Originally published on February 27, 2009
Country trio gaining traction as a CRS New Faces headliner
Lady Antebellum is one of the acts appearing at the New Faces Show March 6 at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. The trio—vocalists Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley and guitarist/pianist/backing vocalist Dave Haywood—has an impressive list of accolades from the industry and fans alike. The band's current (and third) single, "I Run to You," is climbing R&R's Country chart and is No. 28 this week. R&R spoke to Kelley about his group's success and CRS appearance.
You previously recorded a pop album. How did you end up being a country act?
My brother [Josh Kelley] is a pop artist and we'd play in cover bands growing up. I would play anything from Southern rock to pop to country. So when I started to get back into music with my brother, I was writing songs for his album. I wanted to be a songwriter more than anything, then he said, "You've got a great voice; you ought to start singing some of this yourself." I was just trying to develop my sound. Once I met Hillary I started singing a lot lower to sing the male harmony underneath her, and that's when I discovered this gritty singing that I didn't really know I had. Once the three of us got together, the sound showed itself and that's how I got into country. Hillary certainly has a more traditionally country voice than I do and our band is the blend of it all.
Have there been eye-opening moments for the three of you visiting country radio?
When we got to visit St. Jude [Children's Hospital]. It was just awesome, visiting a hospital and reconnecting with a lot of the program directors that we had met early on during our radio tour from the year before. They had such a big role in everything coming together for us and it was cool to reconnect in a setting like that, where we were raising money for St. Jude. It wasn't like when you go out on a radio tour and walk into the different offices and it's so intimidating. Now we felt like we were sitting there with all these program directors and disc jockeys and we were friends with them.
What does appearing on the New Faces Show at CRS means in terms of career momentum?
I've heard so many times that this is one of those really big things for any new act because you have the undivided attention of country radio, and that's hard to get. I've heard stories about Tim McGraw—that he appeared at New Faces and all of a sudden shot through the sky. It was where he got his big start. We don't know what to expect; we'll just get out there, do what we do and try not to think too much about it. But it's definitely a big honor that everyone voted us in. Being one of the new acts to watch will be fun, a good time.
You won the Country Music Assn. 2008 new artist of the year award, the Academy of Country Music 2008 top new group award, received two Grammy Award nominations and the album is certified gold. Is the industry respect and success happening faster than you expected?
No doubt. This is happening a lot faster than we ever dreamed. When we got into it we knew it was going to be a grind. But we're still so in the moment and out there working hard and doing shows and getting caught up . . . it kind of came out of nowhere.
Any ideas or impressions on how CRS can help an act with its radio relationships?
It's definitely a great place for a new artist. It's a great first impression and that can be either the best thing for you or maybe the worst. But I think everyone goes there looking to have a good time and interact with all the artists. From our standpoint, we're looking to build relationships with all these radio stations because they make us stars. We obviously help their business and they help ours, so if you can evolve friendships and not just a business relationship, that's a pretty good thing. I think Hillary would agree we've made more friendships than we expected.
Your record has been received very well critically. How do you top that?
We definitely feel a lot of pressure on this next album, but in a good way. We've already written probably a good 50 or 60 songs for the next record, and we've started the process of picking songs. The pressure we put on ourselves is that we want to make sure we develop as artists in our sound and that we push it each time and try to build on the lyrical content. I feel proud about our first album and hope that we can beat it with this next one. We've only been together three-and-a-half years. We've had more time now to write for the second album—about two years. So we'll be more prepared.
You mentioned your brother, Josh Kelley. Will you two ever record together?
Oh, I don't know. We do a lot of writing together. That might be something when we're old men: We'll put out a Kelley Brothers album. But for now Josh definitely has his own thing going on and he's clearly busy. But we stay really close and Dave and Hillary love his stuff. We do some writing every time we see each other; it's always a fun time. And I think he'll always be a big part of our career.
Hillary Scott also has a famous member in her family with her mom, Linda Davis. Do you think there could ever be anything with all of you?
You never know. Maybe we record a little vocal event one time. Right now so many people are just discovering Lady Antebellum for the first time, so [we] don't want to confuse them too much just yet. But that would be really cool.
'I've heard stories about Tim McGraw—that he appeared at New Faces and all of a sudden shot through the sky. It was where he got his big start.'