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In the summer of 2006, three gifted young adults walked into a house to create music, uncertain of where they were headed—and Lady Antebellum walked out.
During that time, Hillary Scott’s sultry alto, Charles Kelley’s gritty tenor and multi-instrumentalist/harmony vocalist Dave Haywood’s musical overview ignited a unique blend of harmonies reminiscent of classic country, a soulfulness of 1960s R&B, the heart-on-the-sleeve openness of 1970s singer-songwriters, all with a keen edge of contemporary country. “From the beginning, the music took on a life of it’s own and defined the direction we were headed,” declares Hillary. “It only took one live performance of the first handful of songs we had written to realize that whatever it was we were going to do, had to be done together.”
The fuse was first lit in middle school, when Augusta, Ga., natives Charles and Dave met. Both eventually found themselves studying finance at the University of Georgia, where they began writing songs together.
Charles had begun his musical life playing drums with his older brother Josh Kelley (now a respected recording artist himself). It was apparent his passionate singing voice would bring him to the front of the stage soon; in 2005, Charles and his brother migrated from opposite ends of the country to Nashville.
|Dave had been playing a variety of musical instruments from a young age, but like Charles had looked to finance as a more realistic way to make a living—the proverbial “something to fall back on.” He worked as an accountant for a year after graduation; during that year, Dave had the opportunity to travel the globe, working in such exotic locales as England and Japan. Despite his many opportunities, Dave’s soul began to reason with him to find the way to express his musical passion: “I was thinking, Man, is this what I have to do for the rest of my life?” he recalls. So when Charles called and asked if he would come to Nashville and give the music business a serious shot, he agreed to move in with the Kelley brothers.
The boys are transplants to Music City, but Hillary Scott has always called it home. The daughter of Grammy Award-winning country artist Linda Davis and accomplished musician Lang Scott, she developed her passion for music at an early age as well. In high school, she joined her parents in the Linda Davis Family Christmas Show, and was instantly hooked. “When we started doing the Christmas show I thought, ‘OK, this is really what I want to do for a living,’” she recalls. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
With the guidance of acclaimed songwriter/artist Victoria Shaw, she earned plenty of local buzz as a solo artist, but a major-label opportunity evaporated in March 2006—just days after Dave arrived in town. Two months later, at downtown Nashville music spot, she recognized Charles, whose music she had been enjoying on his MySpace page. “I introduced myself and struck up a conversation,” she remembers. “He said that we should get together and write sometime.” Charles adds, “I just thought she was hot.” Not knowing the hidden talent that would soon emerge, the boys were persistent to get together with Hillary. After they started writing, the three were inseparable the rest of the summer. “We held ourselves hostage in a writing room until the early hours of the morning every night,” said Dave.
|At first, the three weren’t sure what exactly they were writing for—but it soon became obvious that Charles and Hillary enjoyed a combustible chemistry as a vocal duo, and that Dave’s instrumental prowess and harmony vocals filled out the picture. The influences each brought to the table ran the gamut from The Allman Brothers Band to Vince Gill, from The Eagles to Keith Urban, and from Gladys Knight to Travis Tritt. |All those elements added up to something that was both youthfully modern and grounded in old-fashioned gut-level passion. “It’s like a Neapolitan blend of all these flavors,” says Dave. “It’s a really great marriage, musically and lyrically.”
It helped matters a great deal that the three also sparked on a personal level. Charles describes the group dynamic: “I’m the analytical perfectionist, Hillary brings the silliness and the emotion, and Dave is the calming glue. Everyone balances everybody else out.”
Inspired by a just-for-fun photo shoot in vintage southern costumes, the trio settled on the last piece of the puzzle - a name for the band: Lady Antebellum. Purely ironic, their name represents the same sense of nostalgia found in the songs they sing.
The three began posting demos on their MySpace page, and visitor feedback was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. The reaction was just as instantaneous when Lady Antebellum began playing small gigs around Music City. “It took on a life of it’s own. There was no plan, we just kept churning out as many songs as we could,” marvels Dave.
The crowds grew from there—and grew, and grew again. Within a few months, they went from playing for a few dozen people to singing at the Grand Ole Opry and opening for such popular country acts as Josh Turner, Phil Vassar, Rodney Adkins and Carrie Underwood. Early fans took it upon themselves to nickname the hot trio, Lady A.
|By April 2007, they had signed a recording contract with Capitol Nashville and begun recording their debut album with megaproducer Paul Worley and Hillary’s mentor Victoria Shaw.
“It still overwhelms me. Driving in to the studio, I had this epiphany, ‘this is what I do for a living!” Hillary emotionally claims. “I’m a true believer that what’s meant to be will fall into place” “When the ride starts, you’ve just got to jump on.”
Three young songwriter-musicians, with varied influences and backgrounds, whose blended vocals make a sound that is fresh and unique . . . even while it sounds like something you’ve known for a long time. For Lady Antebellum, the ride is about to begin
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