When Lady Antebellum were asked what songs they want to be remembered by, with assurance they replied “Need You Now,” “I Run to You” and “American Honey.” The reflective and heartfelt nature of these songs have defined the legacy of the trio of Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, a sense of familiarity they return to on their new album, Ocean.
Sitting down with Sounds Like Nashville and other media, Scott, Kelley and Haywood are adamant that the new project is one that comes from a place of honesty and reflects their personal truths both individually and as a group. “We feel this is a very present record for us,” Haywood says. “We’re very self-aware. I think a lot of this album is a lot of that honesty and where we are currently.”
After amassing a decades worth of hits like “Just a Kiss,” “We Owned the Night” and “Our Kind of Love,” the trio ventured into the world of experimentation, going on two-year hiatus that saw Scott win two Grammy Awards for her gospel album Love Remains while Kelley also scored a Grammy nomination for “The Driver,” the title track of his 2016 solo album. When Lady A reunited for 2017’s Heart Break, they came in with a fresh sound on the swanky, horn-heavy “You Look Good.” But the group is returning to its core with Ocean, wrapping their stories around the comforting, cinematic sound that’s made them a beloved act.
One example is “Be Patient With My Love.” Written by Kelley, Dave Barnes and Ben West, the potent ballad finds Kelley taking a hard look at his drinking habits and asking for forgiveness in the process, making for a simple, but striking moment on the album as he and Scott unite on the poignant lyrics, “’Cause I’m comin’ back / Back to my senses I’m comin’ back / Like holy redemption / I’m comin’ back to the man that I was / So please don’t give up / Be patient with my love.”
“It just feels like coming home,” Kelley shares of Ocean. “We just really wanted to be incredibly vulnerable and pull a little layer back because we felt like maybe at times, we haven’t, and we’re just in that season. We kind of got a lot closer in the really dark time that we had, and it brought us into this realization and appreciation of where we are and what we get to do and re-energized us moving forward.”
“Be Patient With My Love” led a snowball effect that found the group putting sincerity at the forefront, as Kelley writes a love letter to his wife on “Crazy Love” while Scott, Amy Wadge and Jordan Reynolds penned the introspective “Let it Be Love” that has Scott confronting envy and anger in the first verse while Kelley admits he sometimes struggles with humility in the second, ultimately turning to love as the cure. But the trio agrees that the album’s true vulnerability lives in the title track. Originally planning to name the album after “Pictures,” the emotion captured in “Ocean” convinced the group to make it the album’s namesake, as it reflects the depth of the material. The song was particularly challenging for Scott, who serves as lead vocalist, and the tears she sheds in the song’s video mirror the experience she had in the recording studio.
“The vulnerability and rawness of the lyric, you’re very exposed in every way, so I had a lot of insecurity around recording it, just because I wanted to do it justice. It pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she explains, adding that she’s “grown” through recording the song. “When you’re in a working relationship and a creative relationship like we have, we all have lives that we go home to out of this that impacts who we show up as every day… there’s been a lot of times we’ve walked arm in arm through a wave crashing down and then we’ve been skipping through,” she continues of how an ocean is a fitting metaphor for the album. “It’s all of it.”
As they explore an emotional spectrum throughout the album, the group says they were walking in fearlessness, writing and recording the songs they knew embraced their truth and brought them back to the solace that has long kept fans gravitating to them. “I feel like these are a collection of songs of ‘this is who we are,’” Scott determines. “I feel like you’re hearing us free again.”
Ocean is available now.