Watch the interview with Lady Antebellum in the new episode of CMT Insider airing Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 24-25) at 11 a.m. ET/PT.
Lady Antebellum have probably been in the holiday spirit longer than anybody. They’ve been wrapping their Christmas album, On This Winter’s Night, for the last two summers.
In this interview with CMT Insider, band members Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott chat about the seasonal songs they chose, the video shoot for “Holly Jolly Christmas” and breaking the ice on the photo shoot for the album.
CMT: A lot of the Christmas albums are recorded in the hottest months of the year. How are you supposed to get in the mood to record a Christmas album when it’s July?
Scott: Turn the thermostat down really cold.
Haywood: Yeah, we recorded last year in July, and the year before that in July. Of course, we’re in the middle of the summer, but we decorated with a lot of Christmas lights. It’s really dark in the studio, so you put a bunch of tacky lights up … and crank the air down, throw on a tacky sweater, and it feels like Christmas.
At least it wasn’t that difficult to get in the mood for the photo shoot, right? That was in Utah, a very snowy part of the world.
Kelley: Yeah. It was in Park City. … We kept getting snow in these boots, too. At one point, our stylist had given us our fancy shoes, and we were like, “Have you looked outside?” So we all get in these big old snow boots and had a lot of fun. … We had to yank her out.
Scott: Oh, my gosh, there was this little creek running next to the property that had been covered over, and I was like, “Oh, it’s solid ice.” Nope. “Oh, no!” Then my pants got really wet, but I made it through. … And we never see that much snow. I’m born and raised here in Tennessee and the boys are from Georgia. And unless you go skiing out west in the winter, I’ve never seen that much perfect, pure, untouched snow before. So I wanted to go run around in it, and so that’s what we did.
There are so many Christmas songs out there and so many classics. How did you decide what to include on your Christmas album?
Kelley: It was a fun process. We all walked in and sat around with a guitar and we’d throw out different ideas. And it came together really organically. … We all agreed on songs like “The First Noel,” “Silent Night, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” And then some other surprises came in. I think I suggested “All I Want for Christmas Is You” which Mariah Carey made famous, and it’s really [up-tempo]. Hillary had the idea of, “Well, let’s go completely opposite and slow it down and make you think about the lyrics a little bit more.” What was another one that you brought in — “This Christmas”?
Scott: “This Christmas,” yeah, that Donny Hathaway, really R&B-sounding one. I was like, “Let’s just do it.” So many different artists in different genres of music have influenced us in our career outside of the holiday album, so why not keep the same trend and incorporate that into our holiday album?
Kelley: We took some chances on this album. A lot of horns, lot of strings. We spent as much time on this record as we do our normal records because hopefully this thing could be around for a while. Year after year, it could be played, and that’s the goal. So you don’t want to be looking back on it in 10 years and not be proud of it, so we spent a lot of time. We are very proud.
You’re taking songs that everybody knows so well and putting your own flair into them. How do you come up with things that are little bit different but that you know people will still enjoy and love?
Haywood: We work a lot on the vocal arrangements. I think for us, that’s where we spend the most time. We try to put our own special touch on these songs. I mean, when you’re dealing with a song that Elvis or any of those huge artists have worked on … for us, it’s like, “What if Hillary sang here? What if Charles sang here? What if we did a three-part thing here? What if we mixed it up and changed it?” And that’s the way we write our music. So it’s fun for us to get in there and cover these songs and then put our own vocal arrangements. It’s like a puzzle.
That’s got to be a lot of fun.
Kelley: Christmas songs are unlike anything — they’re actually pretty intricate. … Dave plays every instrument under the sun, but he was saying it took him out of his comfort zone. He learned a whole bunch of jazz chords and stuff.
Haywood: Yeah, I played stuff I haven’t played in 15 years, since jazz band. It was cool. When else can we have a huge horn section on an album? We’ve never done that before. … We had a children’s choir from the W.O. Smith School of Music come in on the song we wrote, “On This Winter’s Night.” When else can you have an opportunity to do something like that? Really special.
And you shot a video for “Holly Jolly Christmas.” How did that shoot go?
Kelley: I was so nervous. I told the director afterwards, after we had seen it, that I was so happy with the way it came out. Because when we’re in there — funny, goofy videos can go one of two ways. … It came out really great. When we were filming it, I was like, “Oh, my gosh, this is going to be so cheesy.” But it’s fun and, again, you don’t take yourself too seriously.