Doors Are Opening for Lady Antebellum

Debut Single, "Love Don't Live Here," Leads to ACM Nomination

They say when one door closes, another one opens. For the new country band Lady Antebellum, the doors keep opening — especially when they were filming their debut video, “Love Don’t Live Here.”

“I remember coming out the door of that bar that we did the final performance in,” says Hillary Scott, who formed the trio with Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood. “We came out of that door and made the entrance like a hundred times. And those poor people, which a lot of them were our friends and some of our fans, and they had to act just as excited every single time. … I know they got exhausted.”

Lady Antebellum recently wrapped a tour with Martina McBride, followed by a full calendar of shows coming up this summer as the opening act for the likes of Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw and Carrie Underwood. They’re also nominated for the Academy of Country Music’s top new group honor. Last week, they released their self-titled debut album for Capitol Nashville.

Here, they talk about mumbling their way through harmonies, meeting the right people and the first song they ever wrote together.

CMT: How quickly did you acclimate to life on the road?

Scott: For me, I lived on the bus for two years with my parents when my mom [Linda Davis] was opening up for different artists and at the beginning stages of her career. It’s funny because I sleep in the same bunk I slept in when I was a kid, and I’ve acclimated pretty quickly, but it is really surreal — that it’s ours … that I’m not my mom’s tag-along. It’s our bus, our band, our shows every night. That’s the exciting part. I mean, I can sleep for days on those buses. The little bit of movement, it just knocks me out. I wake up and feel like I just came out of a coma some mornings, I sleep so hard.

When you moved to Nashville, how hard was it to meet people and make connections?

Haywood: It is intimidating because you don’t really know the ropes and what to have conversations about and what to say and if it’s weird to ask people to write with them. It definitely took a few months to figure out the music social etiquette, so to speak, of figuring out what’s hip and what’s not, as far as getting the right circles. But once we got with Hillary and the three of us started writing … she had a lot of connections in Nashville. She’s been working a long time, her whole life, here. She’s been a great help for us to meet a lot of people.

So many artists focus on lyrics, but was it a conscious effort for you to make sure your melodies were just where they needed to be, too?

Scott: Absolutely. I listen for lyrics, but I don’t think you hear the lyrics if the melody doesn’t grab you. So I think that is extremely important to us. When we start in a writing session, we will find something and then go, “Can we beat it? Let’s try to beat it.”

Kelley: We always start with melody first. That’s what we have always done. … Dave will come up with some chord structure and then Hillary and I will come up with the vocal melody over that. Then something will come out of our mouths, like “Love Don’t Live Here,” and there’s a song, and we will write around that.

Scott: Literally, he’ll play the guitar, and we sit around and mumble until something comes out. Or sometimes we come in with a line or an idea, but a lot of times we are just moved by what Dave plays.

Kelley: That’s Dave coming up with those melodies.

What was the dynamic when you wrote your first single, “All We’d Ever Need”?

Scott: That was the first day I had ever been over to their house. I walked in not really knowing what to expect. I had heard Charles’ music — that he and Dave were writing — on MySpace and heard his voice and was a huge fan. You never know how you are going to click, if you’re going to be on the same level creatively or if you are just completely going to clash. It was really, really amazing walking in and hearing them. I’ll never forget, Dave was sitting at the piano and Charles was sitting in a chair next to him, and they played this beautiful melody, and I kinda went to the same place and the song kinda wrote itself. It was really, really easy to write the rest of it because we just clicked.

Kelley: Dave and I had the majority of the melody ready, and I had that line, “I should have been chasing you,” for a while from an experience I was kinda going through. I was struggling. I had some of the verse. I always had that thought, “I wonder if she still sleeps in old T-shirts or something of mine,” so I had that line. It was actually Hillary’s idea to turn that into a duet. I wrote it about my experience from a girl’s perspective. I know this sounds arrogant, but it’s like I’m hoping she thinks the same things I think. I’m wondering if she’s longing about these little things, and so we wrote it initially for her and then she begged me to turn it into a duet.

Scott: Oh my gosh, I begged and pleaded, and I think finally to shut me up, he said, “OK, fine.”

Kelley: So we tweaked it to make a couple little things work, and it was really special. I was like, “Man, it really does work so much better as a duet.” It took it to this back-and-forth thing. To me, it’s by far the most special song on the record. It’s the most personal. How it all started. I think we found our sound with that song.

Craig Shelburne has been writing for CMT.com since 2002. He is also a producer for CMT Edge, Concrete Country and Live @ CMT.