Lady Antebellum vows to keep country first

Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum: "We are and will forever be loyal to country music."

In mainstream country music, curiosity often follows success. The questions typically focus on mobility: Is a crossover to pop next? Does the act have the Top 40 hit to get there?

Lady Antebellum, the Nashville country trio headlining Jiffy Lube Live on Saturday, knows the situation well, thanks to the success of its 2009 single "Need You Now." The ballad went on to sell more than 6 million copies and win four Grammy Awards, including Song and Record of the Year. Afterward, some wondered if Lady Antebellum would take the Taylor Swift route to pop in pursuit of more widespread visibility.

But when asked about the success of "Need You Now" and any pressures it created, singer Hillary Scott answered by reaffirming allegiances to her roots.

"We are and will forever be loyal to country music and country radio. That is our home. Where it goes from there, great," Scott said on the phone from Nashville during a quick break from the band's tour. "We just wanted to do right by the song."

That guiding principle — write what you like, and hope others enjoy it later — is common, but Lady Antebellum's success is not. Since "Need You Now," the band has doubled down on its harmonized, hook-heavy brand of country with continued success on the charts and on tour. After nine years together and five albums, including last September's "747," Scott said, Lady Antebellum has never felt this confident about the future.

"You hit a point in your career and in your life where you really want to go to bed at night proud of what you're doing and the songs that you're writing," Scott said. "The urgency we were striving for [on "747"] was to just stretch ourselves, and continue to turn into the artists and the people we want to be."

It takes a journey to get to such an inspired place, and Lady Antebellum's began in 2006 where so many country acts start and fail: Nashville. After the release of the band's self-titled debut album two years later, the trio — which also features Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood — wasted little time before hitting the road to build a fan base through touring. Then came the hits: "Need You Now" is still their most successful song, but plenty of platinum singles followed, including 2010's "American Honey," 2011's "Just a Kiss" and 2013's "Downtown."

Lady Antebellum's catalog has a strong connection with fans, Scott said, because the group writes about universal feelings while staying true to its members' personalities.

"We obviously write from our personal experiences, which is what everyone else goes through for the most part," Scott, 29, said. "Hopefully, it'll always be relatable."

While Lady Antebellum knows what works for itself, the band is also willing to change e when the time is right. For "747," the band worked with producer Nathan Chapman instead of their usual collaborator, Paul Worley. They did not work in their regular Nashville studio, either. It was all in an effort to write new material from outside their comfort zone.

Scott believes the finished songs are better for it, and points to current single "Long Stretch of Love" as "the perfect representation of Lady Antebellum right now." Like a rollicking Fleetwood Mac tune with twang, the song captures "where we are personally and where we are professionally," Scott said.

"I don't ever want to break this chain, I don't ever want to walk away," the trio sings together. The subject is romance, but it could represent the group's current state.

"We're more solid as friends than we've ever been," Scott said. "We're feeling secure in our spot, and what we've been able to accomplish."

Never a group to sit idly by, the band will continue to tour through September. The follow-up to "747" is also coming together in bits and pieces, Scott said, but don't be surprised if Lady Antebellum takes some time for themselves before hitting the studio.

Home early for Memorial Day weekend, Scott sounded happy to be in Nashville after finishing a yoga class. Could she — a mother and wife in addition to being a country star — get used to an extended break, especially since Lady Antebellum has taken so few?

"We've worked really hard for nine straight years," Scott said. "I think to take even if it's just a couple of months at some point, [that] would be really healthy for all of us."

Hearing herself say something like that must have hit a nerve for Scott, because she could not help but quickly backtrack a bit to leave the door open in case the next "Need You Now" comes.

"But if things start to go crazy and we have all of these opportunities falling into our laps, you don't say 'no' to a lot of them," Scott said. "I think there will be a little bit more space between this [album] and the next one, but I don't know how much. We're in continual motion. That's how we've always rolled."

wesley.case@baltsun.com

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If you go

Lady Antebellum performs Saturday at Jiffy Lube Live, 7800 Cellar Door Drive, Bristow, Va. Hunter Hayes and Sam Hunt will also perform. Doors open at 4 p.m. Tickets are $30.75-$60.50. Call 703-754-6400 or go to jiffylubelive.com.

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