Like millions of fans, Lady Antebellum are welcoming Alabama and Shania Twain back to country radio. And for the first time ever, all three of these artists are on the country charts at the same time.
Alabama is a guest on Brad Paisley's chart-topping "Old Alabama," Twain has debuted with "Today Is Your Day" and Lady Antebellum is climbing quickly with "Just a Kiss."
"Shania really helped bust down the doors as far as bringing in a bigger audience, a little more of a contemporary sound. She's one of the first big crossovers," Charles Kelley told CMT.com during a recent visit. "Obviously with 'Need You Now,' we had a little taste of that. I think Shania definitely opened the doors for that. She makes some of the best records. You look back at those records and they're just phenomenal."
After Kelley added that all three members of Lady Antebellum grew up listening to Alabama, Dave Haywood expressed his own personal connection to the band.
"Watching them when they come out to sing with Brad Paisley, it just reminds me of all those songs growing up -- being at summer camp when you sing 'Song of the South,'" he said. "I think they're such a great example of interplay of vocals and harmonies and musicianship among a group."
As a woman, Scott considers Twain a guiding light.
"There have been a lot of really strong, successful female artists in this genre, but Shania is definitely one that you put up with Reba," she said. "She's in that category of just giving girls and women the courage to be sexy and to not be ashamed of it. And to be true to who she is. I've been inspired by that. And she represents women. From the standpoint of being in a band with two guys, I love that about her."
Alabama remains one of the iconic country artists of the 1980s while Twain conquered country and pop music in the 1990s. Thus, the question is posed: What will country fans remember about this generation of country stars?
"That's a good question. I don't know," Kelley admitted. "I feel like Brad Paisley's dominated the 2000s pretty strong. Kenny Chesney, too."
Haywood cited Taylor Swift's enduring popularity, as well.
"I appreciate how much she's remained true to being country and staying on these country networks and country events," he said. "There's always a little bit of gray area when you go towards the pop format, and I know she's gotten flak for things, but she's remained a Nashvillian who plays country music. I think it's been a huge impact on the genre."
When the conversation turned to the variety in contemporary country music, Kelley said, "It runs the gamut, doesn't it? It's all over. I think there are a lot of artists that are very traditional. I think someone can be a fan of someone like Josh Turner and then turn around and be a big fan of someone like Taylor Swift because, at the end of the day, it's all about those songs. I feel like country music has the best songwriting and the best songs of any genre."
"There are so many music genres competing against each other, but I feel like country music has always been a unified front," Scott added. "I hope, though, when people do look back on this era, they'll see a different level of camaraderie. That's one thing that we feel a lot right now in this season of where we are.
"We all have great friends in this industry. We consider Luke Bryan one of our best friends and Jason Aldean, Miranda, Blake, Taylor -- all of these artists. And so that's my hope. One day, hopefully, knock on wood, we'll all be taking our weekly hosting spots on the Grand Ole Opry and we'll all still be friends and hanging out."