Planes, trains and automobiles. Lady Antebellum has spent plenty of time in all three. Driven by the need to continually evolve, the country trio always seems to be in transit, pushing toward a newer, bolder sound one minute and hitting the road for a worldwide tour the next. Sometimes, those two things happen at once. With 747, Lady Antebellum’s fifth album, the band captures the speed and spirit of its critically-acclaimed live show in 11 new songs. Bandmates Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood may have formed the group in Nashville, with all three singers harmonizing for the first time around Haywood’s piano, but they earned their stripes on the road. That’s where Lady Antebellum truly came alive, mixing the rootsy stomp of forward-thinking Country music with the swooning, sweeping sound of three voices that were born to mesh. As the shows got bigger, so did the band’s ambition. Written during the 2014 Take Me Downtown Tour, 747 — whose title rustles up the image of a fast-moving plane bound for bigger, better places — doubles as a metaphor for the group itself. After spending years at the top of the Country charts, Lady Antebellum is ready to pull up the wheels and climb even higher. “We started discovering more of an ‘in your face’ sound that we’d never explored before, so we began writing towards that mentality,” says Kelley, who remembers walking into a dance bar after a Lady Antebellum concert and feeling the need to compose faster, fiercer songs that could live in that environment. The first step toward making that transformation was relying less on the band’s history with mid-tempo ballads — although two softer songs, “One Great Mystery” and the nostalgic, nocturnal “Damn You Seventeen,” did make the final tracklist for 747 — and focusing on more explosive material. Kelley, Scott and Haywood invited some of their favorite songwriters to join them on the road, too, resulting in a series of late-night writing sessions on the band’s tour bus, with everyone traveling together from one sold-out show to the next. “Being on the road and writing new songs, we found ourselves wanting more of that high energy material,” Haywood remembers. “We came up with songs like ‘Bartender’ and ‘Long Stretch of Love,’ with that big feeling that really hits you hard in an arena.” During gaps in the band’s busy touring schedule, Lady Antebellum returned to Nashville and recorded the new songs with Grammy-winning producer Nathan Chapman. It was one of the group’s first times working with anyone besides Paul Worley, who’d played a monumental role in Lady Antebellum’s career by co-producing multi-platinum hits like “Need You Now,” “Just a Kiss” and “I Run to You.” The band became a chart-topping, Grammy-winning juggernaut under Worley’s wing… but even the biggest groups need to reach outside their comfort zone. “It’s different when you walk into a different studio and talk to a different producer,” Kelley says of the band’s transition. “Something different comes out, naturally. One thing with Nathan is he works really fast, and he works all hours.” As a result, Lady Antebellum finished an entire record in a short, inspired period of time. Chapman pushed the three singers to deliver their best performances up front, often recording a song’s vocal tracks in just four or five takes. He also stretched the boundaries of Lady A’s sound by introducing some subtle digital touches, like loops and computer programming. When the group considered scrapping one song, “Sounded Good at the Time,” after falling out of love with its opening guitar riff, Chapman broke the riff into smaller segments and reversed them, creating a new hook that pushed the song forward without abandoning its organic roots. “Bartender,” 747‘s first single, is another game-changer. Driven forward by banjo, percussion and an insatiable chorus, the song finds Scott thinking back to her days as a single woman, when a double shot of whiskey could wash away the memory of a no-good ex. “I thought it was such a great curveball to put out first,” she says. “I’m a mom, and I love that role more than anything, but I’m also a woman who lived a lot before she was a mom. ‘Bartender’ has allowed me to get outside of my new role, and it’s so fun to perform. To watch how well it’s done in such a short amount of time, it’s just continued proof that our fans want fun from us.” “It’s just a good, fun song,” added Kelley. “We have to remember, as a band, that not all our singles have to be these ‘big statement’ songs like ‘Hello World’ or ‘Need You Now.’ Sometimes, they can just be about looking for a good time. ‘Bartender’ and ‘Downtown’ kind of prove that to us, that we’ve gotta let our hair down a little bit on these records. Then, when you do hear a song on this record like ‘Lie With Me’ or ‘One Great Mystery,’ hopefully it will mean a lot more.” Scott has high hopes for “Lie With Me,” a stirring duet written by Marc Beeson and Abe Stoklasa. She trades verses with Kelley during the song, which spins the tale of two estranged lovers who agree to spend one final night together, even though they know the flame has died out. “One of our favorite songs in the entire world is ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ by Bonnie Raitt,” she says. “It’s a perfect song that is incomparable. It puts you in this place and exudes this mood. I just listen to that song and I close my eyes and I see a movie in my head. [“Lie With Me”] did the same thing for me, in a different way. You’re listening to the lyrics and you can close your eyes and just see this whole scene play out.” It’s appropriate that 747 — an album about love, nostalgia, and the things that move us emotionally and physically — also contains several fast-paced anthems about transit. The first is “Long Stretch of Love,” an epic track that owes as much to rock ‘n’ roll’s raw swagger as Country’s rootsy twang. The last is “747,” a soaring title track built around the singers’ three-part harmonies. “This 747 can’t go fast enough,” goes the latter tune’s refrain, and while those lyrics technically refer to a heartsick man who’s flying back home to see his wife, they also paint the picture of a band that’s already skyrocketed to creative heights… but can’t help pushing down the throttle for a bit more speed. “We put so much energy into every single vocal performance and every aspect of recording,” Scott says of the album, which arrives less a year after the deluxe release of Golden, “and that’s what we want people to hear. That electricity. The electricity of new relationships, of new music, of new ways of recording.” “747 is a snapshot of where we are as a band,” adds Kelley. “It’s us wanting to solidify our place — to stay at the top of our game, for lack of a better way of saying it. You know, when you start playing these arenas and these amphitheaters, and the fans are gravitating toward this music, it’s a drug. You want it. You want to stay there. As a band, we’re ready.”
If you follow Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley on social media, you will see a lot of posts featuring his son, Ward, who can be seen strumming his little guitar or ukulele and singing along to some Lady A hits. The two-and-a-half-year-old may just take over on stage since he’s been on the road a few times since the band kicked off their Summer Plays On Tour with pal Darius Rucker.
“Ward is all about the road. I mean it’s crazy. During our soundchecks he brings his little ukulele guitar out there on stage and dances around. He loves it and he’s obsessed with Hillary’s little girl, Eisele, and Dave’s little boy, Cash. They’re both older so he just kinda follows them around and does whatever they do, and it’s really cute to see,” says proud daddy Charles. “He got to see his first show because he usually goes to bed around 7:30 and we did a show here in Nashville for the Fourth of July and it started at 8. So, I begged my wife to keep him up to see it, and he loved it. He sat side stage on her lap the whole time for our show with those little headphones on, and I don’t know that was just one of those cool, proud and warm moments for me. And I don’t know if I want him to be a musician, but I do love that my family does get to come out on the road with me. They come about half the time, and it really is a special thing.”
Fellow bandmates Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood may have their children on the road at times. Hillary is the mother of three — 5-year-old daughter Eisele and 6-month-old identical twin girls Betsy and Emory — while Dave is Dad to two — 4-year-old son Cash and 7-month-old daughter Lillie.
The members of Lady Antebellum, who are making their way up the country charts with “Heart Break,” will take their Summer Plays On Tour to Bethel, New York on Thursday (July 25th) and Gilford, New Hampshire on Friday (July 26th).
Lady Antebellum (Ward on the Road) OC: …special thing. :58
“Ward is all about the road. I mean it’s crazy. During our soundchecks he brings his little ukulele guitar out there on stage and dances around. He loves it and he’s obsessed with Hillary’s little girl, Eisele, and Dave’s little boy, Cash. They’re both older so he just kinda follows them around and does whatever they do, and it’s really cute to see. He’s two and a half now. He got to see his first show because he usually goes to bed around 7:30 and we did a show here in Nashville for the Fourth of July and it started at 8. So, I begged my wife to keep him up to see it, and he loved it. He sat side stage on her lap the whole time for our show with those little headphones on, and I don’t know that was just one of those cool, proud and warm moments for me. And I don’t know if I want him to be a musician, but I do love that my family does get to come out on the road with me. They come about half the time and it really is a special thing.”
After years of friendship and months of preparation, three-time GRAMMY award-winner Darius Rucker and seven-time GRAMMY award-winning trio Lady Antebellum launched their co-headlining Summer Plays On Tour to a deafening welcome in Toronto, Ont. (7/19) and Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio (7/20) this past weekend. With what The Plain Dealer called “one of the biggest mainstream country pairings of the summer,” Cleveland Country Magazine noted that it is “hard to imagine who’s having more fun at the show — the fans or the acts on stage” with a playlist-worthy set spanning over 20 No. 1 hits between the two.
Today, PEOPLE.com shares an exclusive behind the scenes photo gallery highlighting Rucker and Lady A’s opening weekend as the run continues thrilling audiences across the U.S. all summer long.
“Charles, Hillary and Dave have been such good friends to me over the years – we even toured together once before during the summer of 2012,” explained Rucker. “It’s always exciting to be out on the road with our fans, but I knew it would be even more special with Lady Antebellum being part of the tour too. If the rest of the shows are as much fun as this past weekend, we’re in for a great summer!”
“We’ve been itching to get back on the road with Darius for a while now and we couldn’t have asked for a better opening run,” said Lady A’s Dave Haywood. “You could just feel the energy between all the bands, crews and fans. The crowds made a lasting impression on us and we can already tell there are a lot of memories to be made this year.”
For a behind-the-scenes look at the launch of the Summer Plays On Tour exclusively through PEOPLE.com, clickHERE.
Rucker took the stage first, bringing fans to their feet with chart-toppers such as “Alright” and recent No. 1 “For The First Time” before Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum joined him for their collaborative “Straight To Hell,” the current single off Rucker’s latest album, When Was The Last Time. Lady Antebellum continued the musical celebration with hits of their own, including 6x Platinum “Need You Now” and current Top 15-and-climbing single “Heart Break,” with both acts uniting for a group encore that included a lively singalong of Rucker’s Hootie & the Blowfish classic “Hold My Hand.”
In addition to the critically acclaimed co-headliners, Triple Tigers Records newcomer Russell Dickerson opened the show with a punch of energy, treating fans to a dynamic set which included his chart-topping power ballad “Yours.”
After wrapping the first two nights of the Summer Plays On Tour, Rucker and Lady A temporarily parted ways as the trio headlined the Darien Lake Amphitheater in Darien Center, N.Y. (7/21) where the Buffalo News noted that from “the lawn to the front row, a crowd jammed into the venue.” Meanwhile, Rucker reunited with his Hootie & the Blowfish bandmates for a one-night only performance in Atlanta, Ga. The tour continues Thursday, July 26 in Bethel, N.Y. at the site of the famed Woodstock festival, with 29 additional dates through October.
Remaining stops on the Summer Plays On Tour:
Thursday, July 26, Bethel, N.Y. – Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
Friday, July 27, Gilford, N.H. – Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion
Saturday, July 28, Hartford, Conn. – XFINITY Theatre
Thursday, August 2, Columbia, Md. – Merriweather Post Pavilion
Friday, August 3, Holmdel, N.J. – PNC Bank Arts Center
Saturday, August 4, Wantagh, N.Y. – Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater
Thursday, August 16, Mountain View, Calif. – Shoreline Amphitheatre
Friday, August 17, Sacramento, Calif. – Toyota Amphitheatre
Sunday, August 19, Auburn, Wash. – White River Amphitheatre
Thursday, August 23, Phoenix, Ariz. – Ak-Chin Pavilion
Friday, August 24, Irvine, Calif. – FivePoint Amphitheatre
Saturday, August 25, San Diego, Calif. – Mattress Firm Amphitheatre
Friday, August 31, Welch, Minn. – Treasure Island Resort & Casino
Saturday, September 1, Milwaukee, Wis. – American Family Insurance Amphitheatre
Sunday, September 2, Mount Pleasant, Mich. – Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort
Thursday, September 6, Cincinnati, Ohio – Riverbend Music Center
Friday, September 7, Clarkston, Mich. – DTE Energy Music Theatre
Saturday, September 8, Pittsburgh, Pa. – KeyBank Pavilion
Thursday, September 13, Saint Louis, Mo. – Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
Friday, September 14, Indianapolis, Ind. – Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center
Saturday, September 15, Tinley Park, Ill. – Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
Thursday, September 20, Virginia Beach, Va. – Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater at Virginia Beach
Friday, September 21, Camden, N.J. – BB&T Pavilion
Saturday, September 22, Mansfield, Mass. – Xfinity Center
Thursday, September 27, Alpharetta, Ga. – Verizon Amphitheatre*
Friday, September 28, Tampa, Fla. – MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre
Saturday, September 29, West Palm Beach, Fla. – Coral Sky Amphitheatre
Thursday, October 4, Raleigh, N.C. – Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek
Friday, October 5, Charlotte, N.C. – PNC Music Pavilion
Saturday, October 6, Bristow, Va. – Jiffy Lube Live
* denotes the show is Lady Antebellum only
Charles Kelley (Summer Plays On opening weekend) OC: …not going to be me. 1:02
“It’s crazy fun. You know, you forget how many hits that Darius Rucker has. It’s between all his hits as a solo artist, and he gets to pull all these amazing hits like ‘Hold My Hand’ and ‘Let Her Cry’ from the Hootie & the Blowfish days. And then with our set too, I mean, we’ve finally gotten to that point where it’s an hour and a half full of radio hits. It’s fun, you know. So, we’ve got Russell Dickerson starts the night, who he’s on fire, so he starts the night then Darius goes up and plays his set and then we play our set. There’s a little interaction that goes on between the sets, and then at the end we do this giant jam together. It’s really spontaneous too. I want people to see it. I mean, it’s a true collaborative night, you know? It’s three, four hours of just no one knows what’s coming up next, and I think that’s what is really exciting about it. But we’ve had a blast, and we’ve already gotten a little golf in. I can say that I’ve already gotten into Darius’ pocket, so I’m excited about that. We’re gonna do a little running tab and at the end of the tour, somebody’s cutting a check, and I hope it’s not gonna be me.”
Lady Antebellum and Darius Rucker launch their Summer Plays On Tour Thursday night (July 19th) in Toronto, Ontario, and there will be lots of collaborations between the two superstar acts, especially since they’ve recorded and written together.
“We have a lot of things together,” says Lady A’s Charles Kelley. “I don’t know if many people know this – we sing on ‘Wagon Wheel.’ We sing the backgrounds on ‘Wagon Wheel’ together, and we just have a really strong relationship together. I actually co-wrote ‘Homegrown Honey’ with him. So, we’ll have a lot of fun, collaborative moments.”
Those moments and many others you’re not going to want to miss. You might want to take a potty break or invest in adult diapers before either of them hit the stage…just in case.
“I think more than anything, we just feel like this is gonna be a great ticket together. We really do,” adds Charles. “I mean I think people are looking for a night where they come, and we want them to like have to literally hold their bladder, like they’re afraid to go to the bathroom ‘cause they might miss something, and that’s what it’s gonna be. If you go to the bathroom or you go get a beer, you might miss your favorite song and I love that! I want you to pee your pants when you come to see Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum.”
The members of Lady Antebellum are currently making their way up the country charts with “Heart Break,” while Darius, along with Charles Kelly, Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean, has hit the airwaves with “Straight to Hell.”
Lady Antebellum (Darius Tour) 2 OC: …and Lady Antebellum. :42
“We have a lot of things together. I mean, we actually – I don’t know if many people know this – we sing on ‘Wagon Wheel.’ We sing the backgrounds on ‘Wagon Wheel’ together, and we just have a really strong relationship together. I actually co-wrote ‘Homegrown Honey’ with him. So, we’ll have a lot of fun, collaborative moments, but I think more than anything, we just feel like this is gonna be a great ticket together. We really do. I mean I think people are looking for a night where they come, and we want them to like have to literally hold their bladder, like they’re afraid to go to the bathroom ‘cause they might miss something, and that’s what it’s gonna be. If you go to the bathroom or you go get a beer, you might miss your favorite song and I love that! I want you to pee your pants when you come to see Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum.”