The Marty Smith Podcast: Lady A’s Charles Kelley Recalls How the Grammy Award-Winning Band Formed in Nashville

by Chris Haney

Country music fans had another treat in store for them this week on The Marty Smith Podcast. Co-lead singer and founding member of Lady A, Charles Kelley, joined the show this week to talk about the Grammy Award-winning trio. While speaking about his famous band, he also recalled how Lady A formed organically in the 2000s while living in Music City.

Kelley started out the podcast by taking listeners back to his childhood growing up in Augusta, Georgia. As a young teenager, his mother bought him a drum set and his older brother, Josh Kelley, got a guitar and amp. They’d form Kelley’s first band as both brothers each found a love for performing music.

Skipping ahead to his college days, the country singer gave up music and focused on his education as he earned a degree in finance from the University of Georgia. However, after only one year in the workforce within his chosen field after graduating, Kelley wasn’t happy and knew he wanted to explore a different path.

“I went to work for a year up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and was just so unhappy. It just didn’t feel right,” Kelley shared on The Marty Smith Podcast. “My brother, Josh Kelley, had had a little success as an artist himself out in L.A. and he started to go to Nashville to write songs.”

Eventually, Josh moved to Music City, and Charles knew he needed to make a change. He asked Josh if he could move in with him in Nashville, and he agreed.

“So I went and visited, and I was just like, ‘Man, can I just live with you and give [music] a shot? I’m so unhappy.’ And he could hear it in my voice. He was like, ‘Charles, you’re freakin’ 23 years old. Take a chance.’ And I was like, ‘Alright.’ So I packed up my stuff and moved to Nashville,” Kelley said.

Charles Kelley Shares How the Trio First Connected on ‘The Marty Smith Podcast’

After Charles Kelley moved to Nashville, he started to focus on music much more. Yet he didn’t know anyone except his brother in town so it was difficult to make music connections. That’s when he called on an old friend from Augusta, Dave Haywood, who was living in Atlanta. For the next couple of months, Kelley would drive down to Atlanta every weekend to write songs with Haywood. Not long after, Haywood made the leap of faith as well and moved to Nashville to keep working on music.

About four months later after Haywood moved, Kelley was at a local bar where a band was performing cover songs. That’s when the musician first met his future bandmate, Hillary Scott, after her band’s set finished up. He approached her and they got to talking about music. Charles admitted they were flirting and hilariously said at worst he hoped to get a date out of the meeting. They got along well and Kelley invited her over to his place to work on some songs together.

Hillary stopped by his place a week later to write songs with Charles and Dave. During their first writing session ever, the trio wrote what would become Lady A’s first single, “Love Don’t Live Here.” The three musicians connected that quickly and knew they had something special together.

“Everything just came together,” Charles Kelley said of Lady A’s organic formation. “And, you know, the rest is kinda history as they say.”

“Y’all were not put together, y’all found each other. That is very rare,” host Marty Smith added.

“Yea, we found each other,” Kelley agreed on The Marty Smith Podcast. “I was like, let’s just take a chance. We’ll just do this on the side… Everything just took off really fast for us. Only later looking back do you realize how rare that was.”

Lady A’s Charles Kelley talks about that and much more in the newest episode of The Marty Smith Podcast. Make sure to check out their entire conversation below, or listen to the full interview on Spotify, Apple, or wherever else you listen to your favorite podcasts.