A chat with Dave Haywood is usually going to include two things – cheerful candidness and a discussion about his beloved Georgia Bulldogs.
The multi-instrumentalist in multi-platinum Lady Antebellum hails from Augusta (as does singer Charles Kelley), and spends as many fall Saturdays as possible tuned in to the Dawgs games, even though pesky work commitments such as soundchecks often loom.
The trio, which also includes singer Hillary Scott, has rolled through the country on its “Summer Plays On” tour since July, satiating crowds with their hit list including “Need You Now,” “Just a Kiss,” “Bartender” and more recent radio regulars, “You Look Good” and “Heart Break.” Their handful of remaining dates includes a Thursday stop at Verizon Amphitheatre with openers Kip Moore and Russell Dickerson.
On a recent weekday morning, Haywood checked in to talk about the Lady A live show, the band’s plan for new music and yes, the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Q: Now that you’re heading toward the end of the tour, what have the crowds been like all summer?
A: Ours has always been a pretty wide base. Our music has been great for all ages, even families to come together. One of the coolest things we love is parents who come with their kids. We’re parents ourselves with little ones running around backstage. There are a lot of people who have been with us since we started and they were maybe 10 at the time and they’re out of college now. That’s just happened in the last couple of years. People giving you stories that I was 11, I was 12 and (your music) got me into music or country music. We kinda get a wide array because we have a lot of different styles of songs. We have a big kind of college age and high school age following, but with songs like “Just a Kiss” or “Need You Now,” it skews kinda older.
Q: Darius Rucker has been on the whole tour except this date, when we’ll have Kip Moore with Russell Dickerson. Where is Mr. Rucker?
A: I’m excited about having Kip. I think Darius had an outside commitment, the one thing he had this year. But man we’ve had a blast with him, watching football on the weekends, he and Charles playing golf every five minutes.
Q: You've been covering The Rolling Stones on tour. What prompted that choice?
A: There’s kind of this thing that the classic rock format translates well to a country artist’s fan base. (Led) Zeppelin and the Stones, they love that. There’s an obvious bleed of fans. It’s a really fun moment in the show. We felt we should always do one or two covers; we’ve been doing “Honky Tonk Women” for most of the tour. It’s hard to beat that at a country outdoor show. We did a Keith Urban song for a while, a Deana Carter song for a while. But I had all the (Stones) greatest hits records growing up. Those guys are still killing it out there. It really blows me away when you look at them. I feel weird saying we’ve been doing this a long time when you look at them.
Q: What is life like on the road with everyone's kids?
A: It’s been a lot of fun. It’s a lot of packing mobiles and toys and the bus is filled with mats for the babies to roll around on. It’s a joy to get to take our families out. We had plenty of great years just out living it up, staying up all hours, but it’s nice to share this with our families. My son (Cash, 4) has gotten obsessed with the drums and our drummer and Mr. Russell (Dickerson). During soundcheck I’ll let him sit on the drum set. Those are full circle moments. We’ve been able to have a lot of great success and travel the world and do great things, but sitting my son on the drum set and watching him bang around is the biggest joy in the world.
Q: Let’s talk about some new stuff. You went a little different direction with “Heart Break” – what’s the consensus in the band about the next musical move?
A: It’s a good thing to think about. It’s a hard question to answer. If I had to sum up anything, I’d say that we as a band, the three of us, we want to find a way whether it’s the first or third single, to find some deep meaningful lyrical content. One of our favorite songs is “I Run to You” and I think that message is still poignant today. We love fun songs, but selfishly, I love to have some of those deep ballads that have some of that deep content. More than being personal, we want it to be something that matters. All that to say, we might come out with a first single, like, “Party With Us!” But we’re looking for some lyrical depth.
Q: And you have a new label (the band signed with Big Machine Label Group in September after 10 years on Capitol Records).
A: Overall, we are very grateful for our journey. We had an unbelievable, life changing experience with Capitol. But for us, we felt we needed a fresh start and fresh energy and some fresh eyes. We actually began our career with (BMLG Records president) Jimmy Harnen with “I Run to You” and we were excited about the opportunity about working with him down the road and working with (BMLG founder) Scott Borchetta. I have to say all that with the caveat of nothing but grace and gratitude.
A: (Laughs and groans)
Q: So let’s talk about that, since I know what big Georgia Bulldogs fans you guys are. I heard you all took a bus to go to the game?
A: I hate to sound like super-positive guy all the time, but I was really thrilled we made it there. I drove down in a big van with a bunch of friends from college. The game was so exciting and then that last play…we paid so much for tickets! But honestly, it was upsetting but I didn’t see that kind of success coming. That’s a pretty tall order to have a second year coach make it to the championship. As a Georgia fan, I hadn’t been alive for a national championship, so it was the first time in my life time I could experience it. But yeah, to get that close, it’s gut wrenching.
Q: What are your thoughts on the season so far?
A: I feel really good. Our prognosis is a healthy, positive one. There’s a lot of depth to the team. Every time they pull someone out, they throw someone in. I think we’ve got a great shot to get to SEC East Championship. I’m optimistic… We got to do the commencement at UGA and that was really fun. We’re always keeping our ties and options open around Atlanta and Athens. We’re huge fans of being part of the Georgia landscape. We’ve got roots down there that will live forever. We’re going to get the Waffle House truck after the show.
With Kip Moore and Russell Dickerson. 7 p.m. Thursday. $35.25-$100. Verizon Amphitheatre at Encore Park, 2200 Encore Parkway, Alpharetta. 1-800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com.