Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley is the first-ever guest on Rolling Stone Country‘s Ram Report, making its premiere today. The singer sits down with us in Nashville to talk about his next big career move: going solo.
The first taste of Kelley’s new venture is his soaring first single, “The Driver,” co-written with Abe Stoklasa and Eric Paslay. “‘The Driver’ is my last eight years of my life put in a song,” the Georgia native tells us. “It was an idea I had for a year: I’m the driver bringing the circus to town — first one in, last rolling out. . . ”
Technically it’s his debut solo single, but Kelley laughs that he’s “taking a break from one trio and putting out a song by another trio. . . of dudes!” Those other “dudes” include Paslay and Dierks Bentley, who each take a verse of the tune and harmonize on the choruses. Kelley explains that he decided to make “The Driver” a vocal collaboration after witnessing the strong reactions from record label executives when he played them the demo. He had a feeling it would be his first track released to radio and wanted it to really stand out.
“If I am going to do something outside of Lady Antebellum, it’s got to make a statement. Otherwise, why do it?” he asks. “This was, for me, all about the art of it. . . making music without any agenda, for the first time in a long time. With Lady Antebellum, there’s always pressure. It’s hard for commerce not to rear its ugly head when you’re making decisions. And with this, I can make total art decisions because there are no expectations.”
While relieved to take a break from the pressure that comes with being in a Grammy-winning, platinum-selling group, Kelley insists Lady Antebellum are absolutely not breaking up. In fact, his theory on going solo is, the happier the group, the easier it’ll be.
“Because we’re so healthy is why I decided to do it now,” he explains. “If we were on the rocks, this would be a tough decision because it could break up the band. But it isn’t, because we’d already made the decision to take time off, and we said everybody can do whatever they want to do. If Hillary wants to go act, if Dave wants to go produce, if somebody wants to travel the world, go do it! This is our time.”
Hosted by lauded country music correspondent Ashley Eicher, Rolling Stone Country’s Ram Report is our brand-new, daily web series bringing you the latest country music news. Watch every day at RollingStone.com/RamReport.