Behind every great country song, there’s a great country songwriter… and it isn’t necessarily the artist who sang the tune.
During a recent performance at Marathon Music Works in Nashville, Lady Antebellum stripped away the pomp and polish of their amphitheater shows in favor of an informal, seated concert that focused not only on the bandmates themselves, but also the co-writers behind some of their past (and future) hits. Included in the 55-minute set was “Long Stretch of Love,” the leadoff track from Lady A’s 747, which the group performed with longtime collaborator Josh Kear. (Watch above.)
“If there was ever a fourth member of our band, it’s this next guy,” Dave Haywood told the audience by way of introduction, welcoming to the stage the same behind-the-scenes songwriter who helped Lady Antebellum write the biggest single of their career: 2009’s six million-selling “Need You Now.” A four-time Grammy winner, Kear’s credits also include Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” Tim McGraw’s “Highway Don’t Care” and Luke Bryan’s “Drunk on You.”
Backed by the horsepower of their five-piece road band, Lady Antebellum breezed through a seated version of “Long Stretch of Love,” with Kear adding extra harmonies to the song’s Fleetwood Mac-inspired chorus. The performance was filmed by Public Television as part of the channel’s Front and Center series, which received an added dose of twang this fall courtesy of a new partnership with the Country Music Association. Earlier this summer, Dierks Bentley filmed his own episode of Front and Center, drawing attention to his favorite co-writers — including Ross Copperman, Jim Beavers and Brett James — by inviting them onstage for a the traditional “in the round” format made famous by Nashville institutions like the Bluebird Cafe.
Although both episodes originally aired in late October to help ramp up anticipation for the 48th Annual CMA Awards, clips from Lady Antebellum and Dierks Bentley’s performances — along with four songs from a Keith Urban concert in New York City — can be viewed at Country Now, YouTube’s first original country music channel. Highlights from Country Now’s catalog of Front and Center shows also include a jam-heavy version of Urban’s “Sweet Thing,” which extends its original length to more than seven minutes, and an unplugged performance of Bentley’s “I Hold On.”