The trio packed the tissues for a fun – but emotional – night out in Nashville
Credit: Alan Poizner

Lady Antebellum‘s Hillary Scott came prepared for the Nashville VIP premiere of the new Nicholas Sparks tearjerker The Best of Me.

Date? Check yes for hubby Chris Tyrrell. Babysitter? Check. Super-sexy, curve-hugging, red carpet-ready dress? Check. Waterproof mascara and tissues? Double check. “I’m ready to cry my eyes out,” Scott, there with bandmates Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood and their wives, told PEOPLE. “We have tissues too,” joked Haywood.

The country trio knew what to expect: they’ve been tracking the film from synopsis to script to sneak cut while writing the centerpiece song – “I Did With You” – for the film’s soundtrack.

“Lady Antebellum is where the soundtrack started,” said author Sparks. “I am a huge fan, I love their body of work, they are so incredibly talented. Their name was brought up before the director or anyone in the cast. I said ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have them do this?’ As we got closer to making the movie, I’m thinking ‘What are the odds? They’re working, they’re on tour, they’re having babies, they have lives!’

“But we sent them a script, we sent a synopsis, we sent an early cut of the film. They actually saw the sneak cut before I did,” said Sparks. “Next thing you know we have this amazing song and that song inspired the rest of album, it set the tone for the rest of the album. I think it’s the best soundtrack we’ve ever done.”

It’s a love-love relationship between Sparks and the band, who also just released a new studio album, 747.

“He does romantic love movies better than anybody, and we love writing romantic love songs,” said Kelley. “This was such an honor and a perfect fit.”

Haywood added, “There were a lot of images from the film that we pulled in that are in “I Did With You.” It was a really neat and unique writing experience for us.”

Being on the soundtrack was also a great experience for Thomas Rhett, who contributed “The Way Things Go.” “Of course, I’ve seen The Notebook. Any guy who has ever dated has seen it,” he said, laughing. “But I also read The Best of Me book a long time before this happened. We were held-over at the Phoenix airport and I found it in the bookstore there. My wife Lauren was reading it and we like to read the same book at the same time then go see the movie when it comes out. We loved the book, so when they asked if they could use my song on the soundtrack, it was so cool. This song was supposed to be on my record but didn’t make it. Your songs kind of become your babies, and when they don’t get on a record, they don’t have a home. I’m glad this song found a home and in a movie I’m pumped to be a part of.”

A mini-concert after the screening previewed four of the soundtrack’s songs, performed live by their artists, including Rhett, who did “The Way Things Go.” Colbie Caillat got an assist from Haywood to sing “In Love Again” and Lady A brought the house down with “I Did With You,” as well as “Bartender” from 747 and a surprise bonus track: “Islands in the Stream” with Scott playing Parton’s role and Kelley as Rogers.

The Best of Me opens nationwide Oct. 17. The soundtrack, which also includes Hunter Hayes, Kacey Musgraves, David Nail, Kip Moore, Thompson Square, Eric Paslay and director Michael Hoffman’s daughter Phoebe Hoffman, is available now.

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