“We got to be the most creative we’ve ever been, but we were in vacation mode,” said Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelly during the band’s visit to the Paste Studio this week, describing what must be any artist’s—or any person’s—dream scenario for productivity.
Kelly was talking about the unusual origins of the country trio’s new record, Heart Break, which arrived June 9 and comes after a three-year break from recording—the longest of their nine-year, eight-album career. Kelly, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood followed separate trails out of 2014’s 747 (the first Lady Antebellum album not to top the U.S. country charts, though it did reach No. 2), with Kelly and Scott pursuing solo albums and Haywood serving as producer on Post Monroe’s debut EP. It was a much needed hiatus for the Grammy-winning group, but it still wasn’t enough to get Lady Antebellum back on track. For that, they had to flee their hometown of Nashville and do the bulk of the writing for Heart Break at a house in the Hollywood Hills and at a writers’ retreat in Florida. Which is something you can do when you’ve sold 18 million records.
“We might have opened up the formula for the next chapter of Lady Antebellum.”
“The last several albums, just purely out of necessity, we wrote a lot on the road,” Kelly said. “And that was one of the reasons we even took a little bit of a break. We gave ourselves a year to get re-inspired. It had always been: put out a record, go tour, go right back in the studio. And we all have kids now and spouses, responsibility, and it was like, what if we gave ourselves a chance to go down to Florida, go out to California, and get out of our normal routine for a little bit?”
Living together under one roof at the Florida retreat reignited the group’s creative spark, leading to an expanded pallet on Heart Break that mixes soul, R&B, and some poppier elements. “From a songwriting perspective, having that break was the most important thing,” said Haywood. “The very first week we were in Florida at the writers retreat, we wrote nine or 10 songs in those first four days.”
Now, added Kelly, “we might have opened up the formula for the next chapter of Lady Antebellum.”
At the Paste Studio, though, the trio was in vintage form, with two acoustic guitars, three voices and a new batch of stories to tell. Below, watch Lady Antebellum perform “Somebody Else’s Heart,” “You Look Good” (with horn accompaniment replicated by Kelly), and the title track from Heart Break, which the band wrote first and, Scott said, provided a bedrock for the entire record. “It’s the song that when we wrote it, we felt like we had the song to kind of write the rest of the album around,” she said.