If you’re a multi-platinum, Grammy-festooned country act, there probably aren’t many worse times to take a break than immediately following the release of your latest album. But for Lady Antebellum, a forced hiatus was all but inevitable after “Golden” came out last May. It turns out that there was another project whose impending July release date would not budge.
“It was one of those things where [my husband and I] got pregnant, and it wasn’t exactly planned,” singer Hillary Scott says with a laugh. “I found out when we were recording the record and about to turn it in. It definitely changed up a lot of things, but when life throws you a curve, you just go with it.”
Which is why Lady Antebellum, which plays the TD Garden on Friday (with the Grammys’ newly minted country queen Kacey Musgraves in tow), only started touring in support of “Golden” this past month. “Honestly, I wasn’t going to let my pregnancy stop us from releasing this album,” says Scott. “It would just be that I was gonna be a little M.I.A. for a couple months.” That sort of delay can dramatically interfere with an album’s momentum, but having a few months off was long overdue, newborn or no.
“Ever since we got together as a band, got a record deal, we have not stopped for more than maybe two weeks,” the singer says. “We just hit the ground running and haven’t stopped. I can honestly say that, stepping away, we have such a renewed sense of excitement and appreciation for where we are. And that would’ve never happened, had we not taken a little bit of a break.”
Lady Antebellum’s tour schedule seems to recognize the value in that, peppered with gaps of four to seven days during which Scott and her bandmates Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood often return home. It’s a model that Scott prefers to being on the road for weeks on end.
“For me, personally, it’s a healthier balance, because you do really get so homesick,” says Scott. “It’s not just the people that you miss who are back home. I miss my bed. I miss being able to just walk around the grocery store and pick out the chicken breast I want to have for dinner, not order it from somewhere.” She laughs and then adds, “[I] just get back to neutral, and then I’m home long enough to just get excited about the next round of shows.”
Staying excited is key for a group that’s already conquered both the country and pop charts and won armloads of awards. And even though “Golden” features more songs not written by Scott, Kelley, or Haywood than any of the group’s previous albums, Scott views the outside material as instrumental in taking Lady Antebellum places it wouldn’t have thought to go, from the hard-charging Tom Petty kick of “Better Off Now (That You’re Gone)” to the level of sass running through “Downtown.”
“If we had gone into a writing appointment and I’d been in a room with Charles and Dave, who are like my big brothers, and Dave dreamed up [sings the opening guitar riff of 'Downtown'] and then I start saying, ‘I got some platforms sitting in the corner, they wanna stroll on a city sidewalk, I got a dress that’ll show a little uh-uh but you ain’t gettin’ uh-uh,’ Charles would’ve been like, ‘Are you freaking kidding? You’ve lost your mind,’” Scott says with a laugh. “It just would never have come from us. That is just not how we write lyrically. It’s not where we naturally go when we sit down to write a song.”
Nonetheless, fans embraced it, with “Downtown” barely missing the top of the country charts. “Radio was starving for something like that from Lady Antebellum,” says Ginny Rogers, music director for country station WKLB. “We were ready for them to release a song that went back to their first singles, when they first arrived on the scene, that were fun and up-tempo and not maybe quite as serious.”
Of course, taking things a little less seriously was a necessity back then, when radio didn’t really know what to make of the group with the somewhat misleading name. “When we were out on a radio tour in the early part of our career, it was hysterical,” says Scott. “We’d go in really early in the morning, sit in the conference room and talk to the program director. And you always knew when guys from the sales department came in there, they were like, ‘Oh, a band called Lady Antebellum, there’s gonna be three girls.’ Then they’d walk in and they’d be like, ‘Oh, it’s just one,’ disappointed.”
Scott laughs. “It was so funny how many people we got in that conference room purely because they thought it was going to be a female trio.”Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @spacecitymarc.