Until recently, Borman Entertainment was happy with the workload of just two clients – Faith Hill and Keith Urban. Of course, like many well-known managers, Gary Borman is approached all the time with new opportunities.
Pollstar asked him what we thought was a softball question: Why Lady Antebellum?
It wasn’t an easy answer.
“It becomes very philosophical. It becomes almost a life question,” Borman said. “Let’s face it: You have to choose your business partners really carefully. So, can I imagine my life entwined with these people for the next 20 years? Of course, they have to ask themselves the same question.” As co-owner of Moir / Borman Entertainment, Borman also shepherds Kenny Loggins and Natalie Cole. But in the case of Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood, Borman found a trio that would become only the third client of Borman Entertainment.
The band was making awesome music, which was step one of the decision. Beyond that, Borman was impressed with “their intelligence, their spark, their drive, their clarity, their great sense of self – and I grew to like them as individuals. They’re considerate and loving.”
They’re also incredible performers, he stressed. Lady A has worked its way up through the hard-knock school of Nashville clubs to the point where the band has been asked to join Martina McBride on tour. They’ve performed with artists like Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson, Josh Turner, Rodney Atkins and Little Big Town – and the album has been out for only a little more than a month.
“Early on, we started writing songs – and then started the group after that,” Haywood told Pollstar. “It was kind of an afterthought. I was doing all the booking. It was so funny because you’d get on the phone and try to talk yourself up so big. ‘Yeah, we’re, uh, this really new hot, up-and-coming new band. You should really book us.’
“And they’d say, ‘Well, how many people can you bring in?’ And we’d go, ‘Well, you know, like a lot. A really strong crowd.’”
They began a regular gig at 3rd & Lindsley. Fortunately, one of the people who wandered into a show was Michelle Tigard, assistant to Stan Barnett at the Nashville CAA office. Lady A became a CAA client before the band had a manager or a record deal. They spent months playing fairs and festivals as the “opening band that nobody’s there for,” then returned to the 3rd & Lindsley for more regular gigs.
Soon, Barnett’s boss, John Huie, was telling Borman to check out the band on MySpace. Borman didn’t need to give them a lot of help.
“They had already defined a sound, they had developed a following, and had already done a lot of the grassroots work so I can’t take any credit for that,” he said.
Haywood and Kelley have known each other since they met at Riverside Middle School in Augusta, Ga. They started writing songs at the University of Georgia but wound up behind desks in finance jobs.
“My goal, personally, was just to be able to find a way to do this and to make a living and to do it in any capacity, for a number of years,” Haywood said. “I did a year and a half sitting behind a desk and I did my best to vow I’d never do it again.”
He and Kelley stayed at the house of Josh Kelley, who is not only building a career as a pop star but is also Charles’ brother. Scott, daughter of country artist Linda Davis and musician Lang Scott, soon joined the two friends, adding to the songwriting credits.
“Charles and I are just workaholics,” Haywood said. “There’s just no way to cut it any differently, man. And Hillary’s a lot like that, too. We love being able to do all these shows and meeting as many people as we can.”
“You don’t take accessible people and make them inaccessible,” Borman said, adding that the band members’ talents make them distinct. “That’s it in a nutshell. If you don’t have that distinction, it doesn’t matter how accessible you are.”
Borman stressed Lady A are “people persons.” In confirmation, the trio took an afternoon to visit with Pollstar employees at our office in mid-May. Less than a week later, Lady Antebellum became top new duo or group at the Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas.
“The album came out on the 15th of April and since then it’s been surreal,” Haywood said. “We always sign after the shows and people we recognize will say, ‘Hey, here’s a picture from the last show when I met you guys. I’ve been such a big fan since you were at the fair.’ It means a lot to be back in these places a second or third, even a fourth or fifth time.
“We’re really enjoying it.”