OFFSTAGE: Before Lady Antebellum Owned the Night, They Seized the Day

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

I realize Lady Antebellum won vocal group of the year at Wednesday night’s (Nov. 9) CMA Awards . And it was very well-deserved. Their performance of “We Owned the Night” showcased how powerful their songwriting has become. The band’s Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood penned the hit with songwriter Dallas Davidson. But they haven’t always written sure-fire hits. I caught up with Kelley and Haywood on Tuesday (Nov. 8) night at the BMI Awards and asked about some of their earlier work. “We wrote our first song when we were still in college. It was called ‘Carpe Diem’s on Vacation,’” Kelley said with a bit of a cringe. But Haywood explained their rookie thinking. “I think we thought you had to make the lyrics really deep to make it really meaningful, so we used Latin words,” he said. “Even in middle school band, you’d write these rock songs with crazy lyrics — like how we were so jaded. Even though we weren’t jaded at all. And Kelley agreed that it just takes time to work through the bad songs to get to the good ones. “It took us a while before we became decent songwriters, that’s for sure,” he told me. Then Haywood gave me this advice for aspiring musicians: “Everybody can write a song. Just put carpe diem [seize the day] in there.”

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