Lady Antebellum's truth is in the music. But the alchemy which forged this six time Grammy award winning trio extends beyond its signature vocal blend and heartfelt song-writing gifts. With a self-titled double platinum debut album and triple platinum second effort—Need You Now—it's easy to applaud their amazing achievements, but equally significant is the underlying importance of the group's shared heartbeat.
"That's the core of our group, how we started," says Dave Haywood, harmony singer and multi-instrumentalist. "What spawned our friendship was that special writing chemistry. That's when we are the happiest, just sitting in a room together making music."
"Maybe it's a self preservation kind of thing," agrees co-lead singer Hillary Scott. "Especially on the road we have to work to nurture our relationship. I write so much from about what is happening in my life and the people closest to me, so knowing my friends care about what is going on in my life outside of Lady A, makes me more likely pour it all out into a song."
“Writing lets us chill and slow down a bit," says Charles Kelley whose edgy lead vocals merge and weave with Hillary’s velvet tone."
Lady Antebellum formed in 2006. Hillary and Charles decided to try writing together after a chance meeting at a Nashville music spot. Charles and his high school musician friend and co-writer Dave Haywood were living with Charles' brother Josh Kelley at the time. Late night songwriting sessions with the new trio soon became the genesis through which they discovered the remarkable emotional effect that was created when Charles and Hillary's vocals blended. With Dave's harmony sounds and instrumental prowess added to that mix the three young musicians realized they might not just be writing songs for other people, but perhaps would get to perform them, too. A Music Row "buzz" began to spread as the newly-formed trio started making appearances on local stages.
Soon key tastemakers began to believe in the group, including producer Paul Worley who has worked on all three Lady A albums. By April 2007, a blink of an eye in music industry time, Capitol Nashville had signed Lady Antebellum to a record deal and the trio began to ascend toward the constellation of country music stars with powerful hits such as "Love Don't Live Here," and "I Run To You."
The group's second album, Need You Now (released Jan. 2010) took the band to an even larger audience. To date the album has sold over five million copies worldwide, spawning three multi-week No. 1 hits (“Need You Now,” “American Honey” and “Our Kind of Love”), and scored five Grammy Awards. It has also received over a dozen other award show trophies. ‘Need You Now’ introduced the world, outside North America, to Lady Antebellum. The single was a huge airplay hit around the globe, reaching the No. 1 spot in numerous markets and achieving Top 5 Airplay in 30 countries world-wide. The album has sold in excess of one million units outside the US, and ‘Need You Now’ remains in the airplay charts more than 18 months since release.
"We never expected to be thrust into the international spotlight in the way that we were…from the success of just one song," says Kelley. "It was six months or so after the album came out that we were finally able to go play overseas. When we got there, we were floored at the life that 'Need You Now' had taken on. The power of that one song re-ally changed the scope of our entire career at home and in all these places we had only dreamed of playing."
In The Studio – Own The Night:
The pairing with Paul Worley has proved a good fit. His warm temperament, creative sensibility and platinum experience with acts such as the Dixie Chicks and Martina McBride helped guide Lady Antebellum's studio development.
"Recording for us is an open forum of ideas," says Dave who readily avows, "One of my first loves is messing around with studio production. Paul has great vision for where these songs need to go. Over three albums we've learned a lot about the recording process, how to speak the language and what it takes to get it done. Naturally, as songwriters we envision these songs a certain way. It's not some far removed kind of thing with a bunch of session guys and us just showing up to sing. This is from the ground up—we are writing these songs, playing these instruments and creating the arrangements."
Lady Antebellum's third album, Own The Night is scheduled for release Sept. 13. The upcoming 12-cut set features the band's fastest rising single to date, "Just a Kiss" plus 11 additional tracks. Charles, Hillary and Dave wrote or co-wrote 10 of the songs, including "We Owned The Night."
"'We Owned The Night' opens the album,” says Dave excitedly, "and I really love this song. We reworked the title slightly to make it present tense for the album title–Own The Night. When people come out to our live show it's a call to action. Be confident, live in the moment and enjoy the experiences you're going through—own them. That's the premise of what we wanted to say."
Part of the challenge of a new album is translating it into a live show. "When we were tracking 'We Owned The Night' in the studio," says Hillary, "I was in the control room with Paul (Charles sings lead on it). Listening to the track inspired me to visualize our live show. I grabbed a legal pad and began drawing out the stage. That was the first sign to me that the song would be a cornerstone of this third album."
"Many of our songs have an interplay between Charles and Hillary and we feel strongly about creating that emotion live," adds Dave. "And being on tour with artists like Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban has also given us a lot of ideas. So yeah, we're excited to get a chance to jump up into arenas and give that a shot."
"People want you to entertain them," says Charles. "The fans feed off your energy. They see it on your face. So we've learned to let ourselves go on stage. With three people the strongest moments are when we are close and tight together. But it's a giant stage to fill up."
Being themselves has worked for this group. As Hillary recalls, "I'll never forget when we were on our first radio tour and a programmer said, 'I don't think two lead singers, a girl and a guy are going to work.'
"Especially with the name too," remembers Dave. "Programmers weren't sure if people could identify with two singers. It was a risk at the time. But for us it was just like, well that's who we are. How can we not do that?"
It's All About Our Fans!
"We stay connected with everybody in a huge way online with our webisodes and social networking,” says Dave. “After a show we pull up Twitter to see what people are saying, especially when we're introducing a new song. We care about what they think and the internet gives us a way to get an immediate reaction."
"All these people who spend their hard earned money on a concert ticket or a CD, they invest in us and who we are," says Hillary. "Not just in the music we play, but in our lives. So the least we can do in return is reciprocate that trust in the form of continuing to tour, create music and do our very best at both."
"We are just as vulnerable about this music, self-conscious and need approval like anyone else," says Charles quietly. "We recognize we've been given an amazing opportunity and don't want to let anyone down. We hit the lottery. We’re just lucky we can sing and play instruments."
"I hope people realize we aren't taking it all for granted," says Dave. "This is crazy, but we want to enjoy it and do our very best. Twenty years later I hope people will talk about us and say, ‘They were just genuine people who made genuine music based upon their life experiences’."
Watch a pitcher out on the mound, on any team, from a nine-year-old kid in the Babe Ruth league all the way up to a million dollar ace in the Majors. There’s a look in his eyes—an intensity—that goes right to his core.
And when you see that look in Brett Young’s baby blues, it isn’t too hard to understand what took this California boy from a ball field to the recording studio. His gritty, southern vocals and impassioned lyrics are built on the same firm foundation that had him as a pre-draft selection of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays straight out of high school—hard work, sheer talent and that thing music industry execs and baseball talent scouts alike simply call heart.
Those same qualities have gotten Brett’s songs placed on television shows like MTV’s The Real World and Kardashian pop culture favorite Kourtney and Kim Take New York, and his feet planted firmly on some of the most well-known stages in the world—The Roxy, The Troubador, The House of Blues, The Viper Room, sharing those stages with some of pop music’s best and brightest, from Colbie Caillat to Gavin DeGraw to Katy Perry.
Not bad for what Brett Young once thought would just be a “hobby.” But when a major elbow injury and reconstructive surgery took him off the pitcher’s mound for good, he found out that his love for music became so much more, and what he thought was the end was only the beginning.
“Everyone leaves a trail of ‘almosts’ and bittersweet memories behind on the road to ‘the one’,” says Brett. “It happened to me on my journey—it happens to everyone. Now I use those moments when I write music. I guess it is fortunate for me that people most easily relate to heartbreak. I’m an over-emotional, hopeless romantic who feels everything, and that shows in my songs.”
With three independent albums already under his belt, Brett just got out of the studio with David Hall at the production helm, known for his GRAMMY Award winning work as an engineer, with artists of nearly every genre. And true to form, he’ll be showcasing that intensity and emotion in his recordings, of songs like “Kiss By Kiss” and “On Fire.”
“I grew up with Al Green, Marvin Gaye—soul singers. I like that the emotion carries the songs, where the music is almost secondary,” he says. “Van Morrison’s ‘Crazy Love’—that’s just timeless. But it didnt take long before my appreciation for soulful vocal delivery turned me on to all-time greats like George Jones and Hank Williams. From there, it was no surprise that I would fall completely for today's Country Music! It influences me; as a songwriter and a performer, I want to connect like they did. And when your audience feels like they can relate, then you have something much more special than a show, or a sale. You have a fan.”
When it comes to Brett Young, it isn’t so far from a pitcher’s mound to a major stage, and it doesn’t really matter what kind of Big Show you’re talking about. Because in the end, when you have that thing called heart, it shows. You may see it in his eyes, but you’ll hear it in his voice.
Brett has since played venues ranging from House of Blues to Troubadour, and shared the stage with such artists as Mandy Moore, Tyrone Wells, Jason Reeves, Gavin Degraw, Tyler Hilton, Katy Perry, Hoku and many more. Brett recently released his first record under Rutherford Entertainment, "On Fire" and is currently in the studio finishing up his latest acoustic album.
Kelsea Ballerini was raised in Knoxville, TN on church choirs and dance lessons. With just one album released, Kelsea already has a hit single on her hands with "Love Me Like You Mean It", which she has also performed at the Grand Ole' Opry.