Lady Antebellum Recall First CMT Music Awards Performance

"Incredibly Nerve-Wracking," Says Charles Kelley

The first time Lady Antebellum played live on the CMT Music Awards, all they did was an abbreviated version of their debut song “Love Don’t Live Here.”

And what was Charles Kelley thinking that night in 2008?

“Man, if we could only get on that main stage,” he told me backstage after the band’s rehearsal for Wednesday night’s (June 10) awards show.

Now here we are seven years later. And, man, are they on that main stage at the 2015 CMT Music Awards for a special collaborative performance with Zedd, a prominent producer, musician and DJ in the world of electronic dance music.
So even though Kelley, Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott are old pros by now, they still have nerves when it’s something so different. Scott admitted that this one is “definitely pulling us out of our comfort zone.”

“Transitioning in and out of an EDM song and into a Lady Antebellum song is hard. But that’s what’s so fun about the CMTs. We always try to do something cool and different. Like when we did our ‘Just a Kiss’ with Prince’s ‘Kiss,’” Kelley said of that 2011 two-in-one performance. “We always say yes.”

Back in the old days, they might not have had the guts to pull off such a musical feat. They were too busy just trying to do their own thing.

“Being on tour all these years, every night, you get so much more comfortable with what you’re supposed to do and how to engage with people,” Haywood said. “Early on, we were bumping into each other and figuring it all out.”

Scott even joked that in those first years she’d have to think through whether to clap above her head or below the belt or off to the side.

Kelley admitted there’s nothing like the first few years, though. In a good way.

“When you have all those firsts — the first time doing this, the first time doing that, the first time performing, the first No. 1 — there’s a little bit of that innocence you wish you could get back,” he said.

Here’s a photo of Lady A arriving on the red carpet at the 2008 CMT Music Awards:

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