Six time grammy winning trio Lady Antebellum are back with their new album ‘Own The Night’. ‘Own The Night’ was written and recorded in Nashville earlier this year, with the three band members – singers Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott, and multi-instrumentalist Dave Haywood – co-writing ten of the twelve tracks. The album was co-produced by the band with long-standing collaborator Paul Worley.
With the band in the UK for a very special ‘Unplugged’-style gig at London’s Union Chapel, The Banters Ritchie Marshall has the chance to catch up with Charles Kelley
Your hit single ‘Need you now’ was the most downloaded country song ever and the album was also the Second best selling album of 2010. Were you worried that your new and third album ‘Own the Night’ would not live up to the success of the previous album?
Well you know we would be lying if wasn’t in the back of our minds that we wanted to it to be received as well as ‘Need You Now’, but we have kind of come to terms with that fact that you make the music you make and you just have to put it out there and feel good about it and be proud of it.
We do feel like with this record we have honed in our sound even more, it’s much more of a cohesive record. But whether we have a big old monster like ‘Need You Now’ only time will tell but it’s nice to see our first single, ‘Just a Kiss’, being received so well. It definitely takes some of the pressure off.
‘Own the Night’ debuted at No 1 in the Billboard Charts and as of now is currently Number 1 in the UK Itunes Country Chart and number 3 in the UK album chart with ‘Need You Now’ sitting at number 10. How is it to see your music peak in countries outside of the US?
It really is pretty humbling. We set out to play music and if you’re being realistic we always really knew it’s hard to break around the world. ‘Need You Now’ opened up so many doors that when the new record came out it seemed like fans all around the world were excited to see what we had came out with next.
It’s been nice to see ‘Just a Kiss’ and the new record ‘We Owned the Night’ being received and listened to. That’s all you can really ask for, a foot in the door.
We want to be doing this for a really long time and our goal now is not to be known as the band that had that one big song but become a band that keeps bringing out solid records.
You are known for your big powerful country ballads but the new album has some songs with a more traditional country sound including ‘Cold As Stone’, ‘Singing Me Home’, ‘Love I’ve Found in You’ and the mandolin riffs throughout ‘We Owned the Night’. Was it important for you to get a mix?
I do, but I think it kind of just naturally happened. We are a country band first and foremost but we obviously have songs too like ‘Just a Kiss’, ‘Wanted You More’ and ‘As You Turn Away’ where we wanted a more pop leaning contemporary type of sound.
The way we approach our records is that whatever the song calls for we wont just throw a fiddle on the song if it doesn’t really call for it and vice versa we’re not going to take one off because we think it can’t crossover. We have just tried to approach it and keep the music as true to what the song needed as possible. There are several songs that are a little more traditional of a road that we have ever gone down but it just happened to be what those songs called for.
Yourself and Dave co-wrote Luke Bryan’s hit, “Do I”; and Hilary co-wrote Sara Evans’ smash “A Little Bit Stronger, do you think this is a reflection of how you have progressed as songwriters?
You know what, I hope so. When Dave and I first moved to Nashville our first goal was to become songwriters. We thought it was a long shot to get a record deal and we said maybe we can write songs for other artists and the band has opened up all these doors to write with other artists. We have a record that we wrote on Miranda’s (Miranda Lambert) and I’ve got one that will be on her new one too.
It’s really cool to think that we are not just artists but we get to sit back and be songwriters too because there is nothing cooler than hearing another artist singing a song that you were a part of. There is something really special in that, so yeah it was a big honour for Luke to have cut that song and Sara to cut “A Little Bit Stronger”.
You wiped the floor in this years Grammy’s picking up 5 on the night, how gig a night for you was that?
It was a heavy night; I don’t think it really truly sank in. I think it will take a few years before it will really sink in what kind of night that was. It was one of those nights that realistically we will probably never have a night that big when it comes to awards shows.
We have a lot more goals in mind that we haven’t reached yet, we are just starting our first arena headlining tour in the States and hopefully it come over here and all around the globe and that’s now our goal. I will say that night just kind of seemed like a dream.
Next up for you is the CMA Awards, where as well as being nominated for Vocal Group of the Year you will also be performing.
We are going to get to perform so yes we are very excited; the CMAs are a very special place for us. We won Best New Artist there and it was a big launching pad for our career so the CMAs have been great for us. That was our first big awards performance too, several years ago, so it will be great to get to be back there and perform.
I think we will be performing ‘We Owned the Night’, it will be nice to play a really up beat song on TV because it seems we have been playing a lot of the ballads lately.
After that it is the big headline US Tour where your brother, Josh Kelley, will be supporting. Are you looking forward to spending some time with him on the road?
It’s going to be a lot of fun; I think we are going to get a lot of song writing done and a lot of golf too. We both play a lot of golf; it will be a competitive tour of a lot of different things.
It was Josh that convinced you to move to Nashville so you could write songs together.
Yes it was, he had moved back to Nashville first and talked me in to quitting my job and moving so we owe Josh a lot. We kind of stayed in his house for the first couple of years in Nashville and recorded in his home studio a lot of the demos that ended up being songs that were on our first record. Josh has been a huge support for us so it is nice to kind of give a little back to him by coming out on the road with us and its just going to be a fun, fun time. He’s just a great performer and will get the crowd going and it was just an obvious choice for us.
As teenagers, you formed a band called, Inside Blue, that garnered the attention of a major label.
We had a band that had a little interest but we had a lot of growing up to do so we decided that we would hold off for a little while. But yeah, we have been playing music all our lives as you know and Josh is such a talented guy. We grew up together just immersed in music so its kind of nice to look back now and think of where we have come and where it all started.
Can we expect any plans for a reunion or the release of “ten years in a bottle?”
(Laughs) I don’t think so man. I mean sometime down the road there is no telling Josh and I will do something together but I don’t know if our old band will get back together.
Are there any artists Lady Antebellum would be keen to collaborate with in the future?
Gosh, I mean there are so many artists. We are big Coldplay fans, there are so many, I would love to do something with Paul McCartney that would be amazing. Country Artists, I would love to do something with somebody like Garth Brooks or George Strait; those kinds of legends would be really special.
Having seen Blake Shelton amongst the mentors on The Voice, would you ever be interested in getting involved in any of these programmes in any of the music shows in a judge or mentoring type role?
I don’t think so, I think for us we try to keep it just about the music. I think it’s been great for his career and has brought a lot of new fans in but he’s really funny and I don’t know that I would have that kind of comedic timing.
We are just really happy where we are right now and in our career. We feel if we just keep concentrating on the music we can be doing it for a long time. Never say never but I don’t really foresee any of us really getting in to the TV side.
Recently Lady Antebellum were on Saturday Night Live. How big a deal was that for you with it being such a legendary show in the States?
It was one of those milestones that we have wanted to do for a long time and to be on that show was such a cool thing. I have been watching that show since I was a little boy and just to meet all the cast it was such a surreal night. You are there for a few days rehearsing and seeing all the chaos backstage, a lot of work goes in to putting that show on and it was cool to see it from behind the scenes.
You have been married for a couple of years now. With your extremely busy schedules, long tours and visits such as this to the UK, is it harder now to spend so much time away from home?
Well she (Cassie) comes out on the road with us now quite a lot. It’s nice to be able to have that luxury to bring her out with us. It was hard in the beginning but we have been married now for a couple of years and over time it has got easier and easier and we have learned to balance it. It is a challenge but when I am home and off, I am off. When I am home for several days it’s all about me and her, so like many things it’s all about balance.
With Hilary now engaged have you been giving her some marriage advice?
You know what, I haven’t. All I have really said to her is just what us a group do, just try to really communicate and don’t let things fester. That is something that three of us have really tried to live by, if something’s on your mind just get it out. I have learned that with my wife, just to talk and get everything out on the table and it really makes you stronger.
You are over here for the Union Chapel show in London but do you have any plans for shows elsewhere in the UK?
We are going to start this arena headlining tour in November in the States and for next year we are already talking about throwing a few places around over here in the UK. As long as the album keeps building and we keep growing a fan base hopefully we will be able to put several dates over here. We would love to bring a big show over here to the UK and let our fans see what we do on the big stage.
As a big Golf player you should definitely come to Scotland, there are plenty of good courses up here in Scotland.
My golf clubs will be with me, trust me! That’s one of my big dreams, to go to Scotland and Ireland and play all of the big golf courses.
By Ritchie Marshall