The Message Behind "Compass"
Art is a moving target. Those who do it most successfully find shades of emotion within themselves that change the texture of their work and how they feel about themselves. As a result, a real artist is ever-changing. So it is for Lady Antebellum. The harmony-based trio consists of Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood. Since its 2006 inception, the group has risen quickly to become one of country music's most influential current groups.
Lady A won the Vocal Group of the Year honor from both the Country Music Association and from the Academy of Country Music three times in a row. Eight of the band's singles went gold, with four – "American Honey," "Need You Now," "Just A Kiss" and "I Run To You" – surpassing the platinum mark. "Need You Now" went on to sell over seven million downloads, according to the RIAA. Additionally, "Need You Now" claimed five of the trio's seven career Grammy wins in 2011, including the all-genre Record and Song of the Year.
All of that was achieved through a fragile balance of several key pieces, each of which helps define Lady Antebellum's sound: memorable melodies, the interplay between Charles' soulful male resonance and Hillary's scintillating female texture, the threesome's bittersweet harmonic blend, and production elements that invariably emphasize the stylistic inclusiveness of modern country.
That sound catapulted Lady A to an enviable level of popularity. The band picked up an audience beyond the typical country core listener. They hit the road playing arenas and stadiums, and the group performed on all the major television shows including Saturday Night Live, Oprah, The Grammys, The Voice and most every other daytime and late night program on network television.
That kind of attention often destroys bands. The pride that goes with success begins to undermine the act, and the members compete for recognition. Ultimately, that delicate balance devolves into a tug of war and the act simply falls apart.
That's an unlikely scenario for Lady A. Every member plays a key role, not only in the band's harmonic development but even in the day-to-day details of the group's mission. Each of them are keenly aware that the other members need the right amount of attention – and the right amount of space – to make the entire band work.
"We've seen enough Behind The Music [episodes] to know how these things turn out," Hillary suggests. "As much as we all are confident about what we bring to the table, the second you become a little too confident is when that balance shifts, and that's when you can implode. We know it's not worth that."
The magic remains because they have kept the focus on the music. They started as songwriters and they've continued to prove themselves in that field. In addition to writing most of their own hits, Dave and Charles co-authored buddy Luke Bryan's breakthrough hit, "Do I"; and Hillary was a cowriter of Sara Evans' No. 1 single "A Little Bit Stronger," featured in the movie Country Strong.
The Grand Ole Opry has welcomed the band to its stages several times over the years. "Playing at the Opry is one of the best feelings in the world. There's no place on earth like it," says Dave. "As a country artist, you would feel honored that they would ask you to play here time and time again."
“Playing at the Opry is one of the best feelings in the world. There’s no place on earth like it.”