Debut album in stores Tuesday, April 15
By Ryan Gueningsman
Quitting a stable job with good benefits to attempt a career in country music isn’t something that many people would have the guts to do.
However, for some, the timing feels right, and they make a leap of faith and begin a journey in Music City.
For a handful of those people, something clicks, they meet people who can make them successful, and after hard work and paying their dues, they get noticed.
For Dave Haywood and his Lady Antebellum bandmates Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott, that is exactly what happened and they have been getting noticed a lot lately.
“It was a skeptical thing,” Haywood admitted. “It’s so hard to be realistic when stuff like that comes up. You know, I had a nice little financial job where I’m making good money, my 401K was doing well, my health benefits were great. You know, I’m in this great little position in life. It’s unrealistic for anybody, I think, to take a risk like that where you throw everything out on the line and just take a huge jump.”
Haywood admits it was a scary thing to do, but he said once he got together with his longtime friend, Charles Kelley, the songs they began writing had “something special there.”
Add cute singer/songwriter Hillary Scott to the equation with Haywood and Kelley, and the result is something that not even the three of them could have imagined.
“When we met Hillary is when everything started falling into place,” Haywood said. “We just started writing songs with Hillary before we had a blip on the radar of thinking about doing a group, so we were just writing songs.
“Once we met her, we really clicked as songwriters, and as friends, and before we knew it, we had enough songs to play a show and the group kinda came about just because of all that, of us just writing songs and wanting to play. It just kinda happened naturally.”
Things happening naturally have led the trio to open shows for Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood, Josh Turner, and numerous others. Their first single, “Love Don’t Live Here,” has taken radio by storm.
That storm is only going to get more powerful with the release of their debut album Tuesday. The album has already been receiving rave reviews, including from one Billboard, which said, “Not only is this one of the best new-artist debuts in recent memory (think Dixie Chicks in 1998), Lady Antebellum’s self-titled set will go down as one of the year’s best, period.”
In a short time, Lady Antebellum has developed into a force to be reckoned with. But, even though it seems the success has happened overnight, that is not the case.
“Our first show was just bad,” Haywood said with a laugh. “We weren’t good, but we had a blast with it. Looking back how we were as performers, we were just trying to figure the whole thing out.”
The trio was playing shows every two weeks, and at first, a few people would show up for their shows. Then a few more, and a few more. After playing shows for almost a year, their fan base grew and things began to happen.
“The response we got from people was far better than any of us had ever had doing independent/solo stuff, so we just stuck with it,” Haywood said.
He admitted that one of the toughest things in trying to get discovered in Nashville is to figure out how to find the way to the record labels
“So many people are in Nashville doing that same thing,” Haywood said. “We just set out to play shows, and we wanted to write music that we enjoy. We just wanted to play as many shows as we could to see if people would come.”
Haywood said Scott had a few contacts in town, and knew some publishers and songwriters. Scott is the daughter of country singer Linda Davis and musician Lang Scott, and has had music in her veins since day one.
At one of Lady Antebellum’s shows, a young lady from the A&R department of Capitol Records attended, and she kept coming back to see the new group and watch them develop as a band.
“Before you know it, she invited the president (of Capitol Records) to come see us,” Haywood said. “He totally dug us, and brought us into the office, had us play for the staff, then they made the decision to give us an offer. They’re just an absolutely great label.
“The best thing about them, honestly, is they just let us be who we are and keep the songs that we had,” Haywood continued. “I mean, the very first song that we wrote is on our album.”
“Love Don’t Live Here” was the third song the trio write together.
“They kept all these songs that we’ve been doing since day one,” Haywood said. “They felt there was something special that just was who we were as a group and the music we were creating.”
For Haywood, that music they were creating has roots back to his father teaching him to play the guitar at a young age.
“My dad taught me how to play guitar,” Haywood said. “My family’s really musical. They’re kinda like a nerdy Partridge Family. My dad taught me to play guitar back in middle school, and my mom she taught me how to play piano in elementary school and kindergarten. They’ve raised me the whole time playing and singing. Everyone in my family sings, so it all comes directly from them.”
The first major show Haywood’s parents were able to see was when the trio opened for Martina McBride at the Target Center in Minneapolis Jan. 26.
“They’re so proud with everything,” Haywood said. “At first when I flew to Nashville and quit a good job, they were all kinda skeptical for a while, but once we started to get things going, they were so thrilled with everything.
“The only other show they’ve seen was a little 30-person club in the early days. They’re from Georgia, so they don’t make it up to Nashville much to see everything, so it was hilarious this was one of the first things they saw was this huge show at the Target Center.”
Haywood said having that support system that has been with him his entire life keeps him focused and grounded.
“To have people that have supported you there it means a lot to you,” he said.
Aside from Haywood’s family, another constant in his life since middle school has been bandmate Charles Kelley.
The two grew up playing music together, which has led to Haywood to be able to take on more of the instrumental/foundational roles of the band, thus allowing Kelley and Scott to share the microphone on stage. Offstage, their partnership works almost the same way when it comes to writing songs.
“When we get together to write a song, everyone kinda writes it differently, but we always start with a melody on the guitar or piano or something, and then see where that takes us,” Haywood said.
“I guess I’m just here to keep them from not fighting too much,” Haywood said with a laugh about his role in the band. “It’s a blast being with both of them, and all three of us we equally write, and when we play live, we all kind of have our roles and the things we’re great at. We let each person do what they’re great at, and don’t worry about the things you’re not amazing at.”
Haywood figured if he was going to quit a job and put everything on the line to try to make this happen for a career, he wanted to do it the right way.
“All three of us had that mindset that we want to do this the right way,” Haywood said. “This is a marathon for us. We’re not in it just to grab some kind of radio hit . . . We want to make this a career, and make it a long-lasting thing, and to do that, we wanted to set the foundation early on that we like creating our music and feel like people enjoy it, and want to do that as much as we can.”
Logging their miles on the road has also been something they’ve been doing plenty of since meeting in 2006.
Last year, the group was showing up at tour dates in Kelley’s Jeep Grand Cherokee.
“We were literally driving to New York, driving to Chicago, driving everywhere to play all these shows just to try to get our music out there to as many people as we could,” Haywood said.
“We had a booking agent come on early with us, CAA, and they set us up with shows with Bucky Covington, Josh Turner, and we did a few with Carrie Underwood a year-and-a-half ago, so we did a bunch of fairs and festivals last year, and we’ve ridden on the Ferris wheel a couple of times,” he added with a laugh.
Looking forward to this summer, Haywood said the group again has a lot of fair and festival shows booked, including an appearance at Winstock, and Haywood said he hopes the group will be picked up again for a tour this fall.
Their next task is to promote their debut album, as well as continue to write songs.
“We just finished the record,” he said. We’re just so proud of it. All of it except for one of the songs are songs that we’ve written in one way or another, together as the three of us, or with other writers.”
Tonight (Monday, April 14), the trio will find out if it will take away one or both of the CMT awards they are nominated for with their hit “Love Don’t Live Here.”
And Tuesday, their debut album hits store shelves across the nation. Needless to say, it’s going to be a busy time for Lady Antebellum.
Looking back on it all to date, Haywood said the whole thing was definitely a big risk, but without question, one that has been worth taking.
“It’s definitely paid off,” he said.
Lady Antebellum will perform twice on the Emerging Artists Stage at Winstock 2008 in Winsted Saturday, June 14 at 4:05 p.m. and again at 8:15 p.m.
For more information on Winstock, visit www.winstockfestival.com, or call 888-946-7865.
For more information on Lady Antebellum, visit www.ladyantebellum.com.