Lady Antebellum Talks Channeling Their Early Days With New Album: 'We Wanted to Get Back That 2006 Feeling'

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
Lady Antebellum photographed on Jan. 9, 2017 in Nashville, Tenn.

Since breaking onto the Billboard charts in 2007, Lady Antebellum has racked up some very impressive statistics -- over ten million albums sold, and over 20 appearances in the Top 40 of the Country Songs chart. However, member Charles Kelley said those gaudy numbers didn’t totally impress their new producer, busbee, who cut them no slack when working on their new album. 

“I haven’t been pushed like that in the vocal booth in a long time,” Kelley said during a press event in Nashville. “We were sitting there, and I would say ‘This is how I sing the word ‘this.’ He would say ‘Yeah, but I want you to open your mouth.’ I did it something like ten times, and I was getting pissed. ‘This is me. You want me to sing? This is how I do it.’ But, sure enough, on the last try, I did it, and it was right. He just pushes you in the right ways. He fought us a lot lyrically, and never wanted us to settle on anything.”

The producer behind recent hits from Keith Urban and Maren Morris pushed Lady Antebellum in terms of song selection, as well, said Kelley. “We played him a lot of songs that we thought were hits. He said ‘Well, it’s a hit. But, is it a Lady Antebellum hit, or does it sound like something everybody else is doing? That’s not what people want to hear from you guys.’ He definitely was there to keep the cool, so to speak.”

The end of last week saw the superstar act releasing a new single, “You Look Good.” The song is the lead-off track from Heart Break, their upcoming disc, set for a June 9 release. The set is the first following a brief hiatus from touring and recording that the trio set into place following their critically acclaimed Wheels Up tour. Kelley said it was important for the trio to follow up their time off with a triumph. He feels they did just that. 

“We sat down on the bus together one day between shows and agreed that we couldn’t take this amount of time off and not really blow everybody away," the singer-songwriter explained. "We were thinking about how to get back to that spot when we started for the first two records. We didn’t have any responsibilities, and could write a hundred songs a year. We hadn’t been able to do that since then. Dave had the idea ‘Let’s just get out of Nashville,’ and we went to Florida early in the fall, and took a bunch of writers with us. We had the idea to move out to L.A., and rented a house out there for a month."

The trio’s Dave Haywood said that the time together felt like old times, providing the creative flair they needed. “We wanted to be really intentional about carving out time to make a record. We’ve had to do it when you’ve had a lot of plates spinning in the past, and we just wanted to commit the time again. Those three or four months of writing, and (being in the) studio, we just lived together. It felt like the early days, all living in a house, cooking, and hanging out, laughing, and staying up late. I think we wanted to get back that feeling we felt back in 2006 when we started.”

Though the trio stepped away from the spotlight as Lady Antebellum, it was far from an idle period for each of the members. Kelley released his successful solo album The Driver, Scott teamed up with her family for the Grammy-nominated Love Remains, and Haywood turned his attention to producing, overseeing the debut EP from Post Monroe. Scott said it was a period of artistic growth all the way around.

“I think we grew as individuals,” she said. “I know I grew as a singer, singing with my parents and my little sister. It pulled me out of my comfort zone. I grew up singing with them, but to be in the studio environment, I think that just like Charles, it was the same thing. I think we all had our own space to grow as individuals, all the while knowing that we would reconvene. That was the plan all along. I think we’re coming in more confident, and also so appreciative of everything we have been able to accomplish, and those who have helped us get here – our team. We are so blessed.”

Kelley said that teaming up with busbee was a no-brainer -- though they have worked together before. “We wrote ‘Our Kind of Love’ with him back in the day, and we’ve written with him since. He’s produced a lot of the demos we did, and we really love him. In just watching him and the experience he’s gained, and listening to the Maren Morris record, the sound of it just blew us away. It felt like an old friend. It was vintage, but current, clever and cool, without over trying."

Scott said it took the perfect person to oversee the project, and busbee was a perfect fit -- for each member. “To find the right person to mesh with all three of, what we bring, we all have our strengths in the things that we bring to the table. It has to be the right person to be able to handle all of our dynamics and quirks. You have to be willing to stand up and disagree with us -- really respectfully. It was amazing. It felt like fate. When we called him, he had time in his schedule. He’s so busy. It was all meant to be."

Scott went on to rave about "the rapport we had with him, and the friendship -- he had been out on the road on the bus with us, and writing songs. So it wasn’t like we went in a room with someone we didn’t know, and started creating.”

The group will also be returning to the road in 2017. Their You Look Good tour kicks off May 26 in Bakersfield. Opening for the trio will be rising stars Kelsea Ballerini and Brett Young. In addition to the dates in the United States, the band will take their music abroad, including a stop in South Africa -- a first for the band. Kelley said he’s looking forward to it.

“Need You Now’ was huge there. I don’t know how or why. They wanted us to come over there around that time, and we were pulled in so many directions. It was a time issue more than anything, as well as the financial obligations -- it’s not cheap to get there. We had to choose and cherry-pick, and forego some of those dreams"

"Growing up in Georgia, I never went anywhere  -- and didn’t even think I wanted to go anywhere," he continud. "Now, I’ve been to Greece, London, Italy, Australia, and now I can say I’ve been to South Africa. I feel so much more cultured, and I can appreciate where we get to live.”

2017 marks the trio’s tenth anniversary of working together. When asked what has kept them so close over the past decade, Kelley stated, “I couldn’t probably be more different in so many ways from Hilary and Dave, but for some reason, we just kind of vibe. We truly like to be around each other. I hear so many stories of bands with brothers that just can’t stand to be around each other. I would just be miserable. I can’t imagine walking on stage and not wanting to be on the same stage with somebody."


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