By Annie Reuter
For their fifth studio album 747, Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum wanted to shake things up. Instead of an album of mid-tempo songs and ballads, the country trio wanted to keep their fans on their feet — something they’ve been testing out firsthand with their live shows during their summer tour.
“I feel like the touring has really grown this year and that inspired this record,” Dave Haywood tells Radio.com, when the three bandmates dropped by our studio during the week of 747‘s release. “We’ve hit this moment where we can keep people on their feet and we can keep them up. That’s why we wanted to release a lot of these songs. It’s been fun to watch ‘Bartender.’ We put ‘Freestyle’ in the set as well this summer. It’s a fun moment to be at, touring where people are up having a great time. A lot of the amphitheaters and festivals we play feel like a big party now and it’s fun. That’s a different side for us and feel for us as a band.”
Not that Lady Antebellum haven’t released upbeat singles in the past. Last year’s success of “Downtown” and “Compass” helped point the group into a new direction. Recording 747 was fun for the band, and Hillary Scott said this is always the goal.
“That’s the ultimate thing, if you can have fun doing it then that’s the truest success,” she says. “We needed to step outside of what was comfortable for us. The three of us as a band needed the change. It felt the most like the excitement we had when this all started. It felt so much like the first record. In the eight years we’ve been a band, things can start to feel familiar, so to have that excitement and first time feeling again was really special.”
Kelley reiterated Scott’s sentiments, explaining that he also had to exit his comfort zone for “Freestyle,” which is the band’s new radio single. He said he was initially hesitant during the writing process (he and his bandmates wrote the track with Shane McAnally) because it was “such a departure” from their previous material. Today, though, it’s one of his favorite tracks to play live.
“The one thing we learned was not to be afraid,” Kelley says. “‘Downtown’ was a good example of a song where at the time when we cut it Hillary was like, ‘I don’t know. This is so different.’ We’ve always found that our biggest and best songs always push us in a different direction. ‘Freestyle’ has this infectious energy to it. [You have to] keep it lighthearted sometimes.”
The lightheartedness heard on “Freestyle” weaves throughout Lady A’s album, from lead single “Bartender” (which reached No. 1) to opening track “Long Stretch of Love.”
The latter song Kelley described as the most honest on the album.
“We’re all married. True love is ups and downs. You hit, you miss. You’re fire and ice,” he says. “But at the end of the day we’re not going anywhere. We feel that way in our personal lives and as a band. We’re going to have our ups and downs. We’ve been through a lot. We just have this long stretch of love. This long view of the group.”
“It’s going to be an interesting journey,” he continues. “Who knows where we’ll be in 10 years.”