Lady Antebellum's Dave Haywood Picks His Top 5 Country Artists of All Time

Austin Hargrave
Greatest of All Time: Dave Haywood on Top 5 Country Artists

Lady Antebellum's Dave Haywood tells Billboard that picking his five favorite country artists "may be the hardest question of all time. How do you pick just five? You're making it really hard!"

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It's difficult for Haywood especially as a self-confessed music geek, in love with it since his mother taught him to play piano and his father schooled him in guitar when he was young. He's been a country fan through and through -- though ironically he actually played in a high school jazz band with fellow future country star Josh Kelley, older brother of Lady A co-founder Charles Kelley. Lady A, of course, has made its mark by sending its first four albums straight to No. 1 and scoring 12 top 10 country hits, winning seven Grammy Awards and two Billboard Music Awards along the way. Outside of Lady A, Haywood co-wrote Luke Bryan's "Do I" and Miranda Lambert's "Love Song," and the group's current hiatus will give him a chance to do more of that -- as well as listen to the music of the country artists he chose on his top 5 list (in no particular order).

1. Merle Haggard: "For me, personally, he's the most iconic and kind of distinctive voice in country music. From a songwriting standpoint, hearing 'Swinging Doors,' 'Mama Tried' -- those songs and that voice that I just think is country music, and to come from such an amazing poet, and amazing songwriter who's lived such a crazy, real life and does nothing better than write about exactly what he's been through, is kind of the ultimate." 

Billboard Greatest of All Time

2. Dolly Parton: "She's one of the most fun to watch, and one of the most interesting, I think, performers of all time in country music. I think anyone who knows anything about country music has heard the name Dolly Parton. It's the songwriting, the performing, how much fun she is to watch on stage. Her voice is so distinctive." 

3. Alan Jackson: "This one's probably a little more personal for me. Just growing up in Georgia, you actually know what the Chattahoochee River is and where it is. Growing up in Georgia was all Alan Jackson. That's all I was exposed to on country radio, all the shows and the concerts. There's so many things that influenced me from his music. Just as a songwriter he strikes a special chord for me. To open up for him and meet him, that was an amazing honor. He's such a soft-spoken guy but you know he's a brilliant mind at work. Look at the catalog of things he's written; you don't realize how much he writes himself."

4. Alabama: "The harmonies and the songs. For me growing up in the south, those guys just resonate so much with me, especially with me being in a band, too. I grew up singing family harmony. I fell in love with Alabama from the way their voices sounded together. They're definitely one of the premier groups in country music history for the caliber of the material they had and the impact they had on all groups moving forward. Look at groups since then, including us; no doubt our harmonies came from what those guys orchestrated between their voices. And it wasn't just guys that got up there and sang; they were amazing players all around, just spot on. I cut my teeth on those records."

5. Vince Gill: "There's something about the gospel-sounding style of the music, that kind of bluegrass/gospel sound I feel is so timeless in country music and such a part of the overall country music genre. That style he does so well; his voice lends itself so perfectly to the bluegrass and gospel feeling of the songs he cut. 'Go Rest High' has to be one of the best songs of all time, of any genre. What an absolutely beautiful song. And for me as a guitar player, he's one of the guys I've been trying to study and emulate. Everything about him is such perfection."


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