Lady Antebellum have been enjoying the spunkiest and sauciest hit of their career with the chart-topping single “Downtown,” even as the videos and promotional appearances for it feature Hillary Scott looking ever-so-more pregnant. As the band takes the stage for an exclusive Yahoo! Music performance, the average viewer might not notice Scott’s expectancy all that much, thanks to the miracles of slimming black.
Still, there is that moment when Scott pleads “I don’t know why you don’t take me downtown anymore” that you might imagine her partner’s response reasonably being, “Um, because your water might break?”
Even with the blessed event being just weeks away — Scott’s baby girl, her first, is due in late July — the trio haven’t lost a step, and if anything, have been compressing about six months’ worth of the usual album promotion into roughly half that time.
“I can probably speak for everybody on our team and say it’s easier to promote a record when someone’s not pregnant,” Scott says. “For sure!”
“Fewer naps in the middle of the day,” adds Dave Haywood. It’s not clear whether the guitarist is speaking for Scott or himself when it comes to increased narcolepsy, but…
“The pacing has definitely had to be different,” says Scott, in the course of promoting Golden, their fourth album. “I mean, we’ve traveled to the same places that we always do when we promote records. But there’s this crazy thing that happens when you’re pregnant. Like, when the baby says, ‘Mom, I’m tired,’ your body just stops and you just kind of start staring through people and not even meaning to. But it’s been good. I haven’t been sick, which has been really nice. Thankfully, my energy level has been high.”
Keeping the energy level up was assuredly a priority during the creation of Golden… if you’ll forgive the segue. The group admits wanting to change things up after 2011’s Own the Night, even though there could just as easily have been an if-it-ain’t-broke attitude, since that release did produce two successive No. 1 country singles (“Just a Kiss,” “We Owned the Night”) and a third that fell just one position shy of the top slot (“Dancin’ Away With My Heart”). But as great as those romantic duets sounded on the radio, the trio noticed some potholes going unfilled on the road.
“With the big ballads and mid-tempos, especially in our live show, there’s only so many ways you can perform them and it not start to look really repetitive, with Charles and I singing to each other,” says Scott.
“I think the only reactive thing was just to make sure it sounded different than the last one,” says Charles Kelley. “Because I think the third one was maybe chasing a little bit of the second record, admittedly” — which is to say, hoping to find another slow song with even half the world-shaking impact of the drunk-dialing classic “Need You Now,” which will probably still be a closing-time song a hundred-thousand 1:25 a.m.’s from now. “There are still some dramatic songs, obviously, like ‘Goodbye Town’ and ‘It Ain’t Pretty,’ but it’s a little less dramatic, overall, this time around.”
The drama got dialed down all the way with “Downtown.” Which isn’t to say that there can’t be a bit of tension in the suspense over whether a gal will get her honey to pony up for a date night or not. But the tune called for Scott to sell a side of herself she’s not used to showing, and she admits a certain initial reluctance to go all spitfire on the fans.
“We loved the song, from the very, very beginning,” Scott emphasizes, in deference to its writers. “It was the last song on the CD of pitches that our label sent us, and it was the one that I think all three of us were so excited about. But I was the one that was a little bit on the fence going, ‘Can I pull this off? And are our fans gonna believe me when I sing it?’ And now, looking back on that, it was purely just my insecurity… I feel it’s such a part of who I am. And I have this sass inside that everyone gets to see now as we perform it every night.”
“We needed that moment in our show,” Kelly admits. “We heard it from our fans and we felt the same way: We really need one of those great (up-)tempos to put out and release as a single. When we heard that, it was like, oh, this is a no-brainer.”
To two out of three of them, anyway. “They encouraged me,” says Scott, “when we were in rehearsals for the record: ‘Just try it and see what happens.’ And the second we started it, I was like, Yeah.”
“We slipped a little tequila, without her looking, into her hot tea,” Kelley confides.
“This was before the baby, though,” assures Haywood. Don’t try this loosening-up tactic at home, pregnant kids!
With “Goodbye Town,” their current single, Lady A have the very rare contemporary country song that’s about wanting to get out of a small town instead of celebrate it. But it’s not so much about the town, of course, as the girl who ruined it for the protagonist. All that said, it’s essentially upbeat, lonesomeness aside.
“We all related to it in our own ways,” says Scott, ‘whether it’s from a relationship or just wanting to get out of the town where we were raised to go chase a dream.”
“Which for you was five minutes away (from Nashville), which worked out good,” jokes Kelley.
Scott: “But I do have memories of the guy I dated in high school and seeing the same car in his drive and thinking about him.”
Kelley: “Did you ever key it?”
Scott: “No! Do I seem like the kind of person who would key a car?”
“No. Maybe toilet paper the car, but no…”
Haywood puts an end to the silly talk. “It’s empowering,” he says of “Goodbye Town.” “That outro chant part is kind of a freedom chant. When it gets to that point in the song, it’s one of my favorite parts of I think any song we’ve ever recorded. Because it’s so freeing.”
“It’s the hope in that song,” agrees Scott. “Because you listen to the lyrics and they could sometimes be taken as this is a negative story and something sad that happened to this guy in this story. But really what it’s doing is opening up a whole new world for him that he’s now finding the courage to go chase and find. It’s a little bittersweet, but it’s also just so hopeful, to think of what the future holds for him.”
Lady A put a great deal of thought into the order of songs on the record. “We feel like it’s our most cohesive from top to bottom record,” Kelley says. “You never know if you’ll have another ‘Need You Now’ or something, but I think the record as a whole is something that we keep saying we’re probably the most proud of all the records we’ve made.”
“We spent a lot of time on the sequence, actually,” adds Haywood. “It’s funny. I gave a copy to my my dad, and he burned it backwards. And I’m like ‘Daaaaad!’ We spent so much time trying to get the order correct, and where “It Ain’t Pretty” lies, and how you start the record and how you close out the album. So I hope when people listen to it too, they go through that journey and that process that we went through in putting it together… But we should probably just do it in alphabetical order from now on! It’d be a lot easier.”
They just wrapped up their touring for the year, which had Scott in her own bus for the first time. Was getting pregnant the length she had to go to just to get some privacy?
“It’s the only way I could justify the cost, truthfully!” she laughs. “Because it is like a second house.”
“We like to stay together on the same bus,” says Kelley. “It keeps us creative. Those are the nights too when you’re picking up a guitar after a show when you’re on the bus heading to the next town that the cool idea will come on. So that’s going to be an adjustment and different.”
“It’s kind of sad. I am a little bit sad about it not being that way anymore,” says Scott.
Haywood sounds celebrate: “Bros bus!” he intones in a deep, exaggeratedly masculine bus.
“But I know I’ll be over knocking on the door going, ‘My husband is watching the baby! Can I just hang out for a little while?'”
She’ll do just fine on the “bros bus.” Says Kelley, The first three years, she would get very offended, especially with me, because I can be kind of vulgar. And then like over the past two years, she’ll say stuff, and Dave and I will look at her and be like, ‘That was really awful! I can’t believe you just said that!'” Maybe “Downtown” is only the beginning of the Scott sass for which we’re in store.
Summer plans? “I’m going to take a little trip to Italy with my wife in July,” says Kelley. “But Dave and I have already lined up some writing trips. We’re going to go out with our buddy Luke Bryan and do some writing with him. We talked to Blake Shelton the other night at The Voice and said we were going to come crash his tour as well. It’ll just be fun to kind of go out there too, right, and just be able to sit in the audience and be a fan. It’s been a long time since we’ve gotten to do that and be on the other side. And… play a lot of golf.”