“The main goal is to reach fans that have never heard of us,” says Charles Kelley, who shares lead vocals with Hillary Scott while Dave Haywood offers piano, guitar and harmonies. “They’re coming out to see Kenny. But it’s always fun to see support from the loyal Lady A fans.”
Of course, with hits such as “Love Don’t Live Here,” “Lookin’ for a Good Time” and “I Run to You,” it’s not as though they’re an unknown act. They were also named the top new duo or vocal group at the 2008 Academy of Country Music Awards and new artist of the year at the 2008 CMA Awards.
A few hours prior to their recent performance in Birmingham, Ala., with Chesney and the tour’s middle act, Miranda Lambert, the members of Lady Antebellum talked about uptempo set lists, creating new music and the dangers of dramatic arm motions.
CMT: What was it about Kenny Chesney’s tour that made you think, “Yeah, let’s take it”?
Kelley: Well, first off it’s the biggest country tour. We grew up listening to his music, so it’s pretty funny to sit here and think about opening up for a guy you’ve been listening to since you were 10 years old.
Scott: And, especially, it seems like year after year he takes home entertainer of the year honors at the CMA and ACM awards. We wanted to get out here and steal a few tricks.
Haywood: We’re just on our third song at radio and our first album, so this exposure is priceless for us. We could travel to these cities and play smaller clubs and have a few hundred people come out.
Kelley: We could do better than that! Come on, now! (laughs) We’re very self-deprecating.
Haywood: But this exposure of 5,000 or 10,000 or 15,000 and into the stadiums of 30,000 or 40,000-plus — that exposure is bigger than anything we could have asked for.
Scott: They said by the end of this tour we’ll have been in front of over a million people. … That’s exciting to think about — that we’ll have been in front of a million more people than we would have otherwise.
What can people expect from this tour?
Scott: I think you can count on one hand, across all three acts, how many ballads are played. It’s very uptempo.
Haywood: You’ll know every song, too. My family came out last weekend and my dad said, “I don’t think I know any Kenny Chesney songs.” I said, “Just wait.” And, sure enough, halfway through the set, he knew every song. It’s a hit-making party show for him, and Miranda’s just a butt-kicker, herself. She’s great, man. Super energy.
Scott: And I like being out on the road with another girl. We are far outnumbered. It’s nice to have a girl out on the road and be able to visit with her and talk about boys and our love for Beyoncé.
How long did it take to get used to the rhythm of the road?
Scott: I think we’re still getting used to it. On this tour, every venue is different. One day we’ll be in a big, huge indoor arena, and there are hallways and rooms. And here, for instance, in Birmingham, we’re sitting in a mobile home-type dressing room.
Kelley: It’s been fun, though. We’ve adjusted to life on the road, and you crave it. Once you’re home, you’re ready to get back on the road.
Haywood: It’s a good schedule, too. We’ve had some songwriters come out, or we’ll write ourselves during the day. It’s a good schedule. We definitely love it.
Can your fans expect any new songs in your concerts?
Kelley: Yeah, we actually talked about that last week. Maybe not on the Kenny Chesney shows, because it’s such a short set and we want to give people as much of what they know as possible. But on our longer sets, where it’s Lady A shows, we’ll be throwing in a couple of new songs here soon. We’re working on our second record right now. It’s still kind of up in the air when it will come out, but we’re excited. We do so much writing, and we’re ready to start moving forward.
How far along are you on the new record?
All: About halfway.
Haywood: We want to get a head start. We’re not sure when we’re going to want it or need it, but we wanted to be a little bit ahead of the game. We’ve got about half of it. We’re in town [Nashville] Mondays and Tuesdays, working on the record, and then out Wednesdays through Sunday with Kenny.
When the house music goes down and you’re about five seconds from going out there, what’s going through your head?
Haywood: I think just have fun with it. I think people can see through when you’re up there not having a good time with it. For everything we do, we have a lot of rehearsals and stuff leading up to this. We try to get out there and do what we do and soak it up. We have a short set, so we try to put everything we can into all 25 minutes of what we get.
What’s the value of rehearsal?
Kelley: You know what it is? I was always like, “Ugh,” and had a pessimistic view when it came to rehearsals because I thought, “Well, you’re taking out a lot of the spontaneity.” But the thing is, if you can free yourself from some of the basic things in the show… . In our movements, we have a couple of cues where we like to come together, but for the most part, it’s pretty free. But if you have that [plan], then you’re not thinking about that. And you can free yourself to relax and let yourself go into a more relaxed, calm and creative space in your head.
Scott: And Charles and I don’t run into each other.
Kelley: We’ve done that a couple of times before. We have this moment in “All We’d Ever Need” where we’re on opposite ends of the stage and then coming together. One night, Hillary just flailed her arm. It was a really intimate moment, and she slapped the mike out of my hand. We just started laughing. Now, every time when that moment comes, I have my crazy grip on it.