OFFSTAGE: Back When Lady Antebellum Made $200 a Gig

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

Sure, they own the night now. But before Lady Antebellum was Lady Antebellum, they once drove 16 hours round trip to make a measly $200. Dave Haywood told me the story when the band was here playing Joe’s Bar in Chicago on Saturday (Sept. 10). “Before Charles and I even met Hillary, I had found this website for Joe’s. So I emailed them at the booking email address. They wrote us back and let me and Charles come up here and open up for Emerson Drive. We just played under Charles Kelley’s name. We got 200 bucks to drive up from Nashville. That covered about 100 miles of gas,” he joked. He said since then the band has had so many great memories at the bar (and a couple memories he can’t quite remember) opening for everyone from Phil Vassar to SHeDAISY. And even though Lady Antebellum could easily sell out a venue 10 times the size, they brought their album-release event back here for a special fan party. And I’m guessing they make way more than $200 a night now. But has the fame brought them big-money attitudes? “We are the complete opposite of that,” he told me. “I always feel like being in a group, there’s just this natural grounding effect. Where none of us would let each other get like that. I’ll never let Charles and Hillary be divas or feel, like, too cool. We don’t want to be those kinds of people.” He did admit that what the fame has brought them is opportunities to donate to charities they believe in and just the chance to live the dream. “Being able to play and write, we love that our career has brought us that. We just can’t stop writing. If we sit on the bus and we’re together, the guitar’s right there, 24 hours a day. We just come up with ideas,” Haywood said. “That’s how any creative mind works.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.