— Lady Antebellum (@ladyantebellum) July 18, 2014
Rolling Stone — With their performance of upbeat new single “Bartender” a standout at last week’s CMT Music Awards, Lady Antebellum is focusing on more such up-tempo material for their upcoming fifth album. Singer Charles Kelley revealed backstage at the nightly CMA Music Festival press conferences that he and bandmates Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott are exploring their enthusiastic side.
“We’re definitely leaning heavy into a fun, in your face record this time,” Kelley told reporters, including the blog the Country Vibe. “I think for us, this is by far the most kind of fun, up-tempo record we’ve ever made. I think we always set out to do that and for some reason we’ve always kind of strayed off into the ballad/mid-tempo world, [but] we stuck to it with this album.”
Kelley said the trio is targeting a fall release, but that could shift based on the performance of “Bartender,” a rousing getting-over-an-ex anthem.
“I love this song because there’s something empowering about not going for the rebound or just moping around over a guy,” Scott has said previously. “There are those times in your life when you need to feel sorry for yourself and be sad, but this song is all about hitting the dance floor with your girlfriends and just forgetting him.”
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.
It’s been a year of change so far for Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood.
The group’s groovy single “Downtown” signaled that something different was afoot musically, and, most importantly, they had an extended break after Hillary Scott gave birth to her daughter, Eisele.
That time off to regroup resulted in an upbeat new single, “Compass,” which you can hear now and purchase tomorrow. The tune does not appear on Lady A’s 2013 album, Golden, but will be available as a download via iTunes Oct. 1 or on the special-edition reissue Golden Deluxe, out Nov. 12.
“I immediately fell in love with the spirit of the song,” said Hillary, who is nominated along with her bandmates for CMA Vocal Group of the Year and Music Video of the Year. “As we made it our own, we decided we had to share it with the fans immediately. . . . We just couldn’t wait!”
Lady Antebellum sat down with Yahoo Music on Rolling Stone for an interview, be sure to check out the article and videos on the site, by clicking here.
Lady Antebellum have been enjoying the spunkiest and sauciest hit of their career with the chart-topping single “Downtown,” even as the videos and promotional appearances for it feature Hillary Scott looking ever-so-more pregnant. As the band takes the stage for an exclusive Yahoo! Music performance, the average viewer might not notice Scott’s expectancy all that much, thanks to the miracles of slimming black.
Still, there is that moment when Scott pleads “I don’t know why you don’t take me downtown anymore” that you might imagine her partner’s response reasonably being, “Um, because your water might break?”
Even with the blessed event being just weeks away — Scott’s baby girl, her first, is due in late July — the trio haven’t lost a step, and if anything, have been compressing about six months’ worth of the usual album promotion into roughly half that time.
“I can probably speak for everybody on our team and say it’s easier to promote a record when someone’s not pregnant,” Scott says. “For sure!”
“Fewer naps in the middle of the day,” adds Dave Haywood. It’s not clear whether the guitarist is speaking for Scott or himself when it comes to increased narcolepsy, but…
“The pacing has definitely had to be different,” says Scott, in the course of promoting Golden, their fourth album. “I mean, we’ve traveled to the same places that we always do when we promote records. But there’s this crazy thing that happens when you’re pregnant. Like, when the baby says, ‘Mom, I’m tired,’ your body just stops and you just kind of start staring through people and not even meaning to. But it’s been good. I haven’t been sick, which has been really nice. Thankfully, my energy level has been high.”
Keeping the energy level up was assuredly a priority during the creation of Golden… if you’ll forgive the segue. The group admits wanting to change things up after 2011′s Own the Night, even though there could just as easily have been an if-it-ain’t-broke attitude, since that release did produce two successive No. 1 country singles (“Just a Kiss,” “We Owned the Night”) and a third that fell just one position shy of the top slot (“Dancin’ Away With My Heart”). But as great as those romantic duets sounded on the radio, the trio noticed some potholes going unfilled on the road.
“With the big ballads and mid-tempos, especially in our live show, there’s only so many ways you can perform them and it not start to look really repetitive, with Charles and I singing to each other,” says Scott.