Sometimes you’re better off not getting the girl. Just ask Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum. Both guys had eyes for bandmate Hillary Scott when they met in Nashville in 2006. But instead of “pulling a Fleetwood Mac” (“Love triangles probably broke up one of the world’s greatest bands,” says Kelley), they focused on musical chemistry.
Score one for restraint. Lady A sold 480,000 copies of their new album, Need You Now, this past week. On Jan. 31 they won their first Grammy. And at the last Country Music Association Awards, they ended Rascal Flatts’ six-year reign as top group. “Our year,” says Scott, 23, “has been fantastic.”
Celebrity fans include Keith Urban and Taylor Swift, but Lady A doesn’t have to go far to find famous connections: Haywood’s dad, Dr. Van B. Haywood, helped invent at-home teeth whitening. (“He’s an innovator, like the Lady Gaga of dentistry, minus the Saturn rings and hair wigs,” jokes Haywood, 27.) Scott’s mom, Linda Davis, won a Grammy for “Does He Love You,” a 1993 duet with Reba McEntire; and Kelley’s older brother is singer Josh Kelley, husband to actress Katherine Heigl. Not that the trio was always ready for stardom. “Josh and I had a middle-school band called the Sporks,” says Kelley, 28, who grew up with Haywood in Augusta, Ga. “We wore those spoon/fork things around our necks. That’s how cool we were.”
Their friendship—despite those spork phases—still yields plenty of inspiration. “I know their whole lives and can tell you the names of every girl Charles has dated,” says Haywood. “Writing is a chance to dive into that.” The band also bonds over music like Paramore before shows and “Islands in the Stream” on karaoke night. (For more favorites, see box.) Next up? A big tour with Tim McGraw. “The first time we wrote a song, we felt we had something special,” says Kelley. “We didn’t want to jeopardize that. Now we’re living our dream.”