Lady Antebellum could use a drink. It’s been a banner year for the country-pop trio, who dominated the Grammys in February, taking home five major prizes for their drunk-dialing anthem ”Need You Now.” In May they performed on American Idol, the same show that twice rejected singer and former hopeful Hillary Scott. And in July Scott, 25, got engaged to session musician Chris Tyrrell.
We gathered with Scott and bandmates Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, both 29, at Nashville’s speakeasy-esque Patterson House, which serves Prohibition-era drinks, to toast their upcoming album, Own the Night (out Sept. 13). The best way to celebrate Own‘s slow-burning odes to good times that last till dawn? Bacon-infused whiskey for all!
Round 1: ”Own the Night is about those nights that are so memorable you could live them forever.”
Tell me about this bacon-infused whiskey. Is it a local favorite?
Hillary Scott You pretty much can’t get away from bacon or whiskey in the South. Put a doughnut in it and you’d be good to go.
Hillary, this could be the signature drink at your wedding.
Scott Yeah, my fiancé is a big bourbon drinker. This place is actually very dear to us. Right here at the bar was where he asked me to be his girlfriend. He DTR’d it [defined the relationship]!
Charles Kelley My wife [music publicist Cassie McConnell] and I met right down the street. Our single ”Just a Kiss” is kind of about that moment. I was trying to replicate that dance-off between Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears. This dude was out on the dance floor trying to impress everybody. Trying to be funny, I said, ”I’ll bet I can outdance that guy!” and my wife said, ”Go do it.” So I’d do some moves, and then I’d throw my hands out like I was challenging him. I was dying laughing, but she was hooked. That’s kind of the theme of Own the Night. It’s about those nights that are so memorable you could live them forever.
Dave Haywood For me, [owning the night] is about high school memories. I can still picture myself riding in the back of a Bronco to a field party after a rainstorm. My mama will kill me for saying this, but my first beer, I was 15 and I didn’t know what to do with it. I thought you were supposed to chug it. So I just downed the whole thing in one gulp. All my friends were like, ”Duuuuude!”
Round 2: ”At the Grammys, you always feel out of place, like, ‘Hey, the rednecks are in town!”’
Hillary and Charles, you’re both from musical families. Hillary, growing up with a country-singer mom, were you nursing beers with Nashville vets as a baby?
Scott [Laughs] My ”normal” was really abnormal. A month ago, Reba [McEntire] emailed my mom a picture of me and her son at their house in Nashville, and I’m driving my Barbie car and he’s in the passenger seat. I’m probably 6 and he’s 3. Now that I’m old enough to process what that means, it’s bizarre.
Kelley Growing up [in Augusta, Georgia], I played in garage bands and cover bands with my older brother [singer-songwriter Josh Kelley, who’s married to Katherine Heigl], and he got us a gig opening up for some hippie jam band. I was 15. I felt like such an adult! My parents were out of town that night, and I went up to their Jacuzzi tub, and I lay in there in the bubbles, drinking a Michelob. I probably played for eight people that night, but to me that was the coolest thing in the world. I had the lights dimmed, and I was sippin’ this beer, like, ”You’ve made it, Charles.”
Speaking of owning the night, how did you celebrate after the Grammys?
Kelley After Song of the Year, I came backstage and saw my publicist bawling, and that was it. I started crying. I remember just being like, ”F— yeah! F— yeah!” and crying. My wife had planned this helicopter ride around L.A., but I was so emotionally drained I was bawling, like, ”I don’t want to do it. I’m tiiired.” She was like, ”What the hell’s wrong with you?”
Haywood We went out to the Kings of Leon party. It was pretty insane. They’re Nashville guys, and they can do some drinkin’. Miley Cyrus and Dierks Bentley were there.
Kelley Dierks was so hammered, he stood up on this glass table…
Haywood All the drinks just went everywhere!
Kelley The owner was like, ”You gotta get out of here.” And the Kings guys were like, ”No, he’s cool! He’s cool!” That night was funny, because we always feel really comfortable at the Academy of Country Music Awards, but at the Grammys, people were like, ”Who in the f— is Lady Antebellum?”
What’s the biggest difference between the Country Music Awards and the Grammys?
Haywood One’s a family reunion, and the other is Entourage world. At the Grammys, you walk down the halls and everyone’s got five security guards. You can’t talk to anybody. You always feel out of place, like, ”Hey, the rednecks are in town!” The country [shows] are the most fun. Between Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, and Miranda Lambert, there’s this group of us that hangs out backstage and goes partying afterward.
Scott Right now, with Miranda, Luke, Blake [Shelton], Jason — there’s a camaraderie. You look back a couple of generations, and Reba, Brooks & Dunn, Garth, and George Strait were all superstars, but it wasn’t competitive. The success everyone was having inspired them all to be better. And that’s happening in the country community now.
You were at Miranda and Blake’s wedding. I heard Miranda killed the deer that they served to the guests.
Haywood Oh, yeah. All of the good stuff, she killed.
Kelley Blake called me out for being the drunkest person at the party. I sang his song ”Who Are You When I’m Not Looking,” and I said I was in love with him, and I was mad at Miranda for taking him away.
Scott Miranda said, ”You’re fired! Get off the stage!”
Kelley The country crowd just has fun.
Round 3: ”We partied with the royal rich people. And we drank all the whiskey in the place.”
Very few country acts tour abroad. What’s it like to play such deeply American music outside the States?
Scott I’ll never forget when we played Shepherd’s Bush in London. We played ”I Run to You,” and we put the mic out for the last chorus, and you could hear them singing the chorus with the beautiful accent that they have.
Kelley We went and partied that night at Mahiki. Apparently it’s a posh hangout.
Scott Kate Middleton’s been there! I get back to the States and buy the latest magazine, and there’s Kate walking out of Mahiki. It was like, ”We were just there!”
Kelley We partied with the royal rich people, and we felt like rock stars. We drank all the whiskey in the place.
Scott [My fiancé] Chris and I fell in love in London. We were at Mahiki, dancing together, and I started feeling like, ”I think I love this guy.” Our first kiss was in London. Two years ago, none of us in this band was in a relationship. Think of how quickly the tides have turned!
Kelley When kids come in, it’s gonna be a whole other type of conversation.
Scott We want to stay on this tour bus together as long as we possibly can. I’m sure a lot of bands are like, ”I need my own space.” But we don’t. I want to be with these guys forever.
Kelley We’ve talked about this. When we have kids, we’re gonna put them underneath the bus — take out the equipment and literally put them in the bays. Every now and then there might be a speed bump and you might lose one. But that’s the risk you take.