Country music may often celebrate life in the metaphorical rural slow lane, but artists in Nashville tend to work fast.
Albums are released every year or two and acts tour annually, sometimes year-round. Country pop trio Lady Antebellum, for instance, released its latest album “Golden” less than three months before frontwoman Hillary Scott gave birth to her first child last summer.
The band had to take a little break, but to outsiders it didn’t look like a long one.
“It was honestly really hard for me to take that time off,” says Charles Kelley, one-third of the trio with Scott and his longtime songwriting partner Dave Haywood. “We still had some promotional things to do, but it was the first time we had more than two weeks off. We were off the road for six or seven months. I played a lot of golf. Honestly, when you have a job you love, you don’t want to take too much time off.”
Luckily, with a slew of No. 1 songs, Grammys and other awards, Lady Antebellum doesn’t need to skimp on the road.
“Our wives can come out and Hillary’s husband is the drummer. They have a road family. She’s the coolest, most chill baby,” Kelley says of Eisele, Scott’s daughter. “She’s made for the road.”
It was announced this week that Lady A has another baby on the way: Haywood’s wife is due in September.
Despite expanding families and touring off and on since January, the group is already writing its next album. Kelley says the direction is inspired by the response to upbeat recent hits “Downtown” and “Compass,” which continue to blur the lines between country, rock and pop. Lady A erased those lines with its 2009 smash crossover “Need You Now,” which had even non-country fans humming its chorus.
“We’re going to make this one more of an uptempo record. We want to make sure each record has its own feel,” Kelley says. “We’re in the season of ‘Downtown.’ It showed us that (the fans) were excited for us to try some new things. It was a different-sounding record for us. We’d never done anything that off the beaten path. It’s time to mix it up.”
The rules in Nashville have certainly changed.
“The genre has branched out so much,” he says. “You’ve got George Strait to Taylor Swift, for instance. ... Country has been this evolving thing. We’re starting to have a lot of (fans outside) of the country music scene. The main reason is you have less pop music and rock ’n’ roll bands, but you’ve got people that still want to hear that sound.”
“The sound that country music is coming to now is Americana rock ’n’ roll,” he adds. “It’s very Tom Petty in many ways – the way the genre has moved over the past 10 years. But what I love is it has room for those (country) traditions.”
Lady Antebellum is taking the uptempo energy of “Downtown” and “Compass” on the road, with opening acts Kasey Musgraves and Billy Currington.
“This is definitely the highest-energy show we’ve put on,” he says. “We went out with Darius Rucker last year and we learned a lot from him. ‘Downtown’ and ‘Compass’ lifted the show. You learn to lean on that fun stuff so when you play a (slower ballad) like ‘Need You Now’ or ‘Just a Kiss,’ it really means something.”