By Vernell Hackett
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Lady Antebellum are growing up and getting sassy with their fourth studio album, "Golden," embracing a stripped-down sound to showcase their vocal strength as they prepare for an upcoming tour with a baby on board.
The country band, formed by vocalists Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and guitarist Dave Haywood in Nashville, Tennessee, released its latest album this week, which saw band members drawing on their live tour experiences.
"When we went into the studio we wanted the new record to have that live band sound and we wanted it to be different from the last record," Haywood told Reuters.
The trio, who have picked up seven Grammy awards since their debut self-titled album in 2008 and have become a strong force in the cross-over between country music and pop music, hoped fans would hear a new side to the Lady Antebellum sound.
By keeping the production simple, Haywood said the band wanted to showcase the vocals on "Golden," due in part to the band being more secure in how their voices blend together.
Scott added that the final 12 tracks selected for the album leant themselves to the simpler production.
"It made sense to dial it back, which allowed us more time to spend on vocals and get them exactly the way we wanted them," the singer said.
While most of the band's songs feature romantic lyrics, such as "American Honey," the lead single "Downtown" from the latest album saw the band take on an edgier feel as a sassy Scott sings about demanding her boyfriend to take her out in town.
"I love the song and thought it could be a huge hit. I thought it might be a risk if the fans didn't accept it, but the boys kept saying, ‘We've seen you get sassy, and everybody else needs to see that side of you too,'" Scott said.
Along with a new album and upcoming tour, the band is also preparing for a big change within its dynamic, as Scott and her husband, the band's drummer Chris Tyrrell, prepare for the birth of their first child.
Scott, the daughter of country singer Linda Davis, said she grew up as a "road baby" on tour with her mother and hoped her child would benefit from the same experiences.
"I adapted as a child to my surroundings and I turned out okay, I hope, and I think our little girl will do the same. I have a feeling that being home will be more of an adjustment for her than being on the road," she said.
Kelley was also excited by the prospect of raising a child on the tour bus, saying "that baby is gonna see things no baby gets to see."
After more than five years of touring, the band said they are growing more comfortable musically and as a group, as they enter a new chapter in their career.
All three members are eager to leave an imprint with their fans as they continue to grow as a band, and they hoped they would leave a legacy behind, the central theme in the final song on the album, "Generation Away."
"One of the coolest things going on in our genre right now is the undercurrent of friendship among all the artists who came along around the same time that we did. I want to be remembered as that group of artists who were best friends, almost a Rat Pack type of thing," Kelley said.
(Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Eric Kelsey)
(This story corrects "American Honey" as not one of the songs on the "Golden" album in paragraph 8)