Art is a moving target. Those who do it most successfully find shades of emotion within themselves that change the texture of their work and how they feel about themselves. As a result, a real artist is ever-changing.
Since its 2006 inception, Lady Antebellum had risen quickly to become country music's most influential current group. “Lady A” won the Vocal Group of the Year honor from both the Country Music Association and from the Academy of Country Music three times in a row. Eight of the band's singles went gold, with four — “American Honey,” “Need You Now,” “Just A Kiss” and “I Run To You” — surpassing the platinum mark. "Need You Now" went on to sell over seven million downloads, according to the RIAA. It also generated five of the trio's seven career Grammy wins, including the all-genre Record and Song of the Year.
All these achievements were accomplished through a fragile balance of several key pieces, each of which helps define the Lady Antebellum sound: ingratiating melodies, the interplay between Kelley's soulful male resonance and Scott's scintillating female texture, the threesome’s bittersweet harmonic blend, and production elements that invariably emphasize the stylistic inclusiveness of modern country.
That sound catapulted Lady A to an enviable level of popularity. The band picked up an audience beyond the typical core Country music listener, it hit the road playing arenas and stadiums, and the group performed on all the major television shows, including Saturday Night Live, Oprah, the Grammys, The Voice, and most every other daytime and late night program on network television.
That kind of attention often destroys bands. The pride that goes with success begins to undermine the act, and the members compete for recognition. Ultimately, that delicate balance devolves into a tug of war and the act simply falls apart.
That's unlikely for Lady A. Kelley, Scott and Haywood each play a key role, not only in the band's harmonic development, but even in the day-to-day details of the group's mission. Each of them are keenly aware that the other members need the right amount of attention — and the right amount of space — to make the entire band work.
“We've seen enough Behind The Musics to know how these things turn out,” Scott suggests. “As much as we all are confident about what we bring to the table, the second that you become a little too confident is when that balance shifts, and that's when you can implode. We know that it's not worth that.”
2013’s Golden reaffirms the very beginnings of Lady Antebellum, focusing on deft songwriting and fresh uses of their talents, which was at the heart of what drew them together in the first place. The album emerged from the band's concert tour — an over-sized road trip, if there ever was one — and it embraces the moving target that is creativity.
Title track “Golden,” the last song they wrote for the project, has a sense of innocence and rediscovery not far removed from those initial creative efforts. While the band is committed to songwriting, Nashville’s music community busted down the doors with its A-list material. Six of the 11 songs on Golden came from outside writers, including the R&B-tinged “Downtown,” the Byrds-like “Better Off Now (That You're Gone)” and the fragile “It Ain't Pretty.” “Downtown” became the highest-debuting single in the band's career and put a new, surprising sheen on Lady A that even the band's associates could not foresee.
“Golden depicts a kind of a special time for us in our career,” Haywood says. “I personally feel so humbled that we can still be making records that people are excited to hear. We're in a really valuable, golden time.”
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