Lady Antebellum hits studio to record third album: Charles Kelley on trying to follow up 'Need You Now' -- EXCLUSIVE

Lady-AntebellumLady Antebellum had the second-best-selling album of 2010, thanks largely to the massive crossover title track, “Need You Now.” The country trio (Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood), who have six nominations at next month’s Grammys, headed back into the studio this week to begin recording their third album. “We were touring between the recording process the last two times we’ve done it. We actually just went ahead and decided we’re gonna take two, two and a half months straight in the studio to create this thing and not have all this distraction. Hopefully that will be a good thing,” Kelley told EW earlier this month when he interrupted a skiing trip to chat with us for our 2011 Preview issue, on stands Friday. “I always laugh and say that I thought we worked good in the chaos, and that was why it worked. We’ll see if having too much time, what that does to us. Hopefully it’s gonna make the process more enjoyable and not so stressful.”

Kelley says the group is more prepared to record this time than they’ve ever been. “I don’t know if it’s the pressure we put on ourselves or whatever, but we wrote a ton for this record while we were out on the road last year,” he says. “And we had a bunch of songwriters from Nashville come out on the road with us on the weekends and help keep us motivated to write. I hope we can do that for the rest of our careers. It will probably get harder and harder as we get kids and all that good stuff. But in the meantime, we were pretty tenacious.”

Kelley says the group penned about 50 songs, which they’ll narrow down along with some tunes that were pitched to them from other Nashville writers. He’s quick to tell you their mindset is realistic. “If we were to use the success of ‘Need You Now’ as the barometer for every other song, then we’ll probably be highly disappointed. That song will probably undoubtedly be the biggest song of our career. We can hopefully have success for 20 years, but we may not ever have the success of that one particular song again. But we might. You never know. But we’re gonna try not to chase it, is what I’m sayin’. If we try to chase that too much, we’ll start to deviate from what made the sound of the group.”

Still, it might find them: Ask him to name a song they’re excited about, and the first one he mentions is “Dancing Away With My Heart” — a sentimental reverie about first love they cowrote with their “Need You Now” collaborator Josh Kear. “We all remember high school dances, and how innocent those little moments were,” he says. Kelley’s wife noticed a common theme when she listened to the songs they were considering cutting. “I think there’s gonna be a lot of nostalgic songs on the record,” he says. “Maybe that’s just because we’re all getting a little older. Now we’re so busy and there’s a little part of us that yearns for a time when it was a little simpler. I don’t know what fueled that.” (Maybe because he and Haywood, who went to the same high school, had their 10-year class reunion last year and had to skip it because they had a show. “But we did make a little video for ‘em saying we missed ‘em and hoped everybody was doing well,” he says.)

While it’s obviously too early to know which songs will make the album, Kelley says they’re also excited about a track by Tom Douglas, who cowrote “I Run to You” (and that little Miranda Lambert hit “The House That Built Me”), called “Heart of the World.” (“Oh gosh, there’s another ‘heart’ song,” he says. Even a word repetition in your track list is something to consider.)

The trio doesn’t want to put more pressure on themselves, but Kelley knows what’s at stake. “Third records, they can be the most important ones in somebody’s career. They can kind of make and break. If people have enjoyed the first two, if you don’t come up with something special on the third one to really knock them dead, you can take a few steps back. Hopefully we’ll come out swinging on this record.” One of the things they’re talking about doing to make this album stand apart from the others — their first collaboration. “Probably not Bieber,” he says when asked if they’ll pull a Rascal Flatts. To each their own.

Comments (21 total) Add your comment
  • outside agitator

    since Need You Now had big success with the melody of Alan Parsons’ Eye In the Sky why not write a song about first love using the melody of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here?

    • AcaseofGeo

      I don’t get this “Eye in the Sky” comparison. I think some of the breezey part of the music is reminiscent but I don’t think its a full-on melody ripoff. Nobody seems to complain about BLATANT ripoffs and interpolations in rap music but so many people are dismissing this song as a ripoff of that great classic. Can anyone tell me which specific part, words, and melody is an identical match?

      • Bustin Jieber

        The entire chorus is a ripoff, dude.

      • outside agitator

        I complain about the godawfulness of rap here all the time, haha. but yeah, I think Bustin’s right…it’s the whole chorus. it’s identical and many, many people think so. might even be in EW’s review of the cd.

      • AcaseofGeo

        I’d need an in-studio tutorial with synched music. I admit they are similar but I don’t get identical. Either way, they are BOTH awesome songs. And if it brought extra attention to the vastly UNDER-appreciated Alan Parsons Project, then I’m glad.

    • PN

      I don’t think it sounds like Alan Parsons Project’s Eye in the Sky at all. It’s a whole different song to me every time I hear it. I think some reviewers remember that song and heard echoes/chords of that 1980 hit in it. I don’t think the country trio even thought about the song when they composed and recorded it.

  • gonzo

    Reading this interview got me sooooooooooooooo freakin’ PUMPED for Lady A’s next album. I think they’re taking the perfect approach going into it and I have a feeling we haven’t even begun to see what their really made of. Let the countdown begin….

  • kathy60

    Love Lady A and all their great music. Can’t wait for their new release.

  • CJ

    Love Lady A! Everyone tries to bring down the most successful like Taylor and Lady A. There is some similarity to the melody but it is not a rip off. People are always influenced by previous music, it’s normal. The lyrics are what made that song a hit. Everyone can relate.

    • outside agitator

      the chorus melody is identical. no one’s trying to bring down LA. but if their biggest song is extremely similar to another song, it bears mentioning. take another look at LA’s lyrics…they’re really bad. a percentage of people will always tend toward fluff like TS and LA. that’s no big deal…that doesn’t give modern acts the right to appropriate older, better songs for their own. case in point: John Rich and Gretchen Wilson and the Black Crowe’s Jealous Again. I suspect they realize modern audiences are more concerned with how the video looks than if the song is an original composition. When George Harrison was sued for My Sweet Lord, that was a scandal. and My Sweet Lord had more going for it musically than just the He’s So Fine hook. Need You Now’s melody is a bore except for what’s in Eye In the Sky.

      • Steve Lowe

        I’m an Attorney that specilizes in this area. Need You Now is not the same period. Nothing, Absolutely nothing is exactly the same on the two songs.

  • ladyafan213

    There is no comparison of Need You Now to Eye In The Sky. Whoever started that rumor, slowed down Need You Now to make it sound that way. Listen to it, Hillary’s voice is too deep on the song they are comparing on that website. People need to stop bashing artists just because they had a great year. Lady A is the best and you will never meet anyone as sweet as these three people. I can’t wait to hear the new material and go to my next Lady A show.

    • outside agitator

      the chorus melody of Need You Now is the same as Eye In the Sky. anyone with an ear can hear it. it was even mentioned in reviews of LA’s cd. I couldn’t care less what kind of year they had.

      • outside agitator

        Mikael Wood’s Jan 20th 2010 EW review says it plain as day.

  • Wanda

    Alexis.. There is another Hillary Scott.. Hillary Scott from Lady A is NOT an actress. Can NOT wait to hear the new music!! They are amazing!! Loved the first 2 albums.Absolutely know I will love the 3rd one too :)

  • mariah

    sorry the only part that sounds the same is the first couple notes of the chorus everything else is lady A and I like they’re words better and the song too other one kinda sucks. Just my opinion. Lady A rocks!

  • Kari

    Love Lady Antebellum music I can’t wait till their new cd.

  • PN

    I think they’re going to do well with their next album. I don’t like that pressure level placed on them. I think following a very good music album is hard. Some critics seem more concerned about will it outsell the previous hit album than the music itself.

  • Connie Moore

    Lady Antebellum is so awesome! The whole c.d. is great to listen to.

  • Lady Antebellum Need You Now Lyrics

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  • angel wies

    hey sup good job

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