Rolling Stone — We’re the most rock & roll band in the universe right now,” proclaimed Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley sarcastically as he, dressed as a human beer barrel complete with beer stein headpiece, performed an acoustic version of the band’s chart-topping single “Bartender” at the song’s Halloween-themed Number One party Wednesday. At the City Winery in Nashville alongside bandmates Hillary Scott (in a glitter tophat) and Dave Haywood (sporting a shirtless version of Kelley’s outfit, with an additional mullet wig and glasses) as well as Scott’s young daughter, Eisele, in a pig costume, it certainly wasn’t the most rebellious, guitar-smashing moment in history. But the trio has been pushing boundaries of late — if not this very moment.
“We wanted the first two singles to be complete left turns,” a pre-costumed Kelley told Rolling Stone Country in an exclusive chat about “Bartender,” which topped the Country Airplay chart, and its wild follow-up single, “Freestyle.” “We had songs like those before, like ‘Love Don’t Live Here,’ but we’d kind of gotten away from it, and thought it was time to reel it back and inject more fun.”
“In the live show environment,” added Scott, “everything is outdoor, festival culture. So fun, uptempo songs are what people are gravitating towards.” The trio, who will preform at next week’s CMA Awards and have a shot at the Vocal Group of the Year trophy, will announce plans for their world tour soon — and their newfound, freewheeling spirit has transformed the band that came to prominence by belting booty-call ballads into one fit for dancing (it’s a quarter after one… and I’ll see you at the club!). So in a county environment that favors party anthems, did they feel pressure to turn it up a notch?
“Maybe,” Kelley answers, “But what we kept saying when we went in to record was that we didn’t want to follow any trends — but we did want to stay relevant. And how can you we stay relevant on our own terms and also stay true to the band?”
On 747, there are those moments — namely the power-ballad title track and introspective love song “One Great Mystery,” which Kelley assures will be the tone of the next single. “I pretty much can guarantee that the next one we put out will have a little bit more meat to it,” he says.
The trends they have embraced on this record — pop lines, aggressive beats — are hot enough topics on the country landscape, as artists like Florida Georgia Line and Sam Hunt toy with genre boundaries at the same time Sturgill Simpson erects them back up, and Taylor Swift flees Nashville for New York. But they’ve been victims of the “are they country enough” conversation for years, since their breakthrough single “Need You Now” took the Grammy Awards and the charts by storm.
“Since the beginning of country,” says Kelley, “they were debating on Kenny Rogers being too pop and then Rascal Flatts, too, but now you listen to Rascal Flatts and they sound like traditional country. In order for us as country artists to not be replicating the past and sound like we’re just piggy backing, we have to constantly push ourselves. And so the genre, just naturally, will always evolve.”
For all its playfulness, “Bartender,” co-written with Rodney Clawson, does infuse traditional country instrumentation — a core element of everything Lady Antebellum does, often led by Haywood’s vision. “We always like to have a steel guitar or a mandolin or banjo in there,” he said. “It’s always been our sound.”
“It doesn’t mean there isn’t always room for your George Straits and Josh Turners,” added Kelley before the band was whisked away to change into their costumes for the plaque presentation, “but there will be extremes all around. Genre lines are blurring.”
Access Atlanta — While talking to Lady Antebellum’s Dave Haywood last week about the band’s upcoming induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, the easygoing musician also had a few things to say about a couple of impending births – his first child with wife Kell and Lady A’s new album, “747,” both due next month.
The band is touring until two days before Kelli’s due date, so Haywood is a tad apprehensive about the timing.
But otherwise, he said, “I feel like we’re prepared as far as getting ready for the house. I think we know on paper what we’re supposed to know.”
It’s a good thing that bandmate Hillary Scott brought daughter Eisele on the road for Lady A’s current tour because it gave Haywood the opportunity to attempt a very important task: Changing a diaper.
As for the other upcoming delivery — this one with a definite due date of Sept. 30 — Haywood said he loves “747” so much that he’s been wearing it out in his car.
For this sixth studio album, Lady A worked with a new producer, Nathan Chapman, best known for his work with Taylor Swift.
“He’s got an amazing knack for capturing a lot more energy than we’ve had in the past,” Haywood said. “I think we captured that big, infectious energy we have as a band. In the past we might have gone a little more mid-tempo, but this was an all-out record for us.”
Haywood cites recent hit “Bartender” as an example of the “high energy” material on the new record.
“We’ve got stuff that rocks even harder than ‘Bartender,’” he said. “We got back to being really inspired.”
After an extended break, the members of Lady Antebellum experienced jitters leading up to their new Take Me Downtown Tour, which opened earlier this month in Peoria, Ill.
“We’d be lying if we said we didn’t have a lot of anxiety and butterflies,” singer Hillary Scott. But in every city so far, the 27-year-old singer said they’ve been blown away by the response. “We have this new sense of excitement to be on the stage, performing songs, having fun, and I think that would have never had happened if we hadn’t taken a little break.”
Following the yearlong Own The Night Tour, which took the Grammy-winning trio — Scott, singer Charles Kelley and multi-instrumentalist Dave Haywood — across the United States, Europe and Australia from the end of 2011 to 2012, the group left the road long enough to record “Golden,” their fourth studio album.
Scott and her husband, drummer Chris Tyrrell, gave birth to a daughter. For everyone involved, it was a chance to process all they’d been through — multiple Grammys, platinum-selling albums and singles, high-profile tours and television appearances — and to allow the excitement to build back up. With another album’s worth of material to work into the set, the new tour stops at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville on Saturday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m., with special guests Kip Moore and Kacey Musgraves, who just won the Best Country Album Grammy for “Same Trailer Different Park.” (Lady Antebellum nabbed that statue in both 2011 and 2012.)
It took about five songs into the Peoria concert, Scott said, for the nerves to disappear. “I was just about a foot off the stage, I was so excited,” said Scott, whose job involves remembering all the words to the songs, slipping backstage for a costume change or two and being in the right place at the right time. “The first weekend of shows, other than just our excitement from all the preparation: They didn’t feel like the first shows. They just flowed so well. We were prepared. We had had plenty of time to rehearse, and we felt confident in those rehearsals. We didn’t have to think about anything other than soaking up the moment.”
Bands with back-catalogues full of big hits will naturally struggle with song selection, and Lady A’s no different. “A lot of our most successful songs have been mid-tempo,” Scott said. “Between ‘Need You Now,’ ‘Just a Kiss,’ ‘I Run To You,’ and a live show is not going to feel energetic or exciting or fun without the really fast, uptempo songs.”
One solution was to cobble together a medley of four popular radio singles. “It takes it away from what would be 20 minutes of our set down to about 7.5 minutes, and the audience gets to hear a piece of all of them,” Scott said. “We’re thankful because it’s allowed us to put in songs with different tempos to keep people on their feet.” There are quiet moments in the new show, but only a few; full-blown party mode is the theme.
“Golden,” Lady Antebellum’s fourth album, was a huge commercial success, despite being snubbed by the Grammy nominating committee. The album was a return-to-roots type of effort — in Kelley’s words, a “roll-down-your-window” type of record — and Scott said they’re already planning its follow-up.
“In the next couple of weeks, we’re going to start bringing songwriters out to start writing for the next project,” Scott said. “I can’t tell you 100-percent where we’re going, because we’re still figuring it out. It’s exploration-time. We’re going to take our time. We’re not going to rush. We’re just going to write and be very selective. We’re going to explore what we’re not afraid to talk about, we’re not afraid to do production-wise. We’re not going to go too far left of the core of who we are, but I definitely think that we’re going to see where it’s going to take us, and we can always reel ourselves back in.”
To prepare for a new album, Lady Antebellum receives submissions from various songwriters. They have virtually all the time they want to get to know a song, but Scott said if she’s not sold on one by the end of the first chorus, her impressions don’t usually change with repeated listenings. “That’s just the way I am,” she said. “The songs that stand out are the ones you go back to, over and over and over. That’s my personal litmus test: if I want to go back and listen to it, there’s a reason.”
Occasionally, their label’s A&R department will insist on them trying out a particular song, even if they aren’t that into it. But Scott said it’s a mistake not to give a tune a second chance.
“We were in a meeting, right before we went in to record our second record,” Scott remembered, “and the last song that we played for our label was this really crappy work-tape of ‘Need You Now.'” Scott was reluctant, but the label talked her into recording it. “Need You Know” went on to sell millions of copies and won four Grammys, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
“They had to talk us into recording the biggest song we’ve ever had,” Scott said.
Lady Antebellum can sing, but how are their Christmas tree trimming skills? The band loves decorating for Christmas, with the tree being the centerpiece. Hillary Scott, who will be celebrating her first Christmas as a mother, goes to her own mother’s house in search of very specific ornaments.
“My mom, I gave her such a hard time when I was a little girl, because she went to some store and got these snowmen with an icicle hanging down from the bottom, so I thought they were so gawdy,” she said. “But you know what? Now that I’m older, I love ‘em. And if they’re not on the tree, I’m like, ‘Mama, where are they? Where are the snowmen icicle lights this year?’”
In Charles Kelley’s house, the tree was a bit of a battle of wills. His wife Cassie had one vision while Charles had a more vibrant one.
“My mom actually sent me some of our old ornaments that we had made and stuff,” he said. “We always had the cheesiest tree, but I miss it. It was always so very colorful. And with my wife, she’s very stylish and chic, and so she wanted this really chic tree, and I said, ‘Baby, I’m sorry. We’ve got to put a little color in this.’ So, I put some of my cheesy little stuff on there, and I think that’s part of Christmas. I think you have to have that, so she relented.”
There’s a saying that the music business is a case of “Hurry Up and Wait.” That term definitely does not apply to superstars Lady Antebellum. Just a few moments ago via Facebook, the Capitol Nashville trio announced their brand new single, “Compass.” Lady A’s Hillary Scott tells Billboard that though the song came to their attention well after the May release of their current album “Golden,” recording the song was an opportunity they could not let pass them by.
“Sometimes in this amazing music industry that we live, breathe, and work in, a song comes into your life that you can’t ignore,” she said. “From the minute we first heard it, we believed in the message and the overall feel of the song. We knew we could put our own little overall spin on it. We had to have the fans hear it – immediately. So, we got creative, sat together with our team and our label, and told them that this song is where we are right now, as a band and personally. We wanted it out, so thankfully, everyone worked with us and are excited about it too.”
Scott says the process was a quick one to record the track. “It all happened very fast. We got the song, and within two weeks we were in the studio with it. We lived with it for a little while, fell in love with it, and threw some ideas around with what we were going to do with it,” admitting the sound of the song is a little bit of a departure. “We really wanted it to keep the anthemic feel, but we also wanted to make it organic. I know that’s such a buzz word that everybody says, but that is so in line with how we try to make decisions as a band. We wanted to keep the energy and excitement that the song had, but also bring in the banjo and the fiddle, and all of those elements that we’ve missed – from our music, and the country genre. That overall feel is really what moved us, and that’ s where we went with it.”
The song is available for pre-order on iTunes today, and will be included on a special deluxe edition of “Golden,” which will be released on November 12. Scott says the trio is looking forward to hitting the road again – with her daughter Eisele Kaye now a part of the touring entourage. Scott admits that the lyrics of the new single hit her in a way that is completely different than ever before.
“To hear this song and to think about my little girl as she grows up — and what the lyric of the song says is amazing,” she says. “It’s such a big message, and I related so much to wanting to be home with her when she spreads her wings and goes to find her and what she wants to do. Thinking about that made it get into my heart a little more than I think it ever would have before her. To get out and perform this song – I think about doing it in the arenas, and I get chill bumps every time I think about it. I just feel it.”
Scott also is beaming about the pair of nominations that Lady Antebellum has for the CMA Awards – for Vocal Group, of which they are a three time winner, and for Video for “Downtown,” which she says was an unbelievable experience.
“I have to say that ‘Downtown’ was the most fun video I have ever been a part of. We laughed and laughed, and had the best time. Videos can be long days and tiring, and the boys won’t argue that they are their least favorite part of everything we do. I knew it was going to be a great video when I showed up at the shoot, and they were laughing and cutting up, asking the director to shoot extra scenes while they were dressed up in their Starsky & Hutch attire. It was hysterical. To have that nomination was really cool because we worked really hard on that video. I’ve become really great friends with Beth Behrs, our co-star from ‘Two Broke Girls,’ It’s great to look back on that experience and be recognized for it by the CMA.”
The members of Lady Antebellum have been enjoying some time off the road while singer Hillary Scott adjusts to life with her six-week-old daughter, Eisele Kaye. But Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood are still getting plenty of togetherness. The three musicians have been finalizing plans for their upcoming Take Me Downtown Tour and working on new music, all from the comfort of Scott’s home.
“She’s such a great mother,” Kelley told Radio.com during a chat on the ACM Honors red carpet. “We’ve gone over to her house a bunch. We’ve been writing some songs and preparing for the tour. It’s been fun for Dave and I to go over there. We’re working, but then we’re also watching her be a mother. She’s really great at it. So it’s been a fun experience, but she’ll be ready soon.”
The “Goodbye Town” singers will experience another first when they begin touring again this fall – no longer all bunking together on the same bus. Scott and her husband, Lady A drummer Chris Tyrrell, will get their own home on wheels. Otherwise, Kelley maintains very little about the band will change.
“Hillary was a touring baby herself, so I think she knows what to expect, hopefully,” he noted. “I’m sure there’s going to be challenges, but she’s going to have a lot of help. Dave and I are going to help as much as we can. She’s really resilient. Trust me, I have a bunch of nieces and nephews. I can change a diaper. I am not scared of a diaper.”
Kelley and Heywood also raved about Lady A’s two opening acts, Kacey Musgraves and Kip Moore.
“When we picked Kacey, she was just getting started,” Kelley said. “And when Dave, Hillary and I heard that record [Musgraves’ debut album Same Trailer, Different Park], we told everybody that was a part of our team, we said, ‘We’ve gotta have Kacey.’”
He was quick to add that they are equally thrilled to have Moore on the road with them as well. “Kip, we saw him live, and he’s just so energetic,” Kelley continued. “It couldn’t be a better fit. You get such a different spread of artists.”
Lady Antebellum’s Take Me Downtown Tour kicks off Nov. 8 in Southaven, Miss.
“It really was one of the best things we’ve ever been a part of,” says Lady Antebellum’s Dave Haywood, daydreaming about the band’s performance alongside Stevie Nicks.
The seven-time Grammy Award winners, who boast more than a shelf-full of country accolades, appear with the iconic artist on CMT Crossroads this Friday, Sept. 13. The experience was one that prompts Haywood to use nearly every cliché in the book.
“It was such a dream-come-true for all of us,” says Haywood in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. As it turns out, the statement isn’t so far off base. The collaboration did, in fact, begin in a dream.
“Long story short, we had all appeared in a dream of hers,” Haywood says of Nicks. “I know it sounds completely bizarre, but when she tells it it’s unbelievable. She says, ‘Me and Lindsey [Buckingham] were in a fight again in the dream’ and somehow Lady Antebellum appeared in the dream and she woke up saying, ‘I need to do something with that group.'”
Managers connected, CMT jumped at the pairing, and here we are.
“The whole experience was one of those things where you’re pinching yourself the whole time,” Haywood says. “When we got the tape back to watch the show, we were all sitting at the house and it was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ It felt like an out-of-body experience, like I was watching somebody else do it.”
The concert special, in which the artists trade verses and stories, features live renditions of Lady A’s “Love Don’t Live Here,” “Need You Now” and “Golden,” and Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen,” “Landslide,” “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” and “Rihannon.” (See the group’s performance of the latter in the video below.)
While Haywood and band mates Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley initially thought that Nicks would have “no idea” who they were, the 65-year-old surprised the trio with an intimate knowledge of their catalogue.
“To hear her actually reference songs from our album that were not singles, stuff that only fans would know, [it was] such a cool, cool experience,” says Haywood. “She just knew all these songs and would bring them up, like, ‘Hey, I want to do ‘Cold as Stone.” Nobody knows ‘Cold as Stone!’ Who knows that song?”
CMT Crossroads began airing in 2002, pairing country artists with superstars from other genres in a live setting. Among the most notable pairings of the program’s 11-year history are Taylor Swift and Def Leppard; Ryan Adams and Elton John; Brad Paisley and John Mayer; Keith Urban and Mayer; Carrie Underwood and Steven Tyler; Emmylou Harris and Mumford & Sons; and Rascall Flatts and Journey.
“We’ve always known about the CMT Crossroads show and have been thinking about how to approach that, who to do it with, for years,” says Haywood. “Years ago, Hillary would always say, ‘Justin Timberlake — he’s a Tennessee boy and he’s such a cool songwriter and artist, too.’ But for us, the Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac catalogue was really the perfect set and the styles really meld together.”
And don’t be surprised if a cover or two pops up on one of the band’s forthcoming albums.
“Gosh, I feel like we need to cut a version of ‘Edge of Seventeen’ or ‘Rihannon’ and just put it on a record,” Haywood muses. “I mean, I feel like it fits with the stuff we do and it’s just such a perfect match.”
Lady A may be busy promoting their latest, Golden, released last May, but Haywood says they’re “always thinking” about what’s next.
“It’s been a really fun summer for us, obviously Hillary had a baby and we just started back writing with her about two or three weeks ago,” Haywood reveals, noting that he and Kelley had continued working with other songwriters while Scott adjusted to motherhood, “just to keep that muscle working.”
The band has already completed between five and seven songs for their next release, and Haywood expects Hillary’s new addition to play a notable role in the group’s future.
“We’re over at the house writing and she’ll be up and down, feeding the baby,” he says with a laugh. “Write a verse, go back up stairs, feed the baby again. It’s fun — there’s a new normal for Lady A.
“Just last week we were writing a song and it’s fun to hear her say, ‘Gosh, that makes me think of what my daughter means to me now and how my world has been completely rocked by this,'” Haywood says. “It’s so funny to look back because when we started the band seven or eight years ago, we were all single, running around, not a care in the world. Now we’ve each gone through the steps of getting engaged, getting married and now, starting families. It’s a fun thing to write about and I think it definitely shows up in our music.”
CMT Crossroads airs Friday at 10 p.m. ET/PT.