Lady Antebellum Clear 747 for Takeoff

New Album Aims to Compete With "Big, Rocking Country Songs"

Coming out of a well-deserved break for the birth of Hillary Scott’s first child, Lady Antebellum had more time than usual to work on their sixth studio album, 747. For the first time in years, they could reassess their sound … and their competition.

“We’ve been wanting our records to sound a little bit bigger and be able to evolve and stand up against some of these really big, rocking country songs that are out there,” Charles Kelley said during a recent visit to CMT. “But we wanted to do it on our terms and not feel like we were just chasing down what was happening.”

“I think when the fans hear this album, they’re definitely going to hear a different side of us,” Scott added. “But there are a handful of songs on there that are true to the heart and core of who we are.”

That new balance was unveiled with the album’s first single, “Bartender,” which finds Scott back in front of the group for what amounts to a post-breakup sequel to the up-tempo “Downtown.”

In an interview with CMT.com, Scott, Kelley and bandmate Dave Haywood put the new music in context and revealed their latest creepy social media moment.

CMT: Did you have a mantra in mind going into this record?

Kelley: I think energy. This is, I think by far, our most energetic, rocking record that we’ve made. And even the ballads, we wanted to make sure they had a groove and a pulse to them. Nothing that was too draggy. I think the last couple of records were sweeter and smoother, and we wanted to make sure this one was a little more in-your-face.

Is it a risk to have a ballad out as a single right now?

Kelley: Some people might consider that a risk. I think for us, we’re just in that season where we’re ready to show a different side. We wanted to put out some fun stuff. That way, probably on the third or fourth single when we put out a ballad or little more of a chill song, you’re not worn out by it. So I think, “Why do we want to make an energetic record?” The basic angle is just to separate this record from the previous ones and show that we can also put out a fun record.

Other than songs that drag, what else were you trying to avoid?

Kelley: The irony is that we tried to avoid too many nostalgic songs, but we couldn’t help it. We found a couple, like “Sounded Good at the Time.”

Scott: (laughs) And then we wrote one. (“Damn You Seventeen”)

Why did it seem like a good time for that change?

Dave Haywood: I think being out there on the road, you see how much people absolutely love these fun, upbeat songs. And whenever we’ve got a lot of energy onstage, songs like “Downtown” work so well. So I think we took that into the writing room at the beginning of this year and said, “Let’s write stuff that has that energy to it.”

Hillary, your vocals have taken the lead on “Downtown” and “Bartender,” and the songs have tended to feel like female anthems. Is that going to continue?

Scott: Yeah, there’s a handful of songs on there, one of them being called “Just a Girl.” But we don’t really consciously do that, especially with “Bartender.” We sent the label four or five songs and were like, “Which one do you like the best?” And that’s the one that they picked.

I will say that as the female in the band and as a female in country music, I was excited because there are just so few female songs present right now. I was pumped about that and wanted to get that female perspective on radio about something you hear guys talking about a lot — which is going out drinking.

More than ever, fans today expect the songs an artist chooses to reveal something about them. Were you conscious of that idea while you were picking songs?

Kelley: To an extent. We just try to pick the best songs. Even a song like “Bartender,” we’re not there right now in our lives, but we’ve been there before. … There are definitely songs on there that we relate to a lot.

I guess it’s because artists have to live their entire lives in public now. Was that already happening when you got started?

Scott: Well, we started the band and had a video camera rolling nonstop. We were always documenting because when we were sitting around brainstorming about other artists that we were huge fans of, any time you got to see behind-the-scenes footage of that artist, you were intrigued and wanted to see if there was more. So we had that as a part of our career at the very beginning.

And personally, for me, I grew up in country music with my mom [artist id="504992"]Linda Davis[/artist] as an artist, so I grew up with people coming up to us while we were out at a restaurant recognizing my mom, and that’s always been a part of my life. But I will say, I like being able to give the information out and not being hunted down. Like with my daughter, we waited until she was 3 months old because we wanted that privacy.

We’re normal people, and I think people forget that sometimes, but we also realize that there is a platform that we have and that people are interested — and that it’s important that people are interested. I think that’s a huge indicator that you’re relevant and people care about what you’re doing, so it’s just about finding that balance between the two.

I actually saw a photo of my house tagged on Instagram the other day that someone passed by on a guided tour, and I was like, “OK, that’s a little creepy.” You know? That’s a little weird. But that’s a part of it. You just kind of have to take it and know that it’s part of what we do. Hopefully, our houses won’t be bugged like The Truman Show.

Writer/producer for CMT.com and CMT Edge. He's been to Georgia on a fast train. He wasn't born no yesterday.