NEW YORK CITY — Lady Antebellum‘s Own the Night tour has kept the tireless trio busy on the road since late last year.
When they kicked off the tour’s latest leg with two shows at New York City’s renowned Radio City Music Hall on Thursday and Friday (May 3-4), it seemed like the right time to catch up with Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood to take stock of where their ever-ascending popularity has taken them, both geographically and emotionally.
“No rest for the weary,” says Kelley of the current itinerary that will take the trio all the way to Europe before the summer is over. “We love it, though. It’s fun. Before, we were always opening up for artists, so now to finally be headlining in arenas … we were even asking if we could add dates. We’re kind of in the groove now. It’s such a different feeling of touring when you’re actually the headliners, we kind of have a newfound excitement for touring.”
Gauging the difference in audience reactions between American and European audiences, Kelley says, “It’s interesting to see the reaction is a little different. Everybody watches shows a little differently. Switzerland was extremely polite [last time]. After every song, they got up and clapped and sat back down. London was wild. They’re a wild crowd. They remind me of the States.”
Lady A’s European jaunt will also provide the group with the unusual opportunity of escaping superstardom for just a little while.
“We’re more of a baby band over there,” explains Kelley. “People overseas just know us from the Need You Now album, or even just a couple of songs, which will be kind of exciting for us. You almost feel like, ‘All right, you’ve gotta get over there and win them over.’ This is the first time that most of them will have seen us, so I think there’s gonna be a cool energy when we head over there for that.”
At the same time, the band members have been equally fired up about making their debut at the legendary Radio City.
“When we were here last year for our theater tour,” recalls Scott, “we played the Beacon in New York, but we’re looking forward to playing Radio City just because it’s such an iconic venue, honestly, with the Rockettes being there every year. We actually went to see them a couple of years ago there, and it’s just one of those places that is on your list of ‘if we ever have a chance to play there, what an amazing experience.’”
Analyzing the difference between Lady Antebellum’s set list the previous time they hit New York and the one they prepared for Radio City, Kelley mused, “I think having a few more singles on the radio, it just helps you pace out the shows so much more. I mean, when we first started, gosh, when you had one or two songs that people know of yours from the radio, and then you have to pace out an hour and a-half show. It’s really hard, you know? Especially when you only have one or two albums. So now having three albums of material, what do we have, I think eight singles maybe? You can really feel like you’re hitting them over the head a lot more with songs they know and can sing along to. I just feel like it keeps it much more of a high-energy show throughout the night.”
But glamorous stops like Radio City and the aforementioned overseas destinations are far from the only important items on Lady Antebellum’s current agenda. On May 16, the group will play a benefit performance in Louisville, Ky., to aid the tornado-ravaged town of Henryville, Ind.
“That started with the idea to go and play a prom,” explains Haywood. “Hillary had thought of this about a year and a-half ago, when we were in the studio recording ‘Dancin’ Away With My Heart.’ It’s actually turned into something a lot bigger than that. Henryville had that terrible devastation from the tornadoes months ago, and a couple of high schools around the area sent in videos. They wanted for us to be able to come and play their [Henryville's] prom. So we’re heading there for a special event for the high school, and then we’re actually able to do something a little bigger and open it up to the whole community.
“We’re able to do a big concert and hopefully put a smile on their faces, and Lipton [the tea company the band has partnered with for a national marketing campaign] is actually gonna match up to $50,000 for every dollar that people donate as well. Hopefully it’ll just raise a lot of support for the city. They’ve been through a lot, and it’s definitely a tough thing to go through. We went through a big flood in Nashville two years ago that wrecked a lot of the city. You know, there’s hope down the road, and hopefully an event like this will bring a smile to them.”
It turns out that all this time spent on the road is actually conducive to creativity for the musicians, who have been busily penning the songs for their next album during the Own the Night tour.
“We write mostly on the road,” says Scott.
“I can’t remember the last time I’ve written at home,” Kelley adds.
Digging into the details of their peripatetic process for songwriting, Haywood offers, “If you pulled out our phones, every phone’s got about four or five ideas in progress at all times. We have a little recording studio that we take with us — a mobile studio that we take on the road — and we record ideas and can put ‘em down. So we do probably 90 percent of our writing on there.”
Looking toward that still-hypothetical next record, Kelley says, “We’ve written probably about 20 or 25 [songs], but we probably have 10 that we’re really excited about, and we’ll keep writing. It’s so funny. You always love the newest thing you’ve written, so we have to put them all together and really live with them.
“But we’re excited about the next stage. I think that, for us, what drives the band is the writing. We feel like that’s what keeps us really close as a band, too, being able to share our stories back and forth with each other, and it just keeps us motivated for the next step and the next project.”