Lady Antebellum Gets Fresh With New Album, New Producer, New Direction - Rolling Stone
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Lady Antebellum Gets Fresh With New Album, New Producer, New Direction

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On Tuesday at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET, Yahoo Live will live-stream Lady Antebellum’s concert from the Gramercy Theatre in New York City. Tune in to watch!

Lady Antebellum certainly has had no issues “taking off” career-wise, so it’s only fitting the band named its new album — which comes out Tuesday — 747. The new set has already come out of the gate a winner with its lead single, “Bartender,” hitting No. 1 on the country charts, and the band has let fans know to expect a different sound on the album. 

Just what is that difference? Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott, and Dave Haywood (the latter looking remarkably alert given what’s going on in his personal life — namely a brand-new baby son, Cash, born Sept. 7) sat down with Yahoo Music for an exclusive chat about where their musical direction and career viewpoint are headed.

One word that repeatedly came up: “Fresh.” And, that’s a pretty good synopsis of the album’s sonic mood; while fans will undoubtedly still feel the trademark Lady A vibe, there’s an edge to the music that may be attributed to a number of things. The band teamed with a new producer, Nathan Chapman (known for his work with Taylor Swift), for the set, made a conscious decision to offer a “left turn,” and is currently navigating growing families in the members’ off-stage lives — in addition to Haywood’s special delivery, Scott is enjoying her role as mom to 1-year-old daugher Eisele, who was born last July.

Yahoo Music: 747 marks your fifth album. Obviously the growth process from your fourth to your fifth album is very different from, say, your debut to your sophomore effort. Where do you think you grew the most, creatively, in making this record?

Charles: I think it was the realization that we needed to mix it up. Our third and fourth albums were very similar; they’re very mellow records for the most part. Overall more of a chill feel. And this is the time I think that fans are either going to re-engage themselves with you, or come to the shows for the old hits. I think every artist always wants to still be relevant in their music and not just known for the old hits. So this was the time for us to go, “How can we still stay fresh, and surprise the fans?”

Hillary: We actually had ample time to hit “reset.” Had the time to sit and talk, and have lengthy conversations about where we wanted to go, and where we were at … make new goals and ambitions. I think we gave ourselves the proper amount of time. You don’t need six months to figure out where you want to go, but [when making our last two albums] we were SO busy. We could barely get our head above water during that time, which was the most amazing season, but we slowed down the pace a bit.

Dave: For us it was like, “If we don’t do something special and unique here, we’re going to start losing people.” We felt that urgency to get in there and fight for making a great record. I think for us, honestly, this is the most important one we’ve made. We put everything we ever had into it. There were conscious changes for us to evolve with this.

You made the decision to work with a different producer on this record. To the average music fan, that may not mean much. How do you explain what Nathan brought to the record to those who might not understand how a change like this can impact your music?

Charles: A different energy. Everyone has a different approach. [Longtime former producer] Paul Worley makes very beautiful sounding records; Nathan can be a little bit more rogue with it. He’s not afraid to try a little bit of different things …I don’t know how to describe it, it just sounds bigger. It’s Lady Antebellum, but everything just hits a little harder. I think he was able to take even the ballads and the midtempo songs and make them chug along and still feel like they had movement. This just feels like a fresher, more modern record.

Hillary: Every producer comes in with their own bag of tricks, in a way. I think Nathan is the new generation of producer. He’s really close to our age, so he can marry the old-school way of making records with the new technology and all of that. It just brought a layer of freshness.

Charles: It’s kind of like a director of a movie. If you’ve got a script, Steven Spielberg is gonna make it one way; Tarantino another way. I think this is our script, these songs we’ve written — and Nathan will go in and interpret it totally differently than Paul Worley or other producers. And I think he interpreted it in a way that got us reinvigorated and reinspired.

A big focus for this album was bringing the energy of a live show to the recording studio. That’s really hard to do. How did you approach that?

Charles: By making sure that we cut songs that we knew would translate well to a live show. When people come to a show they want to escape; they want to have a great time. We knew we needed more songs like “Bartender” and “Downtown,” and so we made sure to try to write and cut as many of those songs as we could … ones that were really kind of in your face.

Dave: I think you try to find those ones that you feel are going to be big. We were out doing fairs and amphitheaters all year, and to be able to try out a couple of these in those settings I think really affirmed it — that we got it.

You began to amass a crossover audience in 2010 with “Need You Now.” Have you found it challenging to straddle both the pop and country worlds?

Charles: We always focus first on the country market…

Hillary: And if it finds its way … but I think country music in general is bigger and has more of a mass appeal than it ever has. At least in our lifetime. So, we’re in that world, and just seeing that as to broaden our fanbase, it’s been a natural kind of progression.

Dave: I think our roots are always obviously going to be in country. It blew our minds when “Need You Now” started to cross over. Who will say if any of this stuff will? But I do know “Bartender” — a lot of people have been interested in playing that song.

That said, what do you appreciate most about your longtime fans — the ones who have been with you since “I Run to You” hit?

Charles: They’re willing to go through this journey and let us evolve. We’re always trying to make new and fresh-sounding music, and I think it’s really cool that when we do kind of take a left turn, they’re with us on that and supportive. And I think as artists you have to do that. We have to stay artistically excited and never get too stagnant. I think our diehard fans get that, and they stay with us throughout.

Speaking of not getting stagnant, your families are growing!  How are you adjusting to all the personal changes as a band?

Hillary: It’s been great. A challenage for sure. And I think Dave and his wife now, with their 3-week-old baby, once we start touring again they’ll find their own routine and way. And when it’s time for Charles and Cassie to have a baby, it’s the same thing. You just have to figure out what your normal’s gonna be, and the baby’s going to tell you what they are willing to put up with (laughs). You just have to prioritize. Thankfully, my husband’s on the road with us and we have a really fantastic nanny — she and Eisele are best friends. So if she can’t be with me, she’s in great care. I work harder now because of her. I think differently because of her. It’s been awesome. I welcomed this season with open arms, and It’s just like anything — it’s hard days, but most of the time it’s just awesome.

And Dave, you’re obviously still getting used to it, right?!

Dave: Oh my gosh. Yeah. I got my first night of sleep last night in three weeks! It’s going to be an adjustment, but for us as a group, we’ve always adjusted so positively to these changes … and to growth. I think some bands and groups have gone through opposite scenarios, where the band starts to pull apart, but for us I think it’s all made us stronger to have these families grow, and all grow together.


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