before bandmates has helped to create a chemistry for the group that keeps it fun.

“We’re five friends that every day we wake up and we’re laughing,” said Rosen. “We’re lucky — a lot of bands don’t get along.”

As for the band’s music, Rosen believes their songwriting combined with their instruments set them apart from other country acts.

“Being just a genuine band, it helps us create a sound,” said Rosen about Old Dominion writing their own songs and not hiring studio bands. “We sound like us.”

“We aren’t the best players in the world, but we definitely have a sound when we play together,” he added.

In addition, the band’s songwriting is credited to writers — Rosen, Ramsey and guitarist Brad Tursi — who all have the experience of writing for themselves as well as other artists.

Rosen said he never tries to be too critical of himself when he is making music. When he was younger, he used to act, and through his work at the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, Mich., learned how to better avoid negative self-talk.

“There’s this judge in your mind; you just sort of judge yourself before you do things,” he said, adding that it is necessary to fire that judge.

The group’s most recent release, 2015’s Meat and Candy, exemplifies a mix of song styles, styles that gave the album its name. According to Rosen, when talking with their producer, it was discussed how the list of songs they had been working on were catchy and fun; these were candy songs. To balance out the sound, the guys decided they needed some meat, to which their producer jokingly suggested naming the album Meat and Candy. It stuck and the band released their debut full-length album last winter.

Old Dominion is currently on the road, a rather new experience for the band that started moving around more last year. Rosen said they are still adjusting to touring and being away from home, noting that Facetime and a supportive wife at home help to maintain his family life even with a busy work life.

On Thursday, March 10, Rosen and the rest of Old Dominion took the stage at the Fillmore in Detroit as part of the Jammin’ for Joseph event. The show, which included Cassadee Pope and Canaan Smith, benefited Team Joseph, a non-profit dedicated to funding research to find treatment and possible cure of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.