Lady Antebellum has ridden to massive crossover success singing about the highs and lows of love. The three members of the country-pop trio can add a new dimension to their take on relationships. They're all married folk now, and that creates a new dynamic in the band.
"Things feel a lot more serious now that we've settled down and gotten married," says multi-instrumentalist and harmony singer Dave Haywood, who forms the trio with lead singers Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley. "We're all going through the ups and downs of what it's like to be married, and what it's like to be married and traveling. We're sharing in those experiences together and helping each other through them. It's helped us grow closer as a group because we're able to express these things together."
The Grammy-winning group traffics in a warm, highly polished sound that showcases Scott and Kelley's alternating female-male perspectives on life in the trenches of love. Pop-savvy songwriters all, they write or co-write much of their own material. They've released some of the biggest singles in recent years, including "Need You Now," their epic 2010 ode to drunk dialing that has amassed nearly 45 million views on YouTube.
Given that everything they've touched has turned to gold — and multiplatinum — the group's aptly titled new release "Golden" (Capitol Nashville) is out Tuesday.
It's an album that came together over a year spent on their first arena headlining tour in 2012. With little time to spend at home, they turned every backstage into home. Wherever they went on the road, they took their writing room with them.
"For us, being backstage is way more than playing video games," Haywood says. "There are a lot of artists who just sit on their butts all day. We are the complete opposites. From the moment we get to a venue, we are getting our jam room set up. We have a pingpong table and a tiki bar, which was inspired by Kenny Chesney. We've got five or six guitars and some percussion. I've got Pro Tools recording software, which is the same software we record our records on."
The members of Lady Antebellum are a case study in focused ambition. Instead of rushing to write a new album at the end of the tour, they made writing a daily part of their traveling lives. They wrote every day in different combinations: as a trio, with the members of their road band and with outside songwriters who would join them on the road.
"We would come off stage after the encore and go into the jam room," Haywood says. "We'd have a couple beers, play some pingpong and then start writing some new ideas. The record was really cultivated on the road. We have to try so hard to create an environment where we can write organically."
"Golden" is a slick but honest release. The trio offers up the empowerment anthem "Generation Away" and the misty nostalgia of "Long Teenage Goodbye." Haywood says "Better Man" (their original song, not the Clint Black classic) was inspired by the way "all of our spouses have made us better people."
Even though all three are married, they still have a lyrical way with conveying the problems of single life. "It Ain't Pretty" is an intimate, stripped-down ballad. Scott gives a vocally vulnerable performance as a brokenhearted girl looking for love in all the wrong places.
"'It Ain't Pretty' is a really exposed song, lyrically and musically," Haywood says. "It's the most poignant way of saying it's not pretty when you go out and do that walk of shame. It's sung from a female perspective, but I think both male and female can relate to this desperate need to find love again, flipping through your phone, looking for anybody to talk to."
The song "All for Love" is a demonstration of the flexibility that comes with having lead singers of both sexes. Kelley takes the role of a man crying out to save a relationship. Scott stars as the woman who is sadly walking away. It's part of the trademark Lady A sound. Haywood says that when the group formed, that vocal approach was initially met with skepticism.
"From the day we
started as a band, there were naysayers who said, 'You can't have two lead singers in a band. What's wrong with you? Why would you confuse the listener with two singers?' But that's the way it's always been from the beginning with the three of us. It was Charles taking a line here, Hillary taking a line there, and we all come in on the chorus. We loved that, and it just happened organically. We were always trading off vocals."
The hit single "Downtown" is a funky spin on a girl's night out. The accompanying video gives the members of Lady A the chance to show off their lighter side. It also reveals their mutual gift for comic timing, with Kelley and Haywood teasing Scott like a little sister.
"We consider ourselves friends first," Haywood says. "That's been the foundation of our group and why we've been able to sustain through the ups and downs and the crazy moments and the success. We have a friendship at the core of who we are. We goof around all the time. We've done a lot of serious videos in the past, and this was the first one to show off the fun side of our personalities."
The three friends and bandmates are preparing for the newest member of the Lady A family. Scott is pregnant with her first child, a daughter due in July.
"Lady Antebellum is having their first group baby," Haywood says. "We have fun. We're with Hillary every day. She has great energy for all these shows we're doing. She's had a lot of energy playing these hour-and-a-half shows at night with a baby bump and rocking it."
The young trio with a knack for the love song is entering into the deeper responsibilities of adulthood. Haywood says it's a nice place to be.
"Hillary is the first one to get pregnant out of all of our relationships, but we're all in the same place," he says. "We can relate and walk through this particular time of our lives together. It's sweet to get off stage and be able to share with each other and our spouses."