Look­ing Good

Lady Antebellum re­turns to AMP with new feel

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - ROGERS - JO­CE­LYN MUR­PHY

Seven years, three full-length al­bums and a Christ­mas record have come to pass since Lady Antebellum re­leased “Need You Now” — the con­tem­po­rary coun­try su­per­stars’ sec­ond and most suc­cess­ful stu­dio al­bum.

“Ev­ery­body thinks their new­est record’s one of their best, but this re­ally does feel like the best foot for­ward we’ve put on a record, prob­a­bly since ‘Need You Now,’” says Charles Kel­ley of the trio’s lat­est re­lease “Heart Break,” out June 9. Af­ter a hia­tus from tour­ing, cre­at­ing mu­sic (as a group) and even the Nashville scene, Kel­ley, Hil­lary Scott and Dave Hay­wood re­turned to the stu­dio to pro­duce a new record un­like any­thing they’d at­tempted be­fore. “We try to write about what we know. There’s a lot of com­mon themes that we’ve delved in [to] in past records, but some of the new [songs] this time around are about our kids and our fam­ily life; that’s some­thing we haven’t touched [be­fore] be­cause we all have kids now.

“But def­i­nitely, the process has mixed up a lot,” Kel­ley con­tin­ues. The three­some spent time in Los An­ge­les and in Florida, away from the sched­ules and com­mit­ments of daily life in Nashville, to free up their minds and their time for writ­ing 11 of the 13 songs on “Heart Break” — their most sig­nif­i­cant writ­ing con­tri­bu­tion to date. “It has a lot of en­ergy. We tried to have a bit of a sense of ur­gency to the record.”

Kel­ley says that en­ergy and the genre-cross­ing el­e­ments of the new mu­sic set the stage for the group’s big­gest pro­duc­tion yet (pun in­tended) on the “You Look Good Tour” — named for the al­bum’s sin­gle. The horn sec­tion fea­tured on the sin­gle is along for the tour and is mak­ing ap­pear­ances in songs like “Down­town” from the “Golden” record, as well as “Lookin’ for a Good Time” and “Love Don’t Live Here” from the group’s 2008 epony­mous de­but, breath­ing new life into some old fa­vorites.

“It just feels like more of a party this time around,” Kel­ley shares. “I don’t know if it’s the pro­duc­tion, the horns, or what­ever it is, but it re­ally does feel like we’ve stepped it up a notch with this tour.”

For the al­bum it­self, Kel­ley as­serts it was re­unit­ing with pro­ducer bus­bee — whose Grammy-nom­i­nated work with up-and-comer Maren Mor­ris is just one of the many ac­co­lades to his name — that af­fected their sound the most. Known for throw­ing gen­re­spe­cific con­fines out the win­dow, Kel­ley says bus­bee knows how to keep the mu­sic time­less, but still push it to feel mod­ern and cur­rent. A clear vi­sion from bus­bee as a pro­ducer and co-writer com­bined with the trio’s re­flec­tion of their iden­tity to elicit an al­bum that is at once ex­per­i­men­tal and au­then­tic.

“You just kind of know when you’re in there if some­thing feels like you or not,” Kel­ley re­calls of the pro­duc­tion process. “The big­gest thing was just sift­ing through all the songs we’d writ­ten, and I re­mem­ber there were cer­tain songs in there that felt like a hit to us, but he would say, ‘It feels like a hit, but it doesn’t feel like a Lady Antebellum hit.’ So we pushed each other in a great way — mak­ing sure we were re­ally be­ing true to our­selves as artists.”

COUR­TESY PHOTO

Charles Kel­ley, left, of con­tem­po­rary coun­try sen­sa­tion Lady Antebellum, says the trio’s new al­bum “Heart Break,” re­leased June 9, is their best yet. The group re­turns to the Wal­mart AMP Satur­day night.

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