Since 2006, the year Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott came together to form Lady Antebellum, the group has dominated the country charts, garnered a trove of recording-industry and fan-favorite awards (including six Grammys) and gained an international following of fans. And while their spirited songwriting and heart-felt harmonies have won them worldwide acclaim, the trio continue to hold fast to their hometown roots. For bandmates Charles and Dave, those roots run deep in their East Georgia boyhood home of Evans, just outside Augusta.
Last October, just weeks after the release of their third album, Own the Night, Lady Antebellum returned to Evans for a very special performance, which heralded the opening of the Lady Antebellum Amphitheatre. The 5,000-seat Columbia County venue is the focal point of the new Evans Towne Center Park, and the group donated proceeds from ticket sales to the John W. Kelley, M.D., Cardiovascular Endowment. (Dr. Kelley, a cardiologist and surgeon from Augusta, is Charles’s father.)
Says Dave, “Twenty years later, I hope people will talk about us and say, ‘They were just genuine people who made genuine music based upon their life experiences.'” It’s that combination of honesty, humility, talent and heart that endear Lady Antebellum to their fans—and inspire so much pride in the home-state crowd.
Guys, you grew up in Columbia County. Were there things you enjoyed doing in the Augusta area that you’d encourage visitors to do?
Charles: Well, the Masters. We went every year. There’s a lot of great music in this town, too. We grew up playing in cover bands. And we always went downtown and saw different bands that were up-and-coming. For me that was a big thing.
Dave: Downtown Augusta is cool. There’s a lot of great stuff around the Riverwalk area. I’d encourage people to take a walk down there. There’s a lot of history on the Savannah River. It’s beautiful.
Charles: And we both went to the University of Georgia in Athens. Such a music place. There’s just so much culture there.
Family vacations, school trips, church trips—are there places you remember visiting?
Dave: St. Simons Island! We went to St. Simons a lot.
Charles: Definitely St. Simons. We also went to Georgia games every weekend. And we’d go to see concerts in Atlanta.
Dave: The North Georgia mountains are beautiful up around the Young Harris area. We’d vacation up there.
Charles: I have a picture of my brother and me—my brother Josh, he’s a musician himself—on top of Stone Mountain. We used to go there every year with my mom when we’d visit my grandmother in Atlanta.
Hillary: That’s a good hike.
You’ve hiked Stone Mountain?
Hillary: Yes, I have.
I know you’re a Nashville native—
Hillary: Yes, I am, but Atlanta is not far—and honestly has amazing shopping. Nashville, in the past few years, has grown in the shopping department, but it still does not beat Atlanta. And I love Savannah.
Charles: Oh yeah! How could I forget Savannah!
Hillary: It’s beautiful. I remember driving through on a family vacation one year. All of the moss and the beautiful flowers
and the trees that line the streets are absolutely gorgeous.