Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley Hopes ‘CMT Celebrates Our Heroes’ Provides ‘A Little Comfort’
“Any time we can bring a smile or a little comfort, I think that’s part of our job,” says Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley (above right, with bandmates Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott). In June 3’s taped-at-home concert special, CMT Celebrates Our Heroes: An Artists of the Year Special, the Grammy-winning trio join other top country artists—Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, Brandi Carlile, Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett, Kelsea Ballerini, Little Big Town, Florida Georgia Line and more—in paying tribute to those serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those heroes range from medical professionals, first responders and military members to educators, business and community leaders, and food industry and infrastructure workers.
CMT exec Margaret Comeaux promises “songs of introspection, celebration and hope,” such as Rhett’s “Be a Light” and Combs’ “Six Feet Apart” (which he co-wrote over Zoom in April). But there will be moments of much-needed escape too, like when Lady A perform their hit from NBC’s Songland, “Champagne Night.”
“People are cooped up in their house, and this is a fun song about just making the best of it. Even though you don’t have a lot, drink a little beer on a champagne night,” says Kelley, whose father, John, is a cardiologist in Georgia doing whatever he can to help. “I’ll do a shout-out right now. This is perfect. He’ll love that.”
We caught up with Kelley in early May, as he was quarantining in Florida with his family, before he’d filmed the performance. Here’s more of that conversation.
When Lady A performed “What I’m Leaving For” on April’s ACM Presents: Our Country special and dedicated it to everyone in the medical field, your four-year-old son, Ward, was quite the hit. Are you going to get him involved this time?
Charles Kelley: I don’t know. I’m sure I will. I had more people texting me about how funny Ward was on that. He kind of stole the show. He’s a little ham, man.
Have you heard from people about how “What I’m Leaving For” has touched them?
A military family reached out, sent a personal message to our DM on Instagram. He had literally just got deployed, right when they heard the song. He said it was exactly their story. They just had a newborn, and he was having to leave. When we recorded that song, that’s kind of what we were thinking, too. It was about our life leaving [our families to tour], but we said, “Man, I bet you a lot of people in the service are gonna relate to this song.”
You’ve had to film yourself more than once during quarantine. How has that been?
It’s really challenging, actually. I’ve never been much of a tech-savvy guy, and they sent me like a ring light, and it’s this big thing. And then for another performance, they sent this green screen—we’re gonna try to do something with a green screen for our Jimmy Fallon performance. It’s a unique time. It’s really tricky, too, because there’s three of us. There would be a delay if we try to perform at the same time over Zoom, and our harmonies wouldn’t line up. Dave, luckily, has a home studio. He creates the track, sends it to Hillary. Hillary sings on it, and then I get the track with Hillary’s vocals so I can sing to it. And then, it goes back to Dave, and he has to sing his harmony part. It’s a bit of a puzzle. On the flip side, people are getting a little insight into our homes and personalities, like bringing Ward in. A lot of friends of mine are out of work now. That’s why we wanted to put “Champagne Night” out. They just kind of want to escape for a little bit, and so that’s what we’re gonna try to do with this performance.
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In April, Dave and his wife, Kelli, recorded their own song, “Just Another Day in Quarantine,” which was great.
He is a nut. We’ve been writing songs over Zoom. And I remember a couple of days there, I said, “Hey, man! I’m gonna write tomorrow.” And he goes, “I got something I gotta do that day, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it.” And I’m like, “What do you have to do? We’re all in quarantine!” And then that song comes out in that video, and I’m like, “Oh. Now I know what you were so busy with for two days!” We’ve all known his wife Kelli is so hilarious—we go to dinners all the time, and she just holds court. For other people to get to see that in those videos… I thought that was really funny for them to do.
What have you found yourself listening to these days when you need an escape?
Yacht rock. I guess it’s music from the ’70s and ’80s that one would listen to if you were on a yacht. Bands like Toto, Hall & Oates. I’ll come outside and grill, and I’ll put on my little playlist of yacht rock essentials. It puts a smile on my face.
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Back in April, you posted a video as your musical alter ego Dick Fantastic. So we’ll be seeing more of him at some point?
We’ve got a guy putting together all of the footage for us right now. We recorded an old Toto song called “Rosanna.” Everybody in the band is in their costumes and in their homes. I still haven’t seen how goofy they got with it. It will be a surprise.
Speaking of Instagram, you also shared a photo of yourself in your bathrobe, the one you wore in a swimming pool in Las Vegas with Luke Bryan while celebrating an ACM win in 2008. Did that robe make the trip to Florida, too?
[Laughs] I haven’t got it down here. It’s so crazy, because Luke still has his, too. I just saw a photo of him the other day on Instagram, and he was doing something with his wife, and he was in that robe, and I was like, “Oh my gosh! He’s still got the robe, too!” I think it was like our first award, and so I jumped in the pool. And then when I came out, somehow grabbed Luke and threw him in the pool. And then we ended up grabbing our [label] president and threw him in the pool. I remember we tried to grab Dierks [Bentley], but he was too fast. Afterward, we’re soaking wet, and we’re at this little private party at the MGM, and they were kind enough to bring us robes. We were like, “Geez, I’m gonna take this home with me!” So, I guess we technically stole them.
CMT Celebrates Our Heroes: An Artists of the Year Special, Wednesday, June 3, 8/7c, CMT, Pop TV and TV Land