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Lady Antebellum's hot chemistry

By Denise Quan, CNN
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Lady A 'Needs You Now'
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lady Antebellum up for two Grammys Sunday
  • Country trio known for tight harmonies -- so tight people think male, female singers are romantic pair
  • Group enjoying the ride of fame, astonished at airplay for single "Need You Now"
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Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- From the town that brought you Taylor Swift comes Lady Antebellum -- quite possibly the next young country act to cross over into the mainstream pop world.

In November, the Nashville trio staged a stunning upset win for Group of the Year at the Country Music Association Awards, abruptly ending Rascal Flatts' virtually uncontested six-year reign. Even more extraordinary -- Lady A did it with only one self-titled debut album on its résumé.

Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott's hotly anticipated sophomore CD, "Need You Now," hit stores Tuesday. Haywood provides musical inspiration, while Scott and Kelley trade lead vocals.

But the most compelling cuts feature both prominently, with Kelley's bluesy tenor melting into Scott's soulful soprano to create lush harmonies and wistful he said-she said verses. The musical chemistry is so convincing that when Lady Antebellum first hit the scene in 2008, some believed Scott and Kelley had to be on off-stage item, as well.

"That's the goal!" laughs Kelley. "We gotcha!"

Scott admits to fanning the flames occasionally. "The songs lend themselves to that. We try to have fun and almost create a little theater onstage at times."

That chemistry will be on display when Lady Antebellum performs this Sunday at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, where they're nominated in two categories -- best country song and best country performance by a duo or group with vocals (both for the group's 2008 single, "I Run to You").

In the meantime, Lady A has just released a new single, "American Honey," which you can see in an exclusive acoustic performance for CNN at the top of this article.

CNN: After your big win at the CMAs Hillary, you made it a point to thank your two best friends, Charles and Dave.

Hillary Scott: We met each other, and just hit it off from jump. They're really great guys. I mean, we all have our quirks -- everybody does. But they've been raised right, and I've learned a lot about men, actually. Things I wanted to wanted to know, and a lot of stuff I didn't want to know! But I think it'll end up helping me when I'm a wife one day.

CNN: Speaking of -- Charles, you just got married [to Nashville publicist Cassie McConnell].

Charles Kelley: Yeah, I got married last summer, so it's been good. I've had a lot of training ground out on the road with Hillary. (Laughs)

Dave Haywood: He's got a song on the record.

Scott: Scored major points.

Kelley: I did, I did! We wrote a couple of songs that were definitely influenced by where I am in my life. One in particular -- "When You Got a Good Thing." (Sings) "You got to know when you got a good thing" -- and I do!

Scott: All of my songs are the heartbreak ones. It's been a rough year. (Laughs)

Haywood: Mine's being drunk at 1:15 in the morning -- that's mine.

CNN: Ah, lyrics from your current hit, "Need You Now."

Kelley: Yeah, we're astonished at the success of that song. It really has been a career song for us.

CNN: It was a No. 1 country single for a number of weeks, and even made it into the Top Ten on Billboard's all-genre chart.

Kelley: We're finding out that a lot of pop stations are playing it.

Scott: We're just so excited that our song is going to be played for more people. Wherever they want to play us, play us! I don't care what the format of the station is. We just want people to hear it, and butts in the seats when we perform.

CNN: I think melody and harmonies transcend genre -- but maybe mainstream audiences are open to a little fiddle, a little banjo, too.

Kelley: Well, you know Dixie Chicks opened up the door to all that, and Shania Twain --

Scott: Keith Urban.

Kelley: Taylor Swift.

Scott: It's all about the melody to me -- unless I'm wanting to have a dance party. Then it's all about the beat!

CNN: Who do you crank up at parties?

Scott: Oh gosh, I have the new Jay Sean record that's really good. And Flo Rida always gets the party started.

Haywood: Ke$ha. Ke$ha's really good.

CNN: You guys are part of an all-star tribute to Neil Young at MusiCares, two nights before the Grammys.

Kelley: That's a big night for us. We're thrilled. We're getting to sing "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" [from Young's 1970 album, "After the Gold Rush"].

Scott: We saw the lineup of who all's playing and I couldn't help but start laughing at how wacky our life is sometimes! Elton John, James Taylor, Ben Harper -- all of these unbelievable artists where I have their records, and have listened to them forever. And we get to share the stage with them.

Kelley: I think they meant to invite Lady Gaga and accidentally invited Lady Antebellum.

Haywood: We'll take it.