Even for jaded music media types who get to see and hear artists all the time, Lady Antebellum’s performance at Wednesday’s No. 1 party was special. Joined by songwriter Josh Kear, the trio sang “Need You Now” at Cabana in Nashville backed only by Dave Haywood’s acoustic guitar, and by the time the harmonies peaked in the second chorus, the rendition created a little tingle in the gut.
Lady A likewise gave an acoustic performance last August, and that too generated some very strong emotions that were hard to hold back. It’s a genuine sign of an act that’s making an impact, though the numbers in this case don’t hurt, either.
Not only did “Need You Now” hit the No. 1 position on the national country charts, it stayed there a whopping five weeks. And even though Capitol Records hasn’t picked up a phone once to ask a pop radio station to play the song, more than 50 are now doing so, label chief Mike Dungan said. “Need You Now” entered the Top 30 on the USA Today Mediabase Adult Contemporary chart this week. it’s sold more than 1.4 million copies via download.
“This is just,” Dungan gushed, “an absolutely monster song.”
Also a song that fights convention a bit. It’s one thing to sing about getting toasted in a party song. It’s a completely different one to have a man confessing in an intimate phone conversation with an ex-girlfriend that he’s tipsy as he deals with life alone. The “I’m a little drunk” line is the one that gets the most feedback.
Of course, Josh is no stranger to edgy verbiage in country hits. He was a co-writer of Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” which has the singer bashing an unfaithful boyfriend’s car with a baseball bat.
“I remember when we sat around and we said, ‘All right, this might be a little racy but I’m gonna throw it out here,’” Lady A’s Charles Kelley said. “[Josh] was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s keep it in there.’ We gotta give Josh some credit for givin’ us the gumption to do that. We can’t believe the response to this song.”
For his part, Josh is just as thankful. The writing session was scheduled on a day that just happened to be the birthday of Cassie McConnell, Charles’ then-fiancee (now wife). Josh wouldn’t have been entirely shocked if the work had been scrapped.
“A lot of times you get appointments with artists and stuff and they get busy and don’t get a chance to show up,” Josh told the band. “You guys were just launching the biggest record of your career at that point with ‘I Run To You.’ Thanks for comin’ — thanks for comin’ with a great idea!”
“I Run To You” has done pretty nicely, too. It’s up for two Grammy awards, and Lady A is slated to perform on the show when it airs live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Jan. 31.