When it came time to return to the studio to record their third album, Own the Night, the members of Lady Antebellum had to give up the ghost: that haunting possibility of not recapturing the massive success of their previous record, Need You Now.
Need You Now was the third best-selling album of 2010, and it also won the Nashville-based, country-pop band five Grammy Awards, including the coveted Record and Song of the Year.
"We locked that ghost in the closet and put a deadbolt on it," says Lady A's Hillary Scott, who shares lead vocals in the group with Charles Kelley. She's calling from Green Bay, Wisc., where the trio performed prior to the kickoff of the NFL's 2011 season opener. "We also knew that if we let the pressure that [the wins] could potentially have on us really invade our thoughts, it could make the process of making this album a lot less fun."
Mission accomplished: Own the Night showcases a more confident, polished trio, tackling more mature subject matter. Kelley's voice has always possessed a weathered, lived-in rasp that belied his years, but his emotions and life experiences have now caught up with it, especially on such tunes as the heartbreaking "Cold as Stone." But there is still plenty of fun to be had with the toe-tapping, swaying "Singing Me Home" and exuberant "Friday Night."
It's been less than four years since the group, which also includes multi-instrumentalist Dave Haywood, became country-pop darlings with their self-titled debut album. In that time, they've moved from opening for such acts as Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw to headlining their own arena tour later this year. In early October, Lady Antebellum appeared on "Saturday Night Live," one of the few country acts to do so in the show's 37 seasons.
Lady Antebellum's coed lineup, catchy pop melodies, and harmony-filled singing have drawn comparisons to Fleetwood Mac. Their mainstream, cross-generational appeal also lies in the universality of their subject matter: love found and lost (and found again), often coupled with a certain wistfulness for days gone by. Their recent smash "Just a Kiss" was partially inspired by Scott's relationship with her new fiance, Chris Tyrell, a drummer on McGraw's tour.
"The band, we come from very strong families, very grounded families, and I'm proud to say that we have a really solid head on our shoulders when it comes to what's important, and I think that's reflected in our writing," Scott says. "There's definitely songs that are all about having a good time, but then there's also reminiscing about childhood and moments in time that have helped define who you are. It's all emotions that we all want to feel, no matter what age."
Growing up in Nashville, the 25-year old Scott watched and learned as her mom, singer Linda Davis (best known for her 1993 duet with Reba McEntire, "Does He Loves You"), navigated fame's choppy waters.
Scott admits it was often difficult having her mother on the road so much. "Looking back on it now, watching her strength and resilience through the highs and lows of her career was inspiring to me," she says. "She always put family first."
Her mom also kept a level head about celebrity, something that Scott vows she and her bandmates will maintain.
"We've started to get recognized a little bit more than we have in the past, but I'm telling you, being part of a group, there is so much more anonymity that comes with it," she says. "I still go to the grocery store in my yoga pants. I'm never not going to do that."