If you ever find yourself in a career rut, one of the simplest fixes is changing the way you ride to work. (Check it — creativity experts will affirm it.)
That tiny switch, the type that kicks your routine just enough to refresh your day, works fine if you have an office job.
But when you’re a major music act – say, Lady Antebellum – taking an alternate route becomes a multi-year process.
The country trio of Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood is just now emerging from a recharge that began two summers ago. They have a new album, “Heart Break,” and a tour that stops Aug. 10 at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center. (Kelsea Ballerini and Brett Young open the 7:30 p.m. show.)
In 2015 – eight years after they debuted and with a collection of hits and awards to their credit – Scott, Kelley and Haywood agreed to take a break. They wanted to spend time with their young families (all are married and have children younger than 5), try some solo work and then reconnect to write their next album in a new way.
That new way was their old way, actually. To create “Heart Break,” the group rented homes in Florida and southern California, and spent several weeks doing nothing but writing and working in studio with their producer, who goes by “busbee.” That approach hearkens back a decade to the early days of Lady Antebellum.
“In the early days, we wrote from a point of innocence,” Haywood said during a recent phone interview. “We wrote out of pure enjoyment. We laughed and had so much fun together and just wrote out of having a great time together as friends. This whole approach has been getting back to what we were doing in 2006 and 2007, which was just three friends living together and making music —without any of the outside pressures.”
Those pressures to hit high on the charts and the sales and download data are a quandary for a Grammy-winning group like Lady Antebellum. With hits like “Need You Now” and “Bartender” – which are instantly recognizable even to people who aren't country fans – the band could tour and make a good living for years. But that’s like taking the same way to the office every day. The routine works, but it gets stale.
And you get stale with it.
“It’s almost like any other relationship or line of work,” Haywood said. “You get to the point where you’re so busy, you lose a little bit of sight of what got you into it in the first place. I call Hillary my second wife, and it’s almost like a marriage. You have to take a minute and get back to why we all fell in love.”
To write “Heart Break,” the trio developed a low-pressure routine: They woke up in their rented home in the Hollywood Hills, cooked breakfast, talked about what was on their minds and drove to the studio. With nothing else on their to-do list, they wrote music all day.
It was a like a weeks-long writing camp, one that took the group as close as it could get to their pre-fame, all-for-love roots. The results, guided by producer busbee, are fresh. For example, their first single, "You Look Good," is infused with upbeat horns — a rarity in country music.
“Being together and living together to make a record is the thing I’m most proud of for us,” Haywood said. “I feel like this record is a special season for us. It’s not just another album. It’s a whole other chapter for us as a band to re-approach how we started and get back to that feeling we had when we started."
With Kelsea Ballerini and Brett Young. 7:30 p.m. Aug. 10 at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center; $32.50-$65 (livenation.com).