2015 CD REVIEW
“8 o'clock on Friday night I'm still at home/ all my girls just keep on blowing up my phone/ saying come on, he ain't worth the pain/ do what you gotta do to forget his name/ now there's only one thing left for me to do/ slip on my favourite dress and sky high leather boots/ check the mirror one last time/ and kiss the past goodbye.” - Bartender - Dave Heywood-Charley Kelley- Hillary Scott-Josh Kear.
Georgian band Lady Antebellum has struck gold on the eve of its second Australian tour - fifth album 747 has scored pop radio airplay on the corporate chains.
The trio's harmony driven country pop tunes leaped the mainstream radio moat at an opportune time for their promoters.
They wrote six of the 11 songs on tour after singer Hillary Scott gave birth to her first child.
“One thing we've learned - and it's been proven to us over the past couple of years - is that when we take chances, fans have responded really well,” Charles Kelly revealed.
“ Downtown was our first really off-the-wall song, and Bartender is much more danceable than what people are used to from us. That was exactly what we needed. We'd fallen into a very similar style, that mid-tempo thing with some melancholy to it. With this record we wanted to try different things and make it really in your face. We need to evolve. Recently the songs that have been the biggest successes have been left-of-centre for us.
“We sent some of our songs to the label, and we were surprised they gravitated toward Bartender so much. I think they'd been feeling that our last couple records had been a little heavy. They wanted us to get back a little bit to some of the sound from that first record, with songs like Love Don't Live Here and Lookin' for a Good Time . That fun, youthful energy. I think we did get into a bit of a melancholy thing for a while, and that's not really how our live show is. It's not how we are. When we started about thinking what could really set off the tone of the record, Bartender seemed like something fresh. It was such a danceable song. We needed that for our live show too - a spot for Hilary to have more moments like Downtown .”
“We always knew we could reel ourselves back in, so why not just go for it and explore every avenue, every option, while we're in the studio,” Scott added.
“We can always pull back. A lot of times, we went that extra mile and didn't have to pull back, because we got there and realised, ‘Oh, this is totally another part of who we are. This is awesome. There's something cool about listening to a track, and it's just a distorted guitar riff. It takes you to a whole new place. It opens up your mind, lyrically and melodically, in ways that a piano or an acoustic guitar can't. All those intangibles help bring something new out of you.
“That's the ultimate thing, if you can have fun doing it then that's the truest success. We needed to step outside of what was comfortable for us. The three of us as a band needed change. It felt the most like the excitement we had when this all started. It felt so much like the first record. In the eight years we've been a band, things can start to feel familiar, so to have that excitement and first time feeling again was really special.”
“River road, Chevy van, cherry classic coke can/ rolling on the floorboard; Fleetwood, Mack more/ coming out the speakers, spilling on the t-shirts/ getting loud like I'm standing in the bleachers/ creek bank, tire swing, peeling off her blue jeans/ skinny deep sugar, fish a couple of new things.” - Freestyle - Dave Heywood-Charley Kelley- Hillary Scott-Shane McAnally.
"There's an infectious energy, and it's almost like he's the fourth member of the band. There's this youthful excitement where he's got an idea, and we've got an idea. He's like a big kid in the studio, kind of goofy. People might think he's all reserved in the studio, but he turns into a 6-year-old kid who has just learned to play guitar. He loves it and loses sleep over arrangements. “As far as his approach, he doesn't mind taking chances with adding overdubs or sounds or different effects. I felt like there were moments where we were re-inspired - staying late past midnight working on tracks and putting our ideas down on the record with him. It was a different kind of energy than we've had in the past."
Kelley feels they achieved their goal.
"We've tested out some of the songs live, and you can tell they were thinking, 'This is going to be a different record,' and you can see their excitement. As a band we want to keep things fresh, and our hand on the pulse of what's happening. I feel like our last records - while we're very proud of them - have been mellow and this one just has a lot more energy. There are certain songs that do kind of borrow from the '70s southern rock sound or 1980s sounds."
The trio wrote second single Freestyle with Shane McAnally - Kacey Musgraves frequent collaborator.
Kelley was initially hesitant during the writing process because it was “such a departure” from their previous material.
Today it's one of his favourite tracks live.
“The one thing we learned was not to be afraid,” Kelley says.
“ Downtown was a good example of a song where at the time when we cut it Hillary was like, ‘I don't know. This is so different.' We've always found that our biggest and best songs always push us in a different direction . Freestyle has this infectious energy to it. You have to keep it light-hearted sometimes.”
LONG STRETCH OF LONESOME
“Your hit initial fire and ice/ you're water and whisky burn/ we kiss, we fight, make up all night/ you're the blessing and the curse/ but I don't ever wanna break this chain/ I don't ever wanna walk away/ cos I ain't ever gonna find another lover/ make me feel this way/ over and over and over we say that we're through/ but I come right back to you.” - Long Stretch Of Lonesome - Dave Heywood-Charley Kelley- Hillary Scott-Josh Kear.
Entrée song Long Stretch of Lonesome reflects the trio's romantic status.
“It's the kind of stuff we love and that we've cut a lot. I think it's a sweet lyric. We were in the studio and almost ditched it at the last minute, but the guitar player hit a Vince Gill groove, which kind of became the root of the song. It took off from there.
The irony is we tried to avoid too many nostalgic songs, but we couldn't help it. We found a couple, like Sounded Good at the Time .”
Scott added “And then we wrote one - Damn You Seventeen .
“I will say that as the female in the band and as a female in country music I was excited because there are just so few female songs present right now. I was pumped about that and wanted to get that female perspective on radio about something you hear guys talking about a lot - which is going out drinking.”
But fame also brought public and private scrutiny.
“Well, we started the band and had a video camera rolling nonstop,” Scott recalled.
“We were always documenting because when we were sitting around brainstorming about other artists that we were huge fans of, any time you got to see behind-the-scenes footage of that artist, you were intrigued and wanted to see if there was more. So we had that as a part of our career at the very beginning.
“And personally, for me, I grew up in country music with my mom Linda Davis as an artist, so I grew up with people coming up to us while we were out at a restaurant recognising my mom and that's always been a part of my life. But I will say, I like being able to give the information out and not being hunted down. Like with my daughter, we waited until she was 3 months old because we wanted that privacy.
“We're normal people, and I think people forget that sometimes, but we also realise there is a platform that we have and people are interested - and that it's important that people are interested. I think that's a huge indicator that you're relevant and people care about what you're doing, so it's just about finding that balance between the two.
“I actually saw a photo of my house tagged on Instagram the other day that someone passed by on a guided tour, and I was like, ‘OK, that's a little creepy.” You know? That's a little weird. But that's a part of it. You just kind of have to take it and know that it's part of what we do. Hopefully, our houses won't be bugged like The Truman Show .”
“Religion and me don't always agree, but I sure love my Maker / sounds just like a gospel song, when I sing my little prayer.” - Down South - Stephanie Chapman-Christian Rada-Dave Thomson.
The gospel tinged Down South is one of their favourite songs.
“I fell in love with the song, and the track, and the guitars and the vocals, and the message,” said Haywood who was unaware the co-writer and demo singer was Stephanie Chapman - wife of the trio's producer, Nathan Chapman.
“We gave it a lot more energy than what the demo had,” Charles Kelley explains of their version.
“The demo was a lot more American Honey and we gave it a little bit more of a rawness and an edge to it. It's not just about down south. It's about yearning for home, yearning for that familiarity of what you're used to and what you grew up with.”
Scott identified with the second verse.
“That second verse is one of my favourite verses in a song that I've heard in a really, really long time,” Scott added.
“I feel like we found the golden ticket with that song.”
The trio sourced new co-writers.
“We had the opportunity to write with some new songwriters and really dig for outside songs that were songs we wish we'd written,” Haywood explained.
“As we took them into the studio, we changed our approach and challenged ourselves to try some new things that were outside of what we'd done before.”
"We put so much energy into every single vocal performance and every aspect of recording," Scott says of the album released less than a year after the deluxe release of previous disc Golden.
"And that's what we want people to hear. That electricity. The electricity of new relationships, of new music, of new ways of recording."
"747 is a snapshot of where we are as a band," adds Kelley.
"It's us wanting to solidify our place - to stay at the top of our game, for lack of a better way of saying it. You know, when you start playing these arenas and these amphitheatres, and the fans are gravitating toward this music, it's a drug. You want it. You want to stay there. As a band, we're ready.”
Lady Antebellum plays Rod Laver Arena on March 17 with former Sugarland singer Kristian and Maddie & Tae.