How's this for cultural whiplash: Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott-better-known as the country act Lady Antebellum-are calling prior to a performance at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, less than a week after rubbing designer-cloaked elbows with the likes of Beyoncé and Lady Gaga at the 51st annual Grammy Awards. Their Grammy performance was memorably elegant, not to mention a commercial home run, but suffice to say that the Nashville-based trio feels more at home among the Wrangler set.
"The Grammys were a big moment," says Kelley, who shares lead vocals with Scott, "but we felt a bit like fish out of water with all those big-time musicians."
Outsized humility is a well-worn country-music verity, but regardless, with the release of its second album, "Need You Now," Lady Antebellum has officially joined the big-time. "Need You Now" sits atop the Billboard 200 for a second consecutive week, selling 209,000 copies one week after its head-turning 481,000-unit bow. That was the biggest country debut since Taylor Swift's "Fearless" in November 2008, and the biggest debut sales week since Susan Boyle's "I Dreamed a Dream" moved 701,000 last November.
The title-track lead single, already topping the country chart, is now moving up the pop charts as well, buoyed by the act's Grammy performance. Lady A also picked up its first Grammy that evening, taking home the trophy for best country performance by a duo or group with vocals for "I Run to You," from the group's 2008 debut.
Following the Grammys, the threesome hung around in Los Angeles long enough to see "Need You Now" shoot to No. 1, then headed back to the more familiar pastures of San Antonio. That's where the trio spoke with Billboard about the price of pop, calling mama and what roads Lady A might travel in the future.
"Need You Now" is an enormous success. Who did you call first when you heard the first-week sales news?
Hillary Scott: I called my mama.
Charles Kelley: I didn't call mine, because I don't think she has too much understanding about how many records get sold. If I were to call my Mom and say, "Guess what, we sold almost 500,000 the first week," she would say, "Well, that's just wonderful."
Dave Haywood: If you would have told her we sold 5,000 records she would have said, "Well, that's just wonderful."
Grammy performances usually rely on flash and spectacle, but your staging was rather understated. Whose idea was that?
Scott: The three of us took a look at our [Country Music Assn. (CMA) Awards] performance in November, and we really liked how that came across. We talked to our manager Gary Borman, and he recommended we get together with a really talented guy by the name of Mark Brickman. We told him our thoughts, he told us his, and we came up with something we felt good about. The actual Grammy performance was a little bit haphazard-I was almost decapitated by a curtain and a couple of other things went wrong-but, honestly, we really just wanted to make it about the song.