Have you realised that the more and more you try to explore something there’s more and more to discover, and you find out that there’s more that you know that you don’t really know at all? Let me explain for a bit. If you haven’t been around regularly on our website 365DaysofInspiringMedia.com since last year, then let me tell you this- we’ve decided to undertake a series that is bold to say the least, unique and challenging, and a chance to explore music that we as a site may not initially check out from the get-go. Yes, we’ve decided to write a list of our own- 100 Influential Artists of All Time, 50 Up-and-Coming Artists, and 30 Classic Artists, each entry and post discussing a band/artist from one of these categories as we delve deep into the artist, their songs and what it means not only in our lives, but in terms of shaping music, culture and society as a whole. And about a year in, our site has unpacked a lot of artists and their music- from Josh Groban, Avril Lavigne, Casting Crowns, for KING AND COUNTRY, Switchfoot, Rascal Flatts, Tina Arena and Carman, to Maren Morris, Selena Gomez, Zach Williams, Matthew West, Echosmith, Marc Martel and Rachel Platten; this site has been stretched, in a good way, in relation to music and what we believe are such music that have shaped culture to a point where God Himself has shown up in a lot of these songs and has changed our own perceptions about what we believe inspirational and uplifting, challenging and thought-provoking music to be or even to look like. Which brings me to yet another artist I’m about to discuss and delve into today- Lady Antebellum. And yes, you guessed it- another country artist/band. You scratch your head and wonder- why haven’t you discussed a lot of country artists before? Yes, yes I have- artists like Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts, The McClymonts, Faith Hill and Martina McBride have all been artists that I have decided to deem worthy of being within the confines of the top 100 influential list, and maybe, just maybe, I’m becoming more and more biased towards country than I was when I first started this blog series. And maybe that’s ok.
Some people can become sick of country, while others may not be able to stand rap or even opera. People have their musical tastes, and what is different, unique and challenging about this blog post series is that I’ve tried to be equitable amongst musical genres within the 100 artists as I can- it just so happens that I’ve noticed more country artists now than I ever have- maybe because prior to 2019, my country-music listening was next to nothing (aside from a few Carrie Underwood songs here and there). Lady Antebellum, like Rascal Flatts that I wrote about last year, have both anchored the country music industry for quite some times in terms of bands that have led the way, being a pillar in said music industry, and with one listen to Lady Antebellum and their music, it’s no wonder their songs are as poignant, heartfelt and chart-topping as they are. Comprised of lead-singer/singer-songwriter Hillary Scott, duet partner Charles Kelley and guitarist/backing vocalist Dave Haywood; this trio is a must-listen for anyone who loves southern-twang in their country music- maybe more ‘country’ than Rascal Flatts even. Which is ok- upon hearing more and more of their music, I’ve grown to love and enjoy their songs much more than I thought I was going to. With the band showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon (they just released their brand-new album Ocean in November 2019), this trio have still more good stories to tell, as this country group is fast becoming one of the most out-of-left-field artists (from the pool of 100) that I have heard within the last year or so.
With the band forming in 2006, Lady Antebellum have a lot of history to bring to us in 2020- 8 albums, 2 EP, 22 radio Singles, and 10 #1 Country Chart singles later; Hillary, Dave and Charles have created a solid platform for them to continue to have an influence, not only on the country music collective as a whole, but also in people’s hearts and lives throughout the years. The band, I’d have to say, alongside Rascal Flatts and Dixie Chicks (of whom I’ll be discussing in a later blog series post), are some of the most influential country groups in country music history. A few years shy away from 15 years in the country music business; Lady Antebellum know a few things about music, and from hearing their music, there is a sincerity and an openness about the band, and it just makes them very much real and likeable, and a band to enjoy if you enjoy all things country music. ‘…and what is my assessment of country music as of right now? It’s not too bad. In fact, the country that is indeed influential today, the artists that have left a stamp on music history- their music’s not that bad. Now my opinion about country music from people who are up-and-coming today may be a different story, and maybe I won’t be a great judge of artists of the ‘new’ country music. Nevertheless, what I have observed about country music from the 1990s/2000s (much of the country artists I’ve heard are from that particular era!), is the authentic and emotive nature of the songs and melodies…in this short, albeit quick time that I have been able to make an holistic judgement, I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate the band and their undertakings of songs that are fun, but also songs that mean something too. A group that is standing tall in country music today, I’ve been further reminded of how real, honest, and emotive such a genre as this can get, and that my assumptions about country were dead wrong. A reminder that all of us can be better people whenever we assume less…[this powerhouse of a band are such] to check out if you enjoy more older-school country music, artists who would’ve started out in the early 2000s than the artists currently in the Billboard charts today! …’ This quote above is one written about Rascal Flatts when I listened to them and wrote a blog last year in October- and as I stumbled upon this writing a couple of days ago, I realised something- the same lines can still be said about Lady Antebellum as well. Even though Lady Antebellum is a female fronted band as opposed to Rascal Flatts’ male-orientated ‘exterior’; the band nevertheless deliver some hard-hitting songs over the years- even with guitarist and singer-songwriter Charles Kelley singing a few songs as lead a few times.
Both the styles of Rascal Flatts and Lady Antebellum are very, very similar, but still different- I guess Rascal Flatts cater more towards male listeners, and Lady Antebellum, for females, I think. Because I guess when it comes down to it, people we connect with musically tend to be people who have similar circumstances and situations- or to put it very bluntly, people of the same gender as us. So I guess, even if both Lady Antebellum and Rascal Flatts are pretty much similar in terms of music, style and even subject matter; both still can survive in the country music industry, because both bands have different target audiences. Nevertheless; Lady Antebellum are still standing strong today, even after their first major exposure all those years ago in 2007 after their signing- their first recording as actually a collaboration between themselves and long-time professional pianist and all-round poignant songwriter of love songs; Jim Brickman- ‘Never Alone’, the song, went to #14 on the Adult Contemporary Charts in that year, and quite possibly one of the only songs in all of Lady Antebellum’s career to date where their song travels on the A/C charts instead of the country ones. Regardless, despite the band’s unassuming beginnings (I mean, no one would probably know or even recognise the song ‘Never Alone’ as being a Lady Antebellum-led track), the band still continues to deliver sonically, stylistically and emotionally, as many of their songs, ‘I Run to You’ and ‘Need You Now’ included; are some of the most emotionally-charged and relevant songs I’ve heard from the realms of country music, and songs that I reckon need to be heard by anyone who loves music, in the upcoming weeks and months to come.
It may seem a little redundant to discuss at length, the band’s whole discography- I’m not here to convince you of the reasons why I believe this band ought to be placed within the 100 Influential Artists’ list. Besides, as I’m sure I’ve said on a fair amount of blog posts before, to discuss all albums is definitely a fool’s decision. To use this blog to re-hash a history lesson and to explain my very own reasons why I believe they are influential can seem like folly when you can easily just google it yourself. Wikipedia and youtube and google can be your friend in discovering the songs for yourself, and you can find and realise that this band has travelled the world and been on tours with a lot of inspirational and influential artists throughout their 14 year tenure as a band- Lady Antebellum has toured with artists like Keith Urban, Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood and Tim McGraw, to name a few, throughout the years. And so, is there even a reason as to why I write and delve into all these songs and artists when the internet is just a click away? I mean, why write tons of info about my own opinion, when it’s just that- my own opinion? I mean, what does Lady Antebellum have that other country artists don’t? I’m not sure if I can answer all those hard-hitting questions, but what I will say is this- influential doesn’t necessarily have to mean influential on a global big scale- that is what the 30 artists’ I’ve separated from the rest are for- there’s no denying that artists from that category are influential. But within the hundred…well arguments can be made about the validity and place of any artist on that list. And arguments for and against can be very persuasive indeed. And every argument deserves to be heard at least once.
Lady Antebellum have broadened my outlook on country music and made me respect the musical genre all the more, in a very short period of time- and while they do have some feel-good ‘let’s have a good time at the bar’ songs, the majority of their music stems from heartfelt and personal stories that make melodies connect with the listener. A lot of their songs are indeed radio hits, but often, it isn’t necessarily the radio hits of the group/band/artist that speak to the listener, but rather, the ‘underground’ song that may not get as much of a radio attention as the band may have hoped. Nevertheless, Lady Antebellum are one such band that have had a wide array of album releases, that many songs can impact many listeners from all walks of life. ‘I Run to You’ would have to be one of the band’s most popular songs, well, ever- written and recorded for their debut album in 2008, with singer-songwriter Tom Douglas, the song speaks of running away from the things that bring you down on a daily basis- from pessimism, hate, negativity, from jealousy, running the proverbial rat-race to get to the top; running away from all of those things and towards love, in all the facets that come with what we know love is and what love shows itself to be. Much of country music, if you will, is in fact spiritual- I guess if you replace ‘girl’, ‘my love’, ‘my darling’, or any other adjective that you’d give to your lady in the song, and replace it with God, then the song, by definition, could in fact still work- because we know that the love that people have for each other- the romantic kind, is just a reflection of God’s love for humanity as a whole.
As we see Tom Douglas himself discuss the story behind the song and what he believes the song means, we see that ‘…the thing that’s interesting about Lady Antebellum, there are some words in the song like ‘pessimist,’ ‘prejudice’ and ‘hate.’ A lot of artists would be reluctant to use those words. Even though they roll off the tongue, they’re kind of message-y. But Lady Antebellum was willing to embrace those concepts. That’s probably what I loved most about the song – they’re willing to say some things that are difficult to say. Most people will tell you to write for the quintessential guy on the bar stool, and not get above his head. I think that guy is a lot smarter than we give him credit for. This song has a pretty intelligent, mature lyric and I think the guy on the bar stool got it. Our experiences are pretty universal, and I think he wants to run from prejudice and pessimists just like I do. You don’t have to have an MBA from Harvard to feel that kind of thing, it’s all pretty universal…’ ‘I Run to You’, as ambiguous as what people may see the ‘you’ as being- either a family member, a close friend, a spouse or even God Himself; herein lies the beauty- because of its ambiguity, people from all walks of life and all different belief systems can still relate to the song, regardless of the original intention of the artist. For too often and too long, people get a little vocal and irate if a song has a little bit of an ambiguous meaning. Then they go ahead and criticise the artist for this technique- and here is a cracker of a negative review about ‘I Run to You’, of which I totally disagree with, but nevertheless, it’s good to see what people can extrapolate from a little bit of ambiguous lyrics- ‘…the song comes across as purposefully cryptic because they either didn’t fully develop the idea, haven’t become comfortable opening up in their lyrics, or they just didn’t feel the need to focus on the lyric other than as a device to support the melody…’ But, in spite of such a negative review, I still think it’s clever writing by the band, and what I reckon is their strong suit is for Lady Antebellum’s discography as a whole- that songs can be interpreted by a wide array of people in any way that they see fit, and that’s ok. And that is basically why I believe this band is so successful and so influential- that their music can meet people in different places; and speak to their soul in a way that I’m sure only country (and CCM as well!) can. I guess never mind about the haters and the negative reviews- sure there are some where the band can ‘eat the meat and spit out the bones’, but when it all comes down to it, people connect with the music, and the fans are the reason artists keep going, not the critics. Besides, I’m sure the band taken feedback on board, and have tweaked their music if necessary (or maybe not)- they wouldn’t be here in 2020 if they were as bad as the review for ‘I Run To You’ said they were!
If ‘I Run to You’ is probably their most famous song (and maybe even the most relevant and influential), then I guess ‘Need You Now’ is song #2- their second most impactful over the years. Released on their second album Need You Now in 2010; the song itself speaks of longing for someone to come over in the middle of the night, on the basis that the persona is going through something difficult and is needing someone on a whim and a moment. Whether the song is suggesting needing someone just to talk in the middle of the night; or needing someone for other more self-centred sexual needs is up to interpretation by the listener, but whatever the case, the song is raw and honest, heartfelt and purposeful. Because of this- the song is relatable to people who would’ve felt these feelings during the middle of the night for whatever reason- whether they act on it or not is an entirely different story. The song also has had quite a lot of crossover appeal- charting on pop radio as well as country- something that I’m sure the band didn’t expect at the time. In fact, ‘Need You Now’ was the first song out of country radio to have crossover appeal and success since Rascal Flatts’ ‘What Hurts the Most’ way back in 2007- that feat alone is success, and what should be considered when hearing the song for the first time. The band even faced a bit of push-back from the label when it came to the lyrical content of the song, and how it was initially thought that placing the line ‘I’m a little drunk and I need you now’ could alienate a lot of fans of the band who may frown upon the notion of drinking and alcohol in general. Nevertheless, the band stayed the course, and released the song as it was conceived, reminding us all that often, being honest in the song- regardless of what is being said, deserves much more merit and credit, rather than writing a song just to appease the executives so not to dishearten or disappoint fans would could expect something else, or as the band themselves put it- ‘…the response from the get-go was so big, I remember even having some conversations with the label and people were [saying], ‘Oh no, hope they don’t get offended by the ‘I’m a little drunk and I need you now’ line. And I said, ‘But that’s honest! We’re talking about Country radio, right? What happened to the old Waylon [Jennings] songs and stuff and people said what they felt?’ It’s storytelling- the three of us have been there, too. I mean, we’ve been in serious relationships and when you get out of that, all you want is that person next to you…’ Credit is given where it is due, and ‘Need You Now’ is such a song where it’s raw honesty works for it- a lot. And with both ‘Need You Now’ and ‘I Run to You’ delivering on heart and passion, it has been these two songs in particular that have paved the way for Lady Antebellum to reach newer heights, giving to us other emotive songs full of soul-searching melodies and life-affirming tracks, making this trio, just like Rascal Flatts before them, one of the most relevant and necessary country bands to ever grace modern music, period.
I don’t think much people listen to albums as people back in the day used to. Because of the absence to the continuous and at times unnecessary access to technology, listening to albums back in the day was considered a luxury, and thus, it was a really big deal to receive an album of whatever artist. Listening to an album from start to finish was something that people I’m sure only dreamed about. It was an album experience to listen from tracks 1 thru 12, and a story was weaved together and told. Not that now there isn’t a thread or theme throughout albums, but in this instant culture, songs are consumed rather than the album which is a shame. Lady Antebellum on the other hand, have created albums with a general feel, a vibe, a story, if you will, from start to finish, and thus, when we hear the albums, there seems to be a natural progression, like there is in a lot of country music. And yet, my first introduction to the band wasn’t really an introduction to be band. I mean, it kinda was though…let’s just say that me listening to anything related to Lady Antebellum was listening first to Hillary Scott’s solo debut album titled Love Remains that released in 2016- a Christian album with southern gospel/country/folksy/bluesy roots. On it, was a song that took not only the Christian world by storm but the country industry too; and was my first introduction to the powerful voice of Hillary- ‘Thy Will’. ‘Thy Will’, looking at it now, is a song that can easily be sung in a Lady Antebellum live set-list, and it’d fit right in- not because the song is ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ in any way, but rather; because of the heartfelt and poignant nature of the song in general.
Written out of the personal struggle of Hillary and her miscarriage early on in 2016; Hillary’s resolve to trust God through the hard-hitting words of ‘thy will be done’ is nothing less than remarkable- I reckon anyone who has gone through birthing issues like miscarriage won’t necessarily say to God ‘thy will be done’. But nevertheless, saying such a phrase to God requires guts and bravery- making the song all the more special. As Hillary herself relays, such a project like Love Remains and by extension the song ‘Thy Will’, was very personal to her, as she wrote the majority of the songs on the album for people who also were going through similar things to her during that moment in time- ‘…God’s will is what’s best. Even when it hurts, and even when I don’t understand, God’s will is what’s best. The way that that came together for me, I trusted God. Sometimes we don’t understand God’s promises until eternity. His ways are so much bigger than our ways. He sees the whole picture. I don’t know if I’m putting pressure on myself, or if it is just societal pressure telling me to just move on. Because it wasn’t visible to everyone around, there is this thought that I should stop grieving. But the bottom line is that you’re never the same after this. You can grow through it, but your heart is broken and you’re going to be grieving this life that was lost. I feel like there are so many women who may be suppressing their emotions and grief, and part of why I want to talk about it is to share that experience with people and say with honesty that you are never the same. There can be good that comes from it, and it is okay to share those emotions. This song has become the heartbeat of the record, and the whole song was about me praying to hear my baby’s heartbeat. He’s faithful. The fact that so much tangible good has been poured out already has made me so grateful…’ It is in this quote that I see the vulnerability of Hillary and respect her more and more, and am reminded that it is ok for bands, artists and musicians to be showcase their vulnerability- it makes the person/band up on stage much more relatable and relevant when they share their emotions, as we understand that it is ok for us to do so in our own lives as well.
Just because there are a few songs in an artist’s discography that stand tall, famous and poignant amongst the rest, doesn’t make the other songs any less emotive or heartfelt- Lady Antebellum have shown us time and time again why they are a country group that travels the line well between heartfelt songs and songs that are just plain fun to listen to. ‘Hello World’, from Need You Now, a pseudo-spiritual song that reminds us all about the little things in life, showcases a realisation and a moment that is almost like a revelation for Lady Antebellum themselves- that the things that we miss, the things that we often gloss over from day to day, the little things that we seemingly take for granted, are the very things that remind us to this day that the world keeps turning, that there’s hope for a better day, and that family and spending quality time cultivating those little moments, is what’s going to make us refocus and realign our priorities; while ‘American Honey’, also on Need You Now; is a song about nostalgia, and looking fondly upon the memories of your past and being reminded of things of your youth that are just good memories that you’d may want to go back to the simplicity of that for whatever reason. ‘Our Kind of Love’ brings the piano to the forefront as Hillary, Dave and Charles depict a love between two people that is their special kind of love, one that is unique to the two of them as we’re reminded that it is often the little things like going for walks, having date nights, carving out time for family days, that’ll make the relationship interesting, fresh, invigorating and worthwhile, while songs like ‘Heart of the World’ and ‘One Great Mystery’, on Own the Night and 747 respectively; speak of heartfelt moments of tranquillity and calmness as the band slow the tempo down a little, as more introspection and contemplation takes place- ‘Heart of the World’ speaks of love and how love in all its facets is the heart behind what we do and say, and how the world is run from a day-to-day perspective; while ‘One Great Mystery’ allow us all to understand that though there are plenty of mysteries and questions that’re waiting to be solved, as long as people are together- both in a platonic or a romantic sense; the questions don’t really matter except for one- what did we ever do to get such a person sticking by us, being our friend/spouse, when in reality, what we may do can in fact move people away from us rather than towards us.
‘Downtown’, from their 2013 album Golden, speaks of a frustration by the persona of why the person they like doesn’t want to take them out for a fancy night out, or as the song paints- ‘downtown’- where the fancy people go. Normally when people take other people out for dates, they spend up a little, to impress a little. But then time passes, people’s money dry up, and maybe, just maybe, dates don’t happen the way people would like, because of money, rather than anything else- ‘Downtown’ is one woman asking a question, and such a song like this ought to bring about a conversation of dates, and people’s expectation of dates and what they want to occur on the night. ‘Compass’, from the deluxe version of Golden, speaks of the notion and fact that we’re never alone in our circumstances, and that to find out where we need to go, we ought to just follow our hearts, relying on our family and friends to impart to us wisdom and advice, as we journey in this life knowing that we’ll always have a safety place to fall back on when things get tiring and difficult; while ‘Goodbye Town’, also on Golden, presents more of bleak situation to listeners, albeit an honest one- a situation where someone wants to get out of a certain area because everything around them reminds them of the other person they’ve broken up with- seems understandable, you want to get away and not be reminded by the person that wronged you or that you’ve wronged instead. But often, such a song like this is only a temporary solution- sooner or later we all face our demons, and ‘Goodbye Town’ can hopefully allow listeners who are dealing with such wounds, to bring about some healing as they move on. ‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’, from their self-titled debut album, was inspired by Hillary Scott’s own breakup, making the song ever the more raw and real, relevant and heartfelt, as we see the song point out that there is a moment in time, a very small one, where reconciliation between people who’ve just broken up, can happen- afterwards, as the song says- love don’t live here anymore. Not because of any one thing, it’s just that life happens and people move on- and this song paints a realistic picture of what can happen after a breakup. In contrast to ‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’ comes along ‘Just a Kiss’, from their 2011 album We Own the Night– and showcases from personal experience from Hillary, the healing of a breakup that comes in the form of falling in love with someone new- ‘Just A Kiss’ is the expression of said feelings, albeit its feelings that come in a quick short time.
‘Freestyle’ from 747 is by far, one of the most uniquely different songs I’ve ever heard them undertake, as the band try to impart to us this message of being in a free state, and allowing ourselves to just sit back and enjoy this ride of life, rather than to always be out to control every situation that comes our way. With the band infusing together the elements of both country and freestyle rap; the result musically can seem a little jarring, but the intent and the message is still there, and as Charles himself says, ‘…it can be taken many different ways, I don’t think we wanted to represent a couple, or us, or our career, or anything. It was, honestly, just ‘let’s get out there and have fun, live life a little bit, and freestyle.’ Anything goes…’; while a lesser known song from 747, ‘Down South’, reminds us all of the homes we used to live in when we were young, as we understand that often when people move away and then have a crisis of sorts, they can always come back home to the nurturing warmth of immediate family. ‘Long Stretch of Love’ is a nice reminder, through less than 3 minutes, that love is a journey, and that even if there are some difficulties, people committed to love and the relationship ought to be in it for the long haul (I guess in some cases, the exception could be domestic violence, rape, alcoholism and the like). As Charles unveils to us, ‘…we’re all married. True love is ups and downs. You hit, you miss. You’re fire and ice. But at the end of the day we’re not going anywhere. We feel that way in our personal lives and as a band. We’re going to have our ups and downs. We’ve been through a lot. We just have this long stretch of love. This long view of the group…’
‘We Owned the Night’, the title track from the same 2011 album, presents a theme of taking control of a situation and never having regrets, and while the song is more specific about ‘owning the night’ in a bar/nighttime setting, the song can still be applicable for a variety of settings in life where we may not feel as in control as we would like; while ‘All for Love’, as twisted as it can be in terms of having a powerful message, showcases one where the persona places the needs of the other person in the relationship above their own, knowing that they can’t give the love to the other person in the relationship for whatever reason, and so, they walk away, as hurting as it can be, justifying the decision by saying that they did it ‘all for love’. ‘Bartender’ (from 747) presents a theme of going out to enjoy yourself and to just have fun in the aftermath of a serious breakup, rather than sitting at home, analysing decisions that could’ve been made earlier or wallowing in self-pity, while ‘Stars Tonight’ and ‘Ready To Love Again’, both from Need to Now (quite possibly their most impactful album ever) are much more reflective and contemplative- ‘Stars Tonight’ is a toe-tapping rocking number that is essentially a tribute to the fans, an honouring moment that gives them the reminder that the fans are why they do what they do, and ‘Ready To Love Again’ is a declaration to be able and ready to fall in love again, to be vulnerable and putting yourself out there, even if there is a similar risk to be hurt again like before.
Then there’s the forgotten album. Yes, you heard me- the album that hardly ever cycles through whenever you press shuffle on an artist in a Spotify playlist. And so whenever a Lady Antebellum song surfaced a my Spotify playlist throughout the week…you guessed it- Heartbreak, released in 2017 after the band’s mini-hiatus (during that time apart was when Hillary Scott released her solo album Love Remains), was the album that didn’t really cycle through, when I heard songs over the week through my Spotify in preparation for this blog post. And so, I’m not that well-versed when it comes to this 2017 album, and maybe that’s ok. It’s not a reflection on the album itself, nor does it mean that the album doesn’t have any thought-provoking songs on there- because I’m sure it does. What it does mean though is that Spotify themselves obviously believe that this album from Lady Antebellum isn’t as impactful, popular, poignant, whatever you want to call it, compared to the rest. Which has made me intentionally listen to the album a little more, and maybe that’s a good thing. When you know nothing about an album and you come into it with no expectations, you tend to be drawn to songs that maybe, aren’t necessarily singles. With the singles on Heartbreak being ‘You Look Good’ and ‘Heart Break’- the former featuring French horns and a Caribbean-style atmosphere and being a song where a couple goes out to have a good time, not self-conscious about how they look but getting all the compliments either from their spouse or other people they meet; while the latter is a play on the word ‘heartbreak’ to allude to the fact that an intentional heart break (what is sung about in the song) is such where you take time for yourself, to work on your heart and to enjoy, with all your ability, the break that your heart has been given with you being single; Lady Antebellum have created an album that from listening to it, is one of the most underrated they have recorded thus far.
‘Somebody Else’s Heart’, a promotional single, speaks of falling for someone and being with them against your better judgement, and wanting the relationship but without the hurt afterward, hence the phrase ‘somebody else’s heart’; while ‘Army’ speaks of the tremendous respect and honour someone has for their wife, showcasing a metaphor, that if they are depicted as a soldier, and all the bravery and selflessness that comes along with that, then their spouse is far, far greater- like an army. ‘Good Time to Be Alive’ is a reflective melody about the fact that it is always a good time to be alive and live when your soulmate is right beside you, journeying with you along the way, while songs like ‘Big Love in a Small Town’ and ‘Teenage Heart’ offer moments of nostalgia and looking back- the former lamenting on how fast someone fell out of love as quickly as they fell in, and the aftermath of what happens when young love occurs when people aren’t ready, and the latter being a song of lament (but also gratitude), as the persona looks upon favourably at their young teenage love experience, and then wonders how the other person in said relationship, would be, all those years later. ‘The Stars’, arguably my favourite song on Heart Break, was written for the specific purpose of Hillary Scott’s daughters, for their own comfort in the way that any song is written for children- so they can know and understand that even if life gets messy, the light inside can burn far brighter than whatever is in the way.
Lady Antebellum released an album last year, their follow-up to Heartbreak, and while for me, my first introduction to a full-length album by Lady Antebellum was in fact Ocean last year (after hearing Hillary Scott in 2016 with her album Love Remains), I nevertheless felt like their brand new album was some of the most heartfelt songs by any country band/artist that I’ve heard in quite some time. Spanning a track-listing of 13 songs; ‘What If I Never Get Over You?’ is the first single by Lady Antebellum from this album, and though standing at a little longer than 3 minutes; Hillary, Dave and Charles have created a track that, though discussing about a failed relationship, can still be relatable and relevant to people from all walks of life. As guitarist Dave Haywood relays to us all, ‘…I feel like ‘What If I Never Get Over You’ is a turn back to our beginning, both in the sound and the core of who we are. We love being able to put out those big questions about lost love, like ‘What if time doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do?’ or ‘What if I never move on from this relationship?’…To me, this song just stands out so much because it asks so many great questions that are unanswered. What if time doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do? What if I never get over you? I think we’ve all been there, and I think that’s what’s always been so powerful about ‘Need You Now.’…’ I’m sure everybody feels like how the people feel in the song- there are things, be it relationships or even death of people close to us, that we may never ‘get over’- as if when the relationship is finished or the death of a person happens, the grieving process needs to be quickened- but often to quicken the healing process means to shove feelings down into your soul as you don’t deal with the trauma that losing a loved one- in terms of a breakup or a death, can be for a person. ‘What If I Never Get Over You’ is such a song to relate to because we understand that often it’s ok to be in the muck a little and to sit there to ask the question ‘why?’- this song gives us permission to do just that.
Ocean by far has some of the most emotive and heartfelt songs I’ve heard since ‘I Run to You’ and ‘Need You Now’, and in some ways, feels like a quasi-spiritual/gospel/country album. For me that’s ok, because I love all things CCM, and also for the band members, the transition from being just a country band to being a country band with some faith elements, is ok with them as well. As lead singer Charles relays to us, ‘…It’s definitely a way more vulnerable record. I will speak personally that I’ve really gone through a lot of life changes it seems like in the past few years. I really was having to assess myself and look at who I wanted to become. I think having a kid really does that to you. I was really struggling with connecting to my spirituality and I was drinking too much, all kinds of stuff, and I just kind of got to the point where I knew I needed to rein it back in. Be Patient With My Love, that was the first song after I wrote it that I sent to Hillary and Dave. They were like, ‘OK, this is real. We need to start trying to really even be more honest for all the rest of the songs we picked for this record’. Shortly after that Hillary wrote Let It Be Love. Then we found songs like Ocean. Ocean is a song that said it better than we could. I always love when we find a song that we wish we had written and Ocean was one of those. Thematically the whole record is about owning where you are and being vulnerable and a little bit more of an open book. I think for the past few records maybe we weren’t as honest as we could have been…’ It is through this quote that I admire Lady Antebellum for their courage to speak honestly and to be vulnerable to listeners, as we know that a band that is vulnerable, heartfelt and real, tend to have more of an impact on the lives of people, than the bands and artists that try to fake it and pretend that they are ok. And for a lot of Ocean, inclusive of ‘What If I Never Get Over You’, honesty is the key and the case in these melodies.
Looking through the track-listing, we see that vulnerability and honesty are the key for making this album the success that it is. ‘Pictures’ strips down the music and brings to the fore acoustics and light percussion as the message of getting the ‘perfect’ picture at the expense of anything real and hiding difficulties about home life is showcased; while ‘Crazy Love’ renews the love the persona has for his wife (probably based upon the real love Charles has for his own wife) as we understand the transformation that has occurred for thankfulness and gratitude to take root. ‘What I’m Leaving For’ is yet another acoustically driven song with Hillary at the lead-singer-helm as the theme of leaving home for touring life is discussed, and the band now have a renewed sense and purpose to do what they do, while also not taking the home life for granted as maybe they have done so in the past; while ‘Alright’ is a timely reminder that things will be alright if we know that there’s nothing that a little encouragement won’t turn around, when we know that God Himself is showing us opportunities to speak life and words of affirmation to someone else, or is bringing someone else our way to do the same. ‘On a Night Like This’, just the piano and the two vocals in Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley, is a song fit for the movies where two star-crossed lovers are singing, and in my opinion, could potentially be ‘My Heart Will Go On’ #2 if given the right exposure on film; while the album ender ‘Ocean’, not written by the band at all, is also one of the most vulnerable songs on the album, as the persona (Hillary) sings about another person she want to have a relationship with, but the person is closed because of their demons they need to face. The metaphor of an ocean is nice imagery, as the band bring the album to a close with one of the most introspective and reflective album closers they’ve done in a long, long time…which brings me to songs ‘Let It Be Love’ and ‘Be Patient With My Love’- two songs that are so, so vulnerable and needed in a society that is locked away in their feelings, especially during this time of social distancing and isolation because of COVID-19. Charles Kelley, lead singer, relays info on both these songs, and without further ado, I’ll bring the spotlight to him in discussing them- something that I know he’ll do far better than myself.
‘…[Be Patient With My Love] is my story over the past few years, just really kind of struggling with finding my direction and what I want out of this life. We’d been a band for 12, 13 years, and I’ve been married now for 10 years. You kind of get to this point where you’re like, ‘All right, where is this going? Is it going to be the same?’ I just needed a reset, and around this time I really was struggling with my spirituality. I was struggling with my drinking, all of it, and just chasing after something. We were with [co-writers] Dave Barnes and Ben West at the time, and we started this song and it was this funny, fun, happy song that we wrote really fast. But I was like, ‘Something about this is not good enough. Let’s write something real.’ And Dave Barnes just started strumming his guitar and the lyrics just poured out: ‘Might’ve done it this time/I drank too much wine/I might’ve said something that I can’t take back.’ The irony is the lyric is saying, ‘I’m coming back to my senses,’ but at the time I really wasn’t. The reality of the song didn’t come to fruition till about six months to a year after I wrote it. This is hands down the most vulnerable and open and honest I’ve ever been in my song-writing…it was shortly after that Hillary writes ‘Let It Be Love,’ which is another song about really owning some of your struggles and knowing that end of the day it’s all about love and what we want our kids to learn from us. It really started this conversation of us not just trying to sit here and make a record of what we think are radio hits, but let’s just make a record that speaks to us and we’ll hopefully speak to the fans…’
With as much success that the band has had over the years with their own music, Lady Antebellum have always had a hand in philanthropy and giving back to the community- since January 2012, they’ve been partnering with a charity called myLifeSpeaks- raising awareness of and providing facilities towards people who are disabled and challenged in the country of Haiti, while at the start of 2013, the band created an actual organisation called LadyAID, a charity that brings hope to suffering children on a local, national and global scale. For it is things like these, outside of music, that really sparks interest in a band or solo artist. It is what people do outside of music that people make judgements upon. And I’m sure I do that as well- even if the music is great, if their personal life doesn’t line up with what is being sung, then I guess that’s the deal-breaker for me. Maybe I can’t just separate the art from the artist as much as I think I could’ve. Nevertheless, Lady Antebellum have contributed to society, by being vulnerable in their music, and creating a transparency that is otherwise not seen as much in the industry as it should be. It is their extra activities as well as their music contribution to not only country, but music as a whole, that I reckon will continue to bring along other newer fans of their music, as well as the band themselves influencing other up and coming artists along the way. As Hillary Scott reminds us through an interview quote recently, it is when we (both artists and listeners and with people that we meet on a daily basis) become vulnerable, heartfelt and honest, that authentic relationships can grow, often out the most difficult of circumstances, or as she reminds us herself, ‘…none of us are going through things that somebody else hasn’t gone through. I think to be brave enough to talk about it, that just builds connection between the three of us as a band and with our fans. Just to be able to put their own story into it, but then also feel like they’re grasping a deeper understanding of who we are as artists…’
Lady Antebellum is a band where fame and everything that comes along with it doesn’t seem to faze them. They just keep delivering songs full of meaning and heart as Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood provide songs that deliver songs full of heart as well as joyous rousing fun. For I have been impressed this last little while, of the staying power of this trio- songs from their earlier albums like ‘Need You Now’ and ‘I Run to You’, and songs more recent like ‘Ocean’ and ‘Let It Be Love’, still have reach and durability even now in 2020. And so now it’s over to you all. What have you all thought about Lady Antebellum? Does this band make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!