Lady Antebellum, Sugarland and songwriter Allen Shamblin shared a few celebratory moments with reporters backstage at the CMA Awards on Wednesday night (Nov. 10), posing for photos, clutching their trophies and fielding questions about their music.
Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now,” which won an award for single of the year, has certainly been inescapable in 2010, but singer Charles Kelley cracked a big smile when asked if the band members have secretly caught anybody cranking up the volume in traffic.
“I want that to happen so bad, and it never happens!” he exclaimed. “It’s really funny you say that because I’ve really had that moment where I’ve thought, ’I’m going to roll my window down.’ … That would be the coolest feeling in the world, but it’s never happened.”
Band member Dave Haywood noted, “When we wrote that song, we kind of put it away for a couple of months and had no idea that we would get back to it. But once we got into the studio, we took a chance on it pretty early on. [Producer] Paul Worley deserves a lot of credit for shaping that song and shaping the sound of that song.”
“And the players on the record,” Kelley added. “We give them a lot of freedom to be creative with us with ideas. All those hooks, that’s those players and that’s Paul and Dave.
“The day after we wrote that song, we thought, ’We like it. It’s OK. We’ll see if we get back to it.’ Then sure enough, we did. And we’re very happy we did,” Haywood concluded.
The group also won their second consecutive CMA trophy for vocal group on the year, capping a year of crossover success, double-platinum sales and a well-received tour with Tim McGraw, along with a stretch of headlining dates.
“We couldn’t ask for a better way to be winding up the most incredible year of our lives,” noted singer Hillary Scott. “I mean, 2010 has put one down for the record books for us. I think if nothing were to happen for the rest of our lives, we would be so happy. We appreciate feeling the love tonight from our peers and being able to celebrate with our peers who took home awards, as well. It’s been a big, huge celebration for country music, which is why we’re all here.”
Yet their thoughts are naturally turning to making their third album.
“We’re always thinking of the next record,” Kelley said. “Honestly, the minute we end one record, we’re always writing for the next. Out on the road, that’s what we do. We cannot wait to get back into the studio. It’s our passion.”
Asked about their close friendship with fellow CMA winners Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, Scott replied, “If you’re looking at the definition of a true country artist, she’s it. Watching her perform tonight with Loretta Lynn, one of the biggest legends of this music industry, she’s just amazing. She’s one of my best friends, but just her voice, her talent, her songwriting ability — she deserves it. The Revolution album is a masterpiece. It’s absolutely beautiful. … And for Blake to win male vocalist, too. He’s a dear, dear friend of ours, and that’s been a long time coming. I think he has one of the best voices in this genre.”
Kelley interjected, “I told them it’s time for them to get married and have a kid to see how that kid sings!”
Sugarland claimed their fourth consecutive CMA win in the vocal duo category.
“This has been such a year of growth and expansion, creatively, for us,” Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles said. “I think anybody who has seen our tour has witnessed that. We’re super-excited about the fans that we’re bringing into country music. So to be able to win this award tonight … is very validating in a sense. It’s also your peers saying, ’Yeah, it’s good. Grow and go and soar and fly and bring them all.'”
“It’s also very interesting to see people admit that they’re country music fans,” added her musical partner, Kristian Bush. “All over the U.S. when we tour, and also online, people show up every day and go, ’Man, I love this song! I had no idea that I was a country music fan.’ We’ve been seeing that change.”
Elaborating on their inventive performance of “Stuck Like Glue” during the show, Nettles commented, “It was sort of a collective idea in the sense that Robert Deaton, who directs the show, came to us and said, ’Let’s do this fun idea in a box, right? In a big velvet red box with lights.’ We said, ’All right, cool.’ And as soon as I saw it, I thought, ’This looks cool! It looks like a music box to me! Awesome! I could be like a ballerina spinning around! Kristian could be cranking me up! I could have a tutu! It just went crazy from there.”
“They didn’t say no,” Bush added.
“Right. So we just kept going,” Nettles continued. “And then I’ll walk out of the tutu! Why not? Obviously this song is a fun song and has a lot of levity to it, and we wanted to be able to bring that to the performance as well, so we went there.”
Asked about their ambitious musical vision, Nettles replied, “I think country music is very elastic. I think it’s interesting that people have asked certain questions about that elasticity. For example, ’Do you think you can push too far?’ And I say, ’Why do you ask this of country music? Is country music supposed to be less tolerant? Is it supposed to be less innovative?’ I don’t think so. I’ve used this example before, but when the Rolling Stones brought in gospel singers as their backup singers, did people suddenly look at them and ask, ’Oh, have you gone too far? Are you about to make a gospel record?’ … I think country music is elastic, and it’s definitely showing that it’s young and fresh and hip and new and not stodgy, if you will.”
Bush also talked about bringing his father to the ceremony.
“My dad has never been to one of these shows before, and he’s always wanted to,” Bush said. “He asked, so I said, ’Yeah, come on.’ It’s an interesting thing — I can imagine since I’m a parent now — when your children decide they want to go be musicians. It can be an anxiety-driving place. He came all the way around and ended up supporting me. I love that he gets to take the victory lap whenever I do.”
Shamblin, who co-wrote “The House That Built Me” with Tom Douglas, earned his first CMA Award, winning in the song of the year category. He had earned previous nominations for co-writing David Ball’s “Thinkin’ Problem” in 1995 and Mark Wills’ “Don’t Laugh at Me” in 1999.
Asked about the origins of the song, he said, “I grew up in a little town called Huffman, Texas, about 30 miles outside of Houston. It’s a beautiful place to grow up. After I graduated from college, at least once a year I go back to my hometown. I’ll go through the Dairy Queen and get a Pepsi, then I’ll drive by my old house. It recalibrates me. It reminds me of where I’m from. For years, I’ve wondered what it would be like to knock on the door, go in and see my old bedroom. See where I used to sneak out the window, lay on the roof and play my old guitar. And I never did. This song was about that wondering what it would be like to go back where I grew up.”
He continued, “The most special thing about this song is that it has put me in touch with people from my childhood. … It’s reconnected me with a whole generation of kids who are now adults that I thought I might have lost forever. It’s like we’ve been having a reunion ever since this song came out because a lot of those kids who are now adults played in our yard and they’ve been in our house. It has brought the community back together, in a way.”
He was also quick to thank producer Scott Hendricks and Blake Shelton for abandoning their own plans to cut the song after Lambert fell in love with it.
“They set aside their personal agenda and let the song pass on through and live out its destiny — because I believe it was destined for Miranda Lambert,” Shamblin said. “People could have gotten greedy, but they didn’t. Everybody had a giving spirit about them.”Check out more coverage from the 2010 CMA Awards.