Over the past decade-plus, Lady A — the trio of Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood that went by Lady Antebellum until June 2020 — has grown into one of the most formidable country music acts in the country, with three No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 and each of their releases charting at No. 1 or No. 2 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. And their latest release, Ocean, has continued a longstanding run of Country Airplay hits, with the group’s latest single, “Champagne Night,” becoming their 11th Country Airplay No. 1, and their second since leaving Capitol Nashville and signing with Big Machine Label Group’s BMLG Records in the fall of 2018.
“Champagne Night” followed 2019’s “What If I Never Get Over You” — which topped the Country Airplay chart in January 2020 and was the group’s first radio No. 1 since 2014 — to the top of the airplay chart, but charted a different course to the summit. Originally, BMLG had begun working the song “What I’m Leaving For” (which peaked at No. 39 on Country Airplay) as a single, only to realize, as the pandemic set in, that a song about traveling might not have been the optimal choice with so many people stuck at home. So, mid-campaign, and lifted by an appearance on NBC’s show Songland, BMLG Records president/CEO Jimmy Harnen shifted focus to “Champagne Night,” and was rewarded with a No. 1 single — and the distinction of being named Billboard’s Executive of the Week.
Here, Harnen discusses the latest feat by Lady A, the decision making process behind the single switch, the effect of the pandemic on radio and more. “You could feel that something special was about to happen once their fans heard the music,” he says. “It was, and continues to be, a very exciting time.”