Lady Antebellum has been missing from the stage for the last several months, and Charles Kelley isn’t handling the break well.
“Dude, I’ve been dying,” he says with a laugh.
Kelley and buddies Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott have been on hiatus from touring since Scott gave birth to daughter Eisele Kaye in July. A previous show in Toledo was canceled and is now slotted as the second stop on their upcoming tour, which opens Friday night in Peoria, Ill. They, along with Kacey Musgraves and Kip Moore, will be at the Huntington Center in Toledo the following night.
“This has been the hardest year for myself, not being out there doing what I love. I live and breathe to get out there on the stage. I think when we get out there that it’s going to be pretty obvious that Charles is jumping out of his skin with excitement,” Kelley says.
It’s been an amazing ride over the last seven years for Lady A, which has sold more than 10 million copies of its first four albums and more than 12 million digital downloads of individual singles.
Haywood and Kelley have known each other since middle school in Augusta, Ga., and Scott joined their circle in 2006 when she recognized and approached Kelley inside a Nashville music spot, 12th and Porter. That initial conversation wasn’t the pathway to a date that Kelley initially believed he was going to get, but it was the start of a very successful musical collaboration.
After singing and writing together for a while, the band landed a record deal and released their self-titled debut in April, 2008, and immediately hit the road.
“All 12 of us, including the band, were on a bus together in our 12 bunks. There was no getting away from anyone. It was a lot of fun, kind of like summer camp,” Kelley says. “It’s been a lot of fun as we’ve gone on. We’ve learned each other’s personalities so well. We’ve learned what buttons not to push and how to listen to each other. I feel like we’re closer than we’ve ever been.”
Each of the band members is now married, and Scott will be on one bus with her daughter and a fridge filled with baby formula and Haywood and Kelley will be on another bus, which Kelley jokes will be filled with junk food, whiskey, and bourbon.
Besides leaving him feeling antsy, the time away from the road has produced another challenge for Kelley and his pals.
“It feels like we’re almost having a comeback. It feels like we’ve got to fight again to grab everyone’s attention. It’s funny, you pull off the throttle for a little bit and you can lose a little momentum.”
To avoid falling off the radar, Lady A released a single, “Compass,” in May even though they couldn’t support it with tour dates.
“When we recorded ‘Compass,’ we just wanted to get it out there. We just thought it would eventually be great for the tour, an anthem almost. It’s got the banjo, fiddle, mandolin, but also a modern, anthem feel. We call it our arena hoedown song.”
Uptempo songs will be a recurring theme for the show, which will be a little unusual for the group, which has made its biggest mark with ballads and heartbreak songs like “Need You Now,” “Just a Kiss,” “We Owned the Night,” and “I Run to You.”
“You’re always looking at your last show and what you can learn from it,” Kelley explains. “It’s pretty obvious that you need to lean on the uptempo, fun songs. We’re going to be playing the old hits, but we’re also excited about showing off some of the new stuff.”
The tour got an even bigger buzz by adding rising superstars Musgraves and Moore.
“For us, it was a no-brainer who we wanted. For Kasey, her record is just phenomenal. The minute I heard it, I reached out to management and said there has to be a way to get this girl out on the road with us. Now we needed someone fun and energetic who will get everyone fired up right before we go on, and Kip Moore has a real high energy show and three or four No. 1 hits right out of the gate.”
But nothing is going to match the energy Kelley plans to bring.
“Performing is like a drug. There’s no alcohol or anything to me that I’ve experienced that gives me the same kind of rush. Hitting the opening chords of ‘I Need You Now’ or hitting the chords to that first song, the rush of the crowd is unbelievable,” he says. “You’ve waited your whole life to get to this point, and it is a very intoxicating feeling to be up on stage, have everyone’s attention, and taking them along on this musical journey.”
Lady Antebellum, along with guests Kacey Musgraves and Kip Moore, will be in concert at the Huntington Center on Saturday (Jan. 11) at 7 p.m. Limited tickets are available for $59.75 and can be purchased at the box office, Ticketmaster outlets, online at ticketmaster.com, or by phone at 1-800-745-3000.
Contact Brian Dugger at: email@example.com or on Twitter @DuggerCountry.