Charles Kelley’s love for Earth, Wind & Fire goes back to his high school days when one of his first jobs in music was working as a DJ for weddings and middle school dances.
Back then, Kelley’s going rate was $300, but most of his paycheck would go right back into buying more music for future gigs.
“Half the time, something new would come out and I’d have to buy a $15 CD to spin one song,” Kelley recalled during a CMT.com interview. “The lowest I’d go was about $200. But the other DJs would charge $500. So I was a discount.”
Kelley made sure to never leave for any DJ gig without plenty of Earth, Wind & Fire. So when he and his bandmates in Lady Antebellum were invited to perform with co-founders Philip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson on the new CMT Crossroads: Earth, Wind & Fire and Friends, premiering Friday (June 23) at 10 p.m. ET/PT, they had one request.
“They just asked, ’Would you like to be a part of this?’ And we said, ’Oh, my gosh, we’d love to do “September” if it’s available,'” Kelley said.
“We have no clue how we got so lucky,” Hillary Scott added.
Taped outdoors live in downtown Nashville on the eve of the 2017 CMT Music Awards, CMT Crossroads: Earth, Wind & Fire and Friends pairs the iconic band with other big country voices including Dan + Shay, Sara Evans, Martina McBride, Rascal Flatts, Darius Rucker and Drake White.
“You can never really predict how chemistry is going to go between groups, but this was incredible,” Johnson said backstage at the concert taping. “[It was] a really incredible experience.”
Bailey said having members of the country music community join the band for one night only live in Music City was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“This has just been one of the highlights of our career, really,” he added.
Going head to head with a legendary singer like Bailey can be intimidating for any vocalist. But all the country artists onstage considered it an honor to share the spotlight with such an incredible talent.
“Anything that makes me dance, makes me feel good, that’s what I’m going to gravitate towards,” White said. “It may be stepping out of my comfort zone a little bit, but that’s where I kind of thrive.”
“Nobody sounds like Earth, Wind & Fire,” Rucker added. “That’s what Crossroads is supposed to be all about — bringing two genres of music together and this brings one of the great bands of all time together with some really great country musicians, and it’s super.”
“Their music crosses boundaries,” McBride said. “I mean, it’s just the quality of it and the songs and the spirit that they have.”