Country Music

Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelley on Their Latest Album and Being Back on the Road

Country music favorites Lady Antebellum have hit the road, again. The trio of Charles Kelley, Hilary Scott, and Dave Haywood, who have been kicking around the country scene since 2006, are relentless travelers who constantly crisscross the U.S. and are currently pounding the pavement on their "Take Me Downtown" tour following their newest album, Golden.

The disc has seen much success with songs such as "Downtown," "Goodbye Town," and "Compass" since its release last November. Travelling across the the country with Kip Moore and Kacey Musgraves in tow, this seven-time Grammy winning group is looking to give fans a bigger and more intimate show this time around.

Lady Antebellum will be making a stop in the Valley at Ak-Chin Pavilion on March 22 and Up On the Sun recently spoke with Kelley via phone to gain some insight into the band's latest album and what fans can look forward to when they attend the show.

How has the tour been going so far?

It's definitely been a lot of fun. We took about 6 or 7 months off the road when Hilary had her baby. We honestly, I mean, this is the most excited we've ever been to be back out on the road just because we've had so much time off. The band -- all of us - we're all just ready so it's definitely the most fun we've had on a tour -- it's been a long time -- we've had time to appreciate it more.

You lose all that little jaded 'you know, another day on the road' kind of vibe that we've had for a little while because we were going so hard for seven years. So for us, that's the main thing - just really appreciating it and enjoying it and taking it for what it is, which is something that could always be gone, you know, so I think we've really just been enjoying it and trying to put on the best show we can and it's the most fun we've ever had out on tour.

What has been the hardest part about coming back from a long break from touring?

Oh man, I don't know, coming back was the easy part. Break was the hard part. Gosh, I don't know, I think the hardest part is always to try and reinvent the show and try to come up with something different. It's definitely the most energetic show we've ever had and we're really leaning hard on our up-tempo material a lot for this tour. And I think with our record in particular, having songs like "Downtown" and "Compass" have helped the pacing of the show so much, because I think we're doing much more for our ballads with the tempo so to be able to lean on songs like "Downtown" or "Our Kind of Love" or "Love Don't Live Here." those are the songs that I think in a live show really make for a fun night. So that's kind of the biggest thing for us is just reinventing the show and just making it as fun and entertaining as we can. )

What have you done to reinvent this tour and make it different?

Well, the up-tempo material, for the most part. But also the production is bigger, there's a big high-definition screen behind us, we've got confetti and bigger lights. And also trying to pick moments in these last couple months where we actually go out into the crowd and it's kind of cool this year and I think we've always dreamed about that because when you're in an arena, how do you make this giant arena and a person in the back feel like they have good seats. So we've found a really cool way to kind of get out there in the crowd.

You're touring with Kip Moore and Kacey Musgraves, what has it been like touring with them?

We're big fans of them. I think Kacey's made one of the best records in a long time, that I've heard, and we just really wanted to have her out with us. And then Kip, he's just so high energy and a great performer and they're a lot of fun. Kip comes back and plays Ping-Pong with us backstage (laughs) and everybody hangs out.

It's a really open atmosphere backstage -- everybody hangs out together and has a drink together and I think that's something we've always wanted to try to create on tour; a really welcoming, open atmosphere, so it is. It's been a lot of fun and the crowd's always excited by the time we get up on stage and I think that's the goal -- when people get to their seats, having, from start to finish, a really entertaining show and I think that's what we've got.

With Golden, has the creative process remained the same or have you tried anything new?

We actually tried to make it more organic than maybe the two records before it. There's three records and we tried to get back to the sound of the first record. Our second and third records had really big string sections and they were, for lack of a better word, really 'pretty' sounding records and we tried to make this one a little bit more organic. We like very polished sounding records, first and foremost, but I do think we tried to make this one a little bit more of not throwing everything into the kitchen sink, not laying ten electric guitars on it, just really trying to track it and let the vocals take center stage.

With your past records, you've had a lot of crossover success. Does this help influence you at all when you're writing new material?

I mean sometimes that definitely can be in the back of your mind because when you do have a crossover -- it was such a game changer for us and it was so big for our career - I think, sometimes it can be a crutch if you lean on it too much trying to chase that because you'll get away from what made you the band you are.

So we try not to think about it, I mean it is in the back of your head sometimes, but for us now, it's been a little while since we've had a crossover song because I think we try to get away from chasing that too much, you know, because country is where we want to be and that's our main fan base. So I don't know, I think even when it's working and we try to stay true to that much more, you know, and not worry about that kind of crossover thing.

What are some of your inspirations that you pulled from for Golden?

I think everyone pulls from real life and past experiences. I mean, right now we're all happily married, but no one wants to hear a record full of happy love songs for an entire record (laughs). So you have to pull from things that have happened in your past, and you're a storyteller so you have to try to constantly write songs that people relate to and that's always the goal - to write songs that people relate to. When you're on tour, do you ever try to find time to visit the cities that you're in?

Honestly, I'm not much of one to get out a bunch. I'm kind of one of those guys, I'll just stay in the venue the whole time and work out, play Ping-Pong, write, and sleep (laughs). I don't know, I'm kind of those guys who just stays around the venue just because it's convenient and you've got your little regimes. I'll leave sometimes to play golf, but that's as far as I'll venture if I can find a golf course, but we'll go out and find a local pub after the show, but I'm not a big sight-seer.

What is it that you enjoy about stopping on tour in Arizona?

Well, when it's like right now and not the middle of summer so it won't be so hot it's the perfect time to come because it's so beautiful. Actually, all of the golf courses - that's probably one of my favorite things about Arizona. But, you know, the crowd is always great.

Phoenix is one of those kind of places where everybody's really pretty (laughs), it's beautiful, everyone is tan and there's something about being in a place where it's always warm like that and people know how to enjoy a show and to have a good time and Phoenix is one of those places. You know, the crowd's always great and that's the main thing - coming to places where people love live shows.

When you're performing, what is your absolute favorite song to perform - the one you will never get tired of playing?

Right now it's actually "Downtown." I guess because it's one of our newer singles. But I love performing that. It's just that right when we hit the opening chorus, the crowd goes crazy. Need You Now never gets old to me, I don't know why, it's just something about that song for me - it's our biggest song, but, I don't know, it just always a great reaction from the crowd and a great feeling every time you sing it.

Would you say that's probably one of the songs that the fans seem to love the most?

Yeah, Need You Now and it's funny, though, even our first single, Love Don't Live Here gets a big reaction so it's fun to kind of see what songs get the biggest reactions and where maybe the radio stations have really been big supporters. And you can always tell from the start, you know, when some of your first singles are getting really big reactions you know you're in a place where the radio station has really embraced you from start to finish and that's kind of a cool thing.

The cool thing right now for us is watching Compass, which is number three right now on the charts, and to see from the start of the tour a month ago when it was, I think, not even top 15 to see how much bigger a reaction it gets as it goes up the charts.

Do you guys work on new music while you're on the road - are you constantly thinking of new ideas?

Yeah, we write over time so I think we're always trying to look for what's going to be the next stage of the group and looking for that next big song. So yeah, we do write a lot on the road.

Do you already have a new concept for a new album or are you just focusing right now on the tour and Golden?

Just focusing on the tour. But I think if we had a concept, it would just be really trying to make much more of a fun record, you know, a lot more up-tempos because I think being on the road, you really want those big, fun, 'anthemic' songs. So I think that's one thing we've really tried to do is write some really fun, up-tempo songs.

Lady Antebellum is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, March 22, at Ak-Chin Pavilion.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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Chelsea Hough
Contact: Chelsea Hough