This is the first single and title track from country trio Lady A's sophomore album, Need You Now. (they were known at the time as Lady Antebellum, a name they changed in 2020 to avoid the association with slavery - "antebellum" refers to the pre-Civil War period in America). Group members Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott, along with co-writer Josh Kear, wrote this song about yearning for companionship in the middle of the night. Scott explained that the song, and many others on the album, "Are about what we are learning as we go through the ups and downs of different relationships." She added: "All three of us know what it's like to get to that point where you feel lonely enough that you make a late night phone call that you very well could regret the next day. But you do it anyway because it's the only thing that's going to give you any relief in that moment."
Josh Kear explained how quickly the song was written during the pre-telecast segment of the Grammy awards. "Actually, it was the second song we wrote that day," he said. "We were only together for two-and-a-half hours. We finished the first one in the first 45 minutes. Charles had a guitar thing and an opening line for a song and we wrote 'Need You Now' really fast and went, 'great, that was fun.' It was the first day I'd ever spent with them. They went their separate ways: it was Charles wife's birthday, I went home to my wife. Next thing you know it, it's on the record, title track, first single and here we are. It was actually the very last song they played for the label for deciding what songs were going to put on the album."
This was Lady A's second #1 on the Country chart. "I Run To You
" topped the chart four months previously.
This song was the first by a country group to reach the Hot 100's Top 10 for over two and a half years. The previous one to do so was Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready To Make Nice
," which reached #4 in March 2007.
Charles Kelley told AOL's The Boot about the day the Lady A trio along with Josh Kear penned this song: "I had a writing appointment with Josh Kear, Dave and Hillary, and my wife didn't want me to write that day, because it was her birthday. She was so upset that I was going to keep my writing appointment. We already had another song halfway done, so we finished that first. Then Josh asked what else we had. So we actually wrote two songs that day.I'd been fooling around with this little guitar melody at home and had that first line, 'Picture perfect memories scattered all around the floor.' But I didn't have a chorus melody. I played what I had for Josh, and everybody liked it, so we just started writing. Everybody brought in a little piece of that song after I started playing some of the basic chords. But I'm not that great of a guitar player, so I put the guitar back in Dave's hands. And with his expert knowledge, he just took it to the next level. That's the beautiful thing about co-writing.
I had that little piece of melody, but I told Hillary it would probably be a more beautiful melody if she sang it.A lot of times you'll be mumbling things when you're writing, and something like that first line will come out... and then you'll immediately put yourself in that place. You may not be going through that in the moment, but you're able to put yourself in one of those times you were going through something like that. That's kind of how the three of us write together. We'll sit there and come up with some melodies, and Hillary and myself will be mumbling words over it... and then something will happen. We'll say something, and we'll start writing a song around it.After we had the chorus, we started toying with the idea -- what if now, from a man's perspective, he comes in and says his part? We were a little worried though, about that one line: 'It's a quarter after one, and I'm a little drunk'... We were wondering if it was OK to say that!It was one of those songs that came together really quickly. But truthfully, I don't think we really knew what we had when we walked out of there that day! We thought we'd just written a couple of good songs."
The trio told The Boot that they enjoy watching YouTube videos of fans performing the song. Kelley admitted: "It's my guilty pleasure. My wife thinks I'm a narcissist, but I just think it's hilarious going on YouTube and seeing these covers. There are so many of them - literally hundreds! It's flattering."
The song is played on pop radio as well as country, and when it reached the Top 40 of the Hot 100, it became the first country number to do so since Rascal Flatts' "What Hurts The Most
" in early 2007. Kelley told The Boot when the trio wrote the song they weren't aiming for crossover appeal. He said: "When we were choosing songs for the record, we just had a really rough demo of it - just acoustic and vocals. We hadn't worked out all the harmonies yet... We had no idea what we had on our hands. So the fact that pop radio is embracing it - even though we had no intentions of that - it's exciting to reach a broader audience."
Kelley told The Boot that initially there some concerns about the song's lyrical content from executives at their record label. "The response from the get-go was so big," he said. "I remember even having some conversations with the label and people were [saying], 'Oh no, hope they don't get offended by the 'I'm a little drunk and I need you now' line. And I said, 'But that's honest! We're talking about Country radio, right? What happened to the old Waylon [Jennings] songs and stuff and people said what they felt?' It's storytelling."Dave Haywood added, "The three of us have been there, too. I mean, we've been in serious relationships and when you get out of that, all you want is that person next to you."
Kelley explained to MSN Music how the trio divide their songwriting duties: "Dave's more the theory guy; he starts a song off. He'll riff and Hillary and I will melodically come up with a vocal melody over it. And when we get stuck, he'll come in and chime in as far as vocal melody. He knows exactly where I'll want to go. It's almost like he's in my brain and goes, 'You want to do this,' and I go, 'Exactly…' If we could combine all our talent in here, we'd be one hell of a good songwriter. I don't like working without them. I've tried many times and I've never liked what I've come up with."
The Need You Now album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, selling 481,000 copies, the biggest opening week for an album released in January since the Game's The Documentary bowed with 587,000 in 2005. It was also best debut sales week for a country album since Taylor Swift's Fearless opened at #1 with 592,000 copies in November 2008.
Need You Now was 2010's first million-selling album in only its fourth week of release. It was the first title to sell a million so early in a year since the Game's Documentary clocked up a million sales in the fifth week of 2005.
When this ballad reached #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart in its 10th week, it achieved the quickest climb to the top (excluding seasonal titles) since Phil Collins' "Can't Stop Loving You
" reached the peak position in nine frames in 2002.
Need You Now spent four weeks on top of the album chart, making it the equal longest-reigning album by a core country group in the Billboard 200's history, matching the four-week reign of Dixie Chicks' Home in 2002-03.
This won both Single of the Year and Song of the Year at the 2010 ACM Awards. The trio also won Vocal Group of the Year at the same ceremony.
This was named by one of the world's largest jukebox manufacturers, AMI Entertainment Network, the most-played song on jukeboxes in 2010, with more than 440,000 spins in bars, pubs and other U.S. hotspots. The song was followed by two Zac Brown Band tunes, "Toes
" in second place and "Chicken Fried
" in third.
Lady A won their second consecutive Single of the Year trophy at the 2010 CMA Awards for this song, becoming the only artist in CMA Awards history to capture the Single honor in consecutive years. "I Run To You
" bagged the prize in 2009.
Lady A performed "Need You Now" at the 2010 Grammy Awards, where it won for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. It marked just the second time a country song won the Record of the Year prize and the third time Song of the Year went Country. The Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready To Make Nice
" also won both awards at the 2007 ceremonies, and Willie Nelson's "Always On My Mind
" was honored with Song of the Year in 1983.
British singer-songwriter Adele recorded a cover version of this tune with Darius Rucker live at CMT's 2010 Artists of the Year Awards. The track was made available in a Target stores-exclusive version of Adele's album 21.
The track took 30 weeks to reach #2 on the Hot 100, the slowest ever climb to the runner-up position in one chart run.
It was announced on April 7, 2011 that this had become the most downloaded country song ever, overtaking Taylor Swift's "Love Story
The song returned to the UK top 40 in June 2012 following Gary Barlow and Cheryl Cole's cover performance at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee concert.