Charles Kelley is most well-known as being part of the superstar trio Lady Antebellum, but now he’s launched a solo career with his debut album, The Driver, coming out on February 5.
The title track has already received a GRAMMY nomination, yet the timeline of his music’s growth in the country music format has been slower than he anticipated. Although he realized that he would not likely have the instant success that Lady A has had, he’s also had to remind himself of where his music is on this journey.
“It’s been a really humbling experience… I’ve gotta connect the dots between Charles Kelley and Lady Antebellum.”
Darius Rucker had a similar experience with his career change and offered this piece of advice to him: “You’ve gotta go out there as a brand new artist and really start fresh with it.”
And that’s exactly what Charles Kelley has done.
When recording The Driver album, Kelley had two main goals: get back to the best spot in his voice and differentiate from the Lady A sound while protecting it.
The range of Kelley’s voice has continued to shift into a higher range from the group’s 2007 single “Love Don’t Live Here” to 2009’s “Need You Now” and beyond. As he began to work with producer Paul Worley, he wanted to “pick the best spot in my voice and stick with that – that’s what’s cohesive about this record.” Kelley is back to that lower range in The Driver, which helps differentiate his solo album from Lady Antebellum’s recordings.
The project was recorded in Worley’s unique space previously used for rehearsals that allowed for all of the musicians to interact during the recording sessions. The first song recorded for the album was “Your Love,” which Kelley said is when “we knew we were doing something special.”
Part of that special vibe includes special guest vocalists Stevie Nicks (on Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents”) and Miranda Lambert (on “I Wish You Were Here”). Although Kelley set out not to have female vocals on the album, in order to protect the Lady A sound, the collaborations were organic. Worley’s connection to Nicks’ manager resulted in her joining the project and Kelley called in a favor with longtime friend Lambert to add the missing sound he’d heard on the song’s demo.
One of the most talked about tracks is a song called “Leaving Nashville,” which has surprised Kelley. The story is about the highs and lows of the music industry, but it has hit home with a lot of listeners.
“I think everybody can relate to chasing down a dream and the ups and downs, but never wanting to give up on it,” he says.
The Driver is not the only thing coming out soon – Charles Kelley and his wife Cassie are expecting their first child on February 17. “Baby Antebellum” already has Hillary Scott’s daughter Eisele and Dave Haywood’s son Cash – so what unique name will Charles’ son have?
“We’ve got a cool name,” he hinted. “Charles will be the middle name, I know that.”
And yes, his son already has a drum kit waiting at home for him to start playing.
Although Charles Kelley is moving full speed ahead with his solo project, it’s not the end of Lady A. They have a handful of shows together this summer and are already writing for a new project. They want to slow down and not be pressured with a new project, taking their time to write and find the best songs.
“I never want to cut music ever again that I’m just kind of into.”
The Driver track list:
- Your Love (Abe Stoklasa, Ashley Ray)
- The Driver (Charles Kelley, Eric Paslay, Abe Stoklasa)
- Dancing Around It (Charles Kelley, Abe Stoklasa, Daniel Tashian)
- Southern Accents featuring Stevie Nicks (Tom Petty)
- Lonely Girl (Chris Stapleton, Jesse Frasure)
- The Only One Who Gets Me (Charles Kelley, Nathan Chapman)
- Round In Circles (Charles Kelley, Josh Kelley)
- I Wish You Were Here featuring Miranda Lambert (Jedd Hughes)
- Leaving Nashville (Abe Stoklasa, Donovan Woods)
For more information on new music and tour dates, visit www.charleskelley.com.