You could say Lady Antebellum are currently in fine-tuning mode — both musically and personally. Not only have the multiple award-winners released new material including their Live: On This Winter’s Night holiday DVD and an expanded deluxe edition of Golden, but they’re also prepping for a vigorous nationwide tour kicking off in January. And while they’re busy navigating the band’s musical course individually, each member is balancing and plotting their own personal path.
In fact, the group’s performance on Wednesday’s (Nov. 6) CMA Awards was their first noteworthy appearance since Hillary Scott welcomed her daughter Eisele Kaye in July. And despite the several months off the road, their ability to pick up where they left off proved watertight during a recent visit to CMT’s offices in Nashville.
“You know, I’ve sang with a lot of different people and great artists before, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt we captured the same magic as I feel like we do between the three of us,” Charles Kelley said. “Some voices just fit together.”
Scott echoed his sentiment.
“We can go and write with other people — venture outside of the three of us — but then once we’re all back together, it’s like, ‘All right! This is that blend,'” she said.
After all, though not by blood or marriage, the members of Lady Antebellum are like family as they support one another through life’s many changes.
“We’ve walked through so many huge moments together as a band,” said Dave Haywood, who was married in 2012 as the final member of Lady Antebellum to tie the knot. “We started eight years ago. All three of us were single, just trying to figure out life — all crazy and just having the times of our lives. It’s been fun to just watch each of us kind of go through that process of figuring out more about ourselves, getting married, starting families.”
And as for their latest single, “Compass” couldn’t be more fitting. With an echo of reassuring lines like “When it’s all said and done, you can walk instead of run/’Cause no matter what you’ll never be alone,” the group was collectively drawn to the song’s encouraging lyrics. Yet individually, each member identified uniquely to the song’s underlying message of hope.
“I feel like once you’ve found that person, you’re never alone,” Kelley explained. “Even with what we do, we’re always traveling and running around, knowing that when you come home, you always have that person you can fall into. No matter what you’ve got to chase after or do, I just thought it was a great message, and I think we’ve all felt that from our families, too, when we chased after this dream.”
“For me, I think a lot about my daughter now — being a new mom,” Scott added with a smile. “If you really go with your heart and follow your dreams, it will lead to something beautiful.”
Multi-instrumentalist Haywood also shared his fondness for the song’s musical components equipped with mandolins, banjos and distinct drum beats.
“For us, it was kind of a fresh take, and it’s got a lot of great vocals and great moments for harmonies throughout the chorus and throughout the whole song,” he said. “Musically, it felt like it ran the gamut on everything that we love as Lady Antebellum.”
The dramatic and empowering tune is featured alongside the deluxe edition of Golden‘s two other bonus songs — “And the Radio Played” and “Life as We Know It” — and special remixes of fan-favorites “Need You Now,” “Just a Kiss” and “I Run to You.” The original album released earlier this year also includes “Goodbye Town” as well as the platinum-selling single, “Downtown.”
But don’t think Lady Antebellum are getting comfortable continuing in this same musical direction. With “Compass,” they’ve readjusted their sails for what Kelley refers to as a “modern twist on what is kind of an old, organic kind of feel.” And fans may be surprised to learn the song’s co-writers include members of Stargate, a songwriting-production team behind a number of hits by heavy-hitting pop artists like Rihanna, Maroon 5 and Fun.
“We have to stretch ourselves,” Kelley noted of their current path and choosing an outside song. “Otherwise, we’ll start sounding too [much] like our last record.”
Admittedly, he said they’ve been guilty of this in the past. In fact, he explained they’ve probably written 10 songs that sound similar to their seismic hit “Need You Now,” also noting their tendencies as songwriters to write from the same place.
“Now we’re even writing with a different kind of mindset to really mix it up,” he went on.
What’s more, Haywood relishes this time spent in the studio, confessing his fondness for spending days and months creating and working on the group’s ever-evolving sound.
“What’s the next new sound for us as a band?” he questioned. “And how can we take these songs that we write on one instrument and turn it into a big, hopefully, masterpiece?”
“I think our biggest asset as a band is not only just the creative chemistry that we have, but we have a really solid foundation of friendship,” Scott added, “And I think that helps in this career where you have so many decisions.”
“I never want to be that artist who’s chasing what’s happening right now,” said Kelley. “I want to try and be ahead of it, and that’s hard. I only think we’ve accomplished that a couple of times in our career, and I want to get back to where that’s the thing where you feel like you’re making something that isn’t happening right now. … Which is tough to do.”
But he also realizes, with change, comes risk.
“Yeah, there’s risk,” Kelley said. “But to us, there’s more risk of not doing it. There’s more risk of fans getting bored with you and of us getting bored with ourselves.”
Kicking off their Take Me Downtown tour dates in early January, the three look forward to covering new musical ground with an arena-sized energy. Without giving away too many surprises, the group revealed their set will lean heavily on their upbeat hits while also finding the perfect landing spots for their beloved, show-stopping ballads.
“We’re not going to try to regurgitate the same kind of look or sound. It’s going to be much more energetic,” Kelley said of their upcoming tour. “People are coming there to rock out, and you gotta keep them on their feet.”
Their onstage confidence only adds fuel and strength to their live show.
“I feel like you can help take the fans to such a bigger, higher place musically within the show when you feel very comfortable and let yourself go and aren’t so regimented,” Kelley noted.
But there is one trend fans can rely on for their live shows — the all-inclusive ambiance. Because to Lady Antebellum, this is a musical journey for everyone.
“It definitely won’t be us onstage just performing to them,” Scott said. “It will be something that we’re in together — like us with the fans in the room.”