Last night, Kelley made his solo debut on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon with a little help from friends Eric Paslay and Dierks Bentley, performing his tender single “The Driver.“
The gorgeous, harmony-rich ballad, co-written by Kelley, Paslay, and Abe Stoklasa, is an introspective look at the cast of characters who make up the touring life, and is similar in spirit to the classic Jackson Browne road song “The Load Out.”
They include the bus and truck drivers “bringing the circus to town,” the audience members who come to the shows and offer their energy, belief and support, and the singers who put their hearts and souls into the music.
“‘The Driver’ is the last eight years of my life put in a song,” Kelley tells Rolling Stone Country. “That appreciation for the audience, that appreciation for your road family, and doing what you love to do.”
With each singer taking a verse and then locking into airtight harmonies on the almost prayerful chorus, it is a strong opening salvo for Kelley.
“I thought, ‘If I am going to do something outside of Lady Antebellum, it’s got to make a statement. Otherwise, why do it?'” he says. “This was, for me, all about the art of it. Making music without any agenda, for the first time in a long time.”
While Kelley isn’t sure exactly when his project will be released or what form it will take — whether a full-blown album or a shorter EP — he’ll launch a 22-city solo tour on November 28th in Cleveland.