An interview with LADY ANTEBELLUM

Dave Haywood, guitarist/keyboardist for Lady Antebellum, readily says
the kind of songs that come most naturally to the group are ballads and mid-tempo songs. That has worked fine so far for Haywood and his bandmates, singer
Hillary Scott and singer/guitarist Charles Kelley.
Its resume is filled with hit songs that fall into that category, including “I Run To You,” “Need You Now” and “American Honey.”
“I think we write that style really well,” Haywood said. “I think when the three of us sit down, it’s a lot of times just me on guitar or piano, and just the three of us sitting to write a song all being super collaborative in the process, and those were the kind of songs we tended to write a lot of, a lot of nostalgia, a lot of heartbreak.”
The hit ballads have played a leading role in making Lady Antebellum one of today’s most popular country acts, a group that now routinely headlines outdoor and arena shows.
But the group’s talent for writing compelling and heartfelt ballads and mid-tempo material has created one problem for Lady Antebellum as the trio has moved up to headlining the largest of venues.
“Obviously, some of these songs are massive songs for us and they do
so well and we love them,” Haywood said. “But when you do get on a big stage, you kind of start to look at the set list over the past few years, and we’ve gone ‘Oh wow, there’s a ballad, now I guess we have
to follow it with this ballad.’ You kind of start hitting that wall.”
Realizing that they needed to add some juice to the live show, Lady
Antebellum set a specific objective for its latest album, “747” – write songs that would bring more energy of the live shows.
“We had to push ourselves, I think, out of our comfort zone a little bit more,” Haywood said. “Writing a song like ‘Bartender,’ I mean, we were on the tour bus, I remember, when we were writing that song in
the middle of Missouri or Kansas and just working on that. And you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone. It feels a little different for us, you know, as a band known a lot for ‘I Run To You’ and ‘Need You Now’ and ‘Just a Kiss’ and these songs, to sit there and (write lyrics that) talk about being on the dance floor and having a party, doing all these fun things. But that’s what’s fun.”
As Lady Antebellum follows up tours of Europe and Australia with an extensive U.S. run in support of “747,” Hayward is already seeing the difference the new rockers are making from the stage on this “Wheels Up” tour.
“I do think for the first time in Lady A history, we’ve really paced out a show that is really, I mean, the ballads become some of those big moments because there are so few of them now,” he said. “And there is such an exciting pace and energy to the show, because we’ve got (uptempo) songs like ‘Bartender’ and ‘Long Stretch of Love,’ ‘Freestyle’’ and a lot of those songs from the new record that are able to carve out a great set list I feel like, which is a lot more high energy and on your feet. It feels a lot more like a Lady A party this year.”
Lady Antebellum is matching the more energetic feel of its set list with stage production that is meant to amp up the show visually.
“We really spent about six or seven months sketching out ideas ahead
of the tour, and ways to really make this the most top-notch, high energy show that we’ve had,” Haywood said. “I think we really tried to focus our efforts on making it look amazing no matter where you’re sitting in an arena or in an amphitheater, even if you’re at the back of the amphitheater, to have ways that the whole stage is lit up in a great looking fashion, great production, great video screens so people
can really feel engaged all the way in the back of these large venues is a priority for us too.
“This whole theme for us, ‘747’ and the ‘Wheels Up’ tour, has really been what’s the biggest kind of sound we can go for with the biggest kind of production we can go for?” he said.
Of course, this still leaves the question of how the friskier songs from “747” would work in another forum — on radio. So far the results are mixed. “Bartender” did well, reaching number four on “Billboard” magazine’s Hot Country Songs chart, but “Freestyle” stalled out at number 24, a rare whiff for Lady Antebellum when it’s come to choosing singles.
Otherwise, Lady Antebellum has
been one of the most consistent hitmakers in country over the past seven years with multiple top 20 country singles from each album and a healthy collection of number one singles, beginning with “I Run To You,” off of the group’s 2008 self-titled debut album.
Lady Antebellum then did that song one better with the title track from its 2010 follow-up album, “Need You Now.” That aching ballad became a huge crossover hit, topping both the country and adult
contemporary charts and hit number two on the all-genre “Billboard” Hot 100 chart. To top things off, “Need You Now” earned the song the 2011 Grammy for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. Two other
songs from that album, “American Honey” and “Our Kind of Love” also went number one.
The third album, “Own The Night,” followed in fall 2011, and produced two more number one country singles, “Just a Kiss” and the title song before 2013’s “Golden” came up just short of delivering another number one single when “Downtown” peaked at number two on the “Hot Country Songs” chart. The deluxe edition of the “Golden” album gave the group another top 10 hit in “Compass.”
The latter song represented a bit of a departure for the group in that it was produced by Nathan Chapman (known for his work with Taylor Swift) rather than Paul Worley, who had handled those duties on the first four albums.
Lady Antebellum decided to stick with Chapman for “747,” but Haywood emphasized that this was no knock on Worley.
“I always try to approach this correctly because I’d never want to say anything bad about Paul because we have all the intention to continue to work with Paul and continue to cut and record with Paul Worley moving forward,” Haywood said. “You know, we had loved everything we
had cut with him and we got a taste of working with Nathan, and I think we caught a bug of the excitement that he really shares. Nathan is very, I think, very unique and special in the fact that he is just like a little kid in the candy store in the studio. He is so excitable, and it’s infectious. And that was fun. We really latched onto that and wanted to pursue that. Really I think the moment we were
at in our career lined up with the moment
that works for what his sound is as a

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