Lady A Shows Vulnerability on ‘What A Song Can Do: Chapter One’

Lady A Shows Vulnerability on ‘What A Song Can Do: Chapter One’
Lady A; Photo credit: Alysse Gafkjen

Lady A is ready for their next chapter and are excited to finally put What A Song Can Do: Chapter One out into the world. The seven-song collection, produced by the legendary Dann Huff is the first installment of a two-chapter album that allows fans to really dive deep into the compilation of songs and engage with them like never before.

“We were thinking, ‘How can we make an emphasis on this batch of songs which basically are sort of our diaries of what we all went through in 2020,” explains Lady A member Dave Haywood. “We want to make this first chapter really personal about what we went through and then how do we reengage fans? Just when they’ve kind of consumed that music, there’s still another part of the story that they get to hear and then they can really focus on that next chapter…we’re looking for ways to just kind of mix it up and let fans have sort of different moments.”

With some of the most raw and heartfelt songs that the trio has released in their career, these tracks take listeners on an emotional journey. “…The fans, they can tell when you’re authentic and your most authentic sound and you’re putting out the art that is really true to you and I think that’s especially what we’ve done on this project,” says Charles Kelley. “This is some of the most vulnerable music we’ve ever put out…”

Lady A; Photo Courtesy of BMLG Records

Hillary Scott echoes the intention behind these songs and “…wanting to just be really honest and stay true to what we do with harmonies and what the content of these songs are about.” Over the past year, the group took time to really look at what they want their music to give to the world. “…Nothing is going to deter us from trying to leave our mark in a positive way and we feel more determined than ever…” states Kelley.

The title track “What A Song Can Do” communicates the universal power of music. All three band members know the importance of music in their own lives and could easily recall a song that marked a pivotal moment in their lives. For Scott it was Keith Urban’s “You’ll Think of Me” that carried her through a high school breakup. Kelley points to memories of his mom’s records, listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album—specifically the song “Dreams”—as well as using his brother’s Discman to listen to Nirvana. Haywood credits James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” as the song that inspired him to learn to play guitar and has fond memories of his father teaching him.

“Music has completely changed all of our lives,” says Haywood. “…when we’re standing on stage this fall, it’s going to be a pretty chilled up moment to be like ‘This is what brought us here to you guys is music, so it represents a lot for us as a band which is why it’s [What A Song Can Do] is the title.”

The trio played an integral part in the songwriting process of this album, with at least one Lady A member penning each of the songs with some of the top songwriters in the industry. “Worship What I Hate,” a song written by Haywood, Scott, Natalie Hemby (Miranda Lambert’s “Bluebird” and Lady Gaga’s “Always Remember Us This Way”), and Amy Wadge (Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and Kacey Musgraves’ “Wonder Woman”) came out of a discussion about what Scott describes as “the pressures of 2020,” the struggle for perfectionism, and some of the less than healthy ways people coped through the challenges of last year, such as spending too much time in front of screens and not enough time enjoying moments with loved ones. Scott sees the convicting song as “…redemptive though in the fact that you’ve noticed and now you can change.”

“Things He Handed Down” is a poignant song about appreciating the wisdom and stories handed down from one generation to the next. Written by Kelley, Julian Bunetta (Thomas Rhett’s “Craving You” (feat. Maren Morris) and Niall Horan’s “Slow Hands”), Jesse Frasure (Thomas Rhett’s “Die A Happy Man” and Blake Shelton’s “Minimum Wage”), and Thomas Rhett, the song holds great emotional significance for Kelley, who connects its meaning to both his dad and his son Ward. “That song makes me think about memories that Ward will have of my dad and hopefully they’re going to be some of that wisdom and the love and the heart behind it and not just that he passed down some watch or something.”

2020 was a year of growth for Lady A, as both individuals and as a trio. “Fire” is a track about growing through difficult experiences and learning how strong you are when challenging times arise. “You can either let it burn you up or you can let it refine you,” says Scott.  

This music will always be memorable to the band because of the significance it holds and the non-traditional ways it was created due to being made during a pandemic, including the whole band wearing masks and having to do COVID tests before going into the studio, during the beginning of recording. Not only did they create music in a different way this past year, Lady A also received the honor of being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in an unorthodox way. They were invited to be members and inducted on the same day, which they say may be a first in the Opry’s history.

While 2020 was challenging, the band recognizes the learning, growth, and empathy that came out of last year as well as the many bright spots, like being able to spend more time at home with their families. Getting to enjoy the little moments such as Kelley getting to driving his son to preschool, Scott spending mornings with her girls and using car rides to introduce them to new music, and Haywood experiencing his son learning to read and ride a bike (he also took on the role of first base coach of his son’s little league baseball team).

The trio is gearing up to hit the road in July on the What A Song Can Do Tour and can’t wait to bring along tour mates Tenille Arts, Niko Moon, and Carly Pearce. While they are looking forward to playing this new collection of songs, they can’t wait to also see fans’ reactions to No. 1 hits “Champagne Nights” and “What If I Never Get Over You” which they released last year but haven’t had many opportunities to perform live.

Before heading out for the summer, Lady A is excited to spend some quality time with their families. All three members have big family moments at the beginning of July including Hillary’s anniversary of her engagement, Charles’ wedding anniversary, and Dave’s birthday, so they are all looking forward to celebrating these milestones and enjoying the Fourth of July with their families. “Every time I think of Fourth of July, all I can think of is Lee Greenwood,” says Kelley. “I don’t know why. ‘Proud to be an American’ it’s like always, right when you say it, I smell a barbecue and I’m hearing Lee Greenwood, over and over and over.”

In addition to the excitement of new music and an upcoming tour, the group recently received the news that they will be presented the Gary Haber Lifting Lives Award from the Academy of Country Music alongside songwriter and artist Ross Copperman at the 14th annual ACM Honors ceremony held in Nashville on August 25. This award is presented to Country Music artists or industry professionals who are committed to enhancing the lives of others through the power of music. “It’s extremely humbling…we all come from families that philanthropy is extremely important,” shares Scott. “…It’s so much of the soul of Country Music and I think to be acknowledged by our peers, it feels very humbling and also spurs us on to just keep going. There’s so much we want to do. It’s my favorite work that we get to do. Like when I think back over the years of things that have come to fruition in the forms of like throwing a prom for a high school that got destroyed in a tornado, those are some of my favorite moments of our entire career and so to be acknowledged and then to be spurred on to continue it, it means a lot, it really means a lot.”