Lady Antebellum rapidly rising to prominence in country music

Don’t let the name deceive you — Lady Antebellum is a country band, not the latest female pop singin

Don’t let the name deceive you — Lady Antebellum is a country band, not the latest female pop singing sensation. In fact, two-thirds of the group are male.

“A lot of people think we’re a girl group,” said Dave Haywood, Lady Antebellum’s multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Westminster, Md.

Lady Antebellum, made up of Haywood and lead vocalists Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott, has taken Nashville by storm since forming in 2006. The name actually comes from the group’s first photo shoot together, before they were even really a band.

“I had a digital camera and my brother was taking pictures of us in front of these Antebellum homes, which are these really old, ‘Gone With the Wind’-style homes,” Haywood said. “We thought, ‘Whoa, that has a cool ring to it, ‘Antebellum.’ It doesn’t really mean anything more than that.”

Super busy trio

In the brief two years the trio has been playing together, they’ve already toured with such top-name stars as Kenny Chesney, Martina McBride, Alan Jackson and Taylor Swift, and performed at the Grand Ole Opry in 2007 before they even had an album out.

Lady Antebellum

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 12

Where: Altamont Fairgrounds, Altamont

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“That was one of the biggest pinnacles for the three of us, especially Hillary, who grew up in Nashville; her mom’s Linda Davis, so she grew up going to the Grand Ole Opry, and it was special for her,” Haywood said. “It was the first time I had ever been, when we played there for the first time, but I grew up listening to it on the radio and watching it on television. We just signed the record deal last June, and it was one of the very first things we got to do. We felt like we’d made it then.”

The band’s rapid rise may have something to do with its busy schedule; in July alone, the trio played 25 shows by Haywood’s count. That touring schedule doesn’t look to be letting up anytime soon, either, with festival and fair dates booked through November, including an appearance at the Altamont Fair on Tuesday

“People are always like, ‘You’re gonna burn yourselves out,’ but it’s the festival season, and in the country music industry there’s nothing like it,” Haywood said. “And we wanted to get in front of as many people as we could. We really believe that if you want to sell albums, you have to be out there, playing for people, shaking people’s hands.”

It isn’t too surprising that the members of Lady Antebellum ended up making music for a living, as all three came from musical backgrounds. Haywood has been playing piano since he was in kindergarten growing up in Augusta, Ga., and later picked up the guitar.

“I started out on piano; my mom forced me into it,” Haywood said. “In fifth grade, my dad got me my first guitar. I come from a really musical family, and I’ve always loved playing as many instruments as I can.”

Kelley, another Augusta native, grew up playing drums, and is the brother of singer-songwriter Josh Kelley. Haywood and Kelley began writing music together while in college at the University of Georgia, having met in middle school. The duo made the move to Nashville in 2006, where they met Scott and began writing together.

“Hillary found Charles on MySpace,” Haywood said. “She recognized Charles in a bar.”

Songwriting teamwork

The three quickly hit it off songwriting-wise, penning many of the songs on their self-titled debut album during their first songwriting session. The very first of these songs, “All We’d Ever Need,” a yearning tale of love lost, has remained a band favorite live.

“When we play [‘All We’d Ever Need’] live, I get to play piano, and I love playing piano,” Haywood said. “It has a real personal lyric for all of us, it’s something we’ve all been through. Definitely ‘All We’d Ever Need’ is my favorite.”

The trio wrote or co-wrote 10 of the 11 songs on their debut, a feat in the country world, where songwriters oftentimes write artists’ songs for them. However, Haywood said he believes songwriter-driven country artists are making a comeback.

“A lot of artists don’t write their own music, and I still love their music, but a lot of newer people like Taylor Swift and Ashton Shepherd write, which gives it a genuineness and honesty,” Haywood said. “We love creating music; we love nothing more than just to sit on the couch with a guitar and see what we come up with. That’s the core of how we are, how we met and became friends.”

Rooted in country

The band’s influences lean toward Southern rock, modern country, R&B and soul, with Haywood citing The Eagles, Keith Urban, The Allman Brothers, Carrie Underwood and John Mayer.

“We all grew up on very vocal-driven groups,” Haywood said. “Growing up, Charles was big into Joe Cocker and Bruce Springsteen.”

Songs such as “Lookin’ for a Good Time,” the group’s current single, display the guitar muscle that Southern rock has given the band’s sound, while the aforementioned “All We’d Ever Need” showcases the band’s softer side. Although the band’s many different influences are all clearly on display on their debut, the trio is still firmly rooted in country.

“We’ll always just kind of have those country roots,” Haywood said. “I don’t know if it’s possible to get too far away from it, but we love the whole Southern rock kind of thing, and we mix that with some other styles.”

Staying connected

The band has also proven to be technologically savvy in more ways than just their initial MySpace meeting. Their Web site,, features a weekly “Webisode” video, updating fans on current goings-on behind the scenes during the tour.

“We all just love trying to stay connected, and we think people would like to get a glimpse as to what an artist is like behind the scenes,” Haywood said. “That’s what we’re trying to show people, that we’re just having fun on the road. With my favorite artists, like Keith Urban and John Mayer, I want to know what they’re like, and hopefully we can give [the fans] a glimpse of that with the videos on the site.”

With the weekly video updates and a touring schedule booked solid up until Thanksgiving, the members of Lady Antebellum have found it tough to write new material, although Haywood said hopefully the band will be able to focus on writing again toward the end of this year. In the future, Kelley and Scott might even join Haywood on some instruments.

“We always talk about it; Hillary learned three chords on the guitar and now she thinks she can play everything there is,” Haywood said. “Charles grew up playing the drums, but not piano or guitar. But they definitely have a great ear for it when they try to pick it up, though.”

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