Tuesday, July 21, 2020
– Black country fans made it clear during a music panel about race and fans in Nashville last Wednesday that they were not happy with Lady A - the band and not the Seattle-based blues singer over the name controversy involving the two artists. The panelists said the band should change its name - again.
The panelists also described numerous instances of uncomfortable moments during country concerts, which made them feel like outsiders.
The virtual panel was conceived by Nashville Music Equality, a grassroots effort by Nashville music professionals to engage in issues of race and music. The Wednesday panel was called "dear music city...A series of Music Industry Conversations."
Lady Antebellum shortened its name to Lady A following the outpouring of conversations in the U.S. about racial issues in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. The problem was that Lady A is also the name of a longstanding Seattle-based blues singer.
The two sides met virtually with the band indicating that an agreement was almost at hand. But talks fell apart with Lady A the singer seeking $10 million from the band, split equally between the singer and charities.
Lady A the band eventually sued for the use of the Lady A trademark, which the band secured about 10 years ago.
It was that decision that has not gone down so well with fans.
" I thought it was a great move until there was another Lady A," said Rachel Berry, a New Jersey country fan. "Personally, I'm not happy about it. I'm just going to be honest. Honestly, they need to figure out a different name. I get they had a trademark, whatever, but it's not a good look. "
"You're fighting for racial equality, justice...but now you're name is the same as a black blues artist...It's all Lady Lady Lady A...and this woman is going to be lost. Or (the band should) just go back to Antebellum. I don't think what they're doing is the right move."
Ed Brunson, a St. Petersburg, Fla. resident, who has worked in music promotion and public relations, echoed Berry's comment. "I know Lady A as three people singing 'Need You Now.' Find something else, wherever they're from, what town are they from," he said, adding, "They need to find a new name, and their music is still going to speak for themselves. They can sing. They're very talented. It's going to be harder for (radio) programmers. It's going to be 'Need You Know,' not by Lady A but whatever city they're from."
Singer Beke Love said changing the name would not affect the band. "If they take over this woman's name, it's going to wash out all the good they were trying to do," she said.
Love said if the trio changed its name, "country fans are going to stick with them. They're not going to lose anybody."
Brunson agreed, saying that fans were "still going to buy the record. I'm still buying the record because I'm fans of them, but they just got to figure it out."
Panelists also were asked about uncomfortable incidents they experienced at concerts.
Seattle-based singer Mesha Reynolds, recounted an occurrence eight years ago during a Dustin Lynch concert in Denver. Saying she was "super excited" to go, her experience proved negative.
Reynolds said she heard comments such as "What's she doing here?"
"I left that show," Reynolds said. "I was so uncomfortable. I didn't even want to deal with what the potential could have been."
As a result, she didn't go to concerts for awhile.
Justin Tomlinson, associate director of digital marketing for RCA Inspiration, said, "There are some assumptions of ...'why are they here?'" Being in the industry, Tomlinson is allowed to go backstage, which results in being the question "'are you supposed to be here?' I've gotten that lot of times."
He also told about going to a Nashville club where he was followed for security in a group of two whites and another Black person. After two hours, he was asked to leave with the reason given that he was wearing torn jeans, even though he already had been allowed into the club.
Tomlinson said the artist he was working for told security that Tomlinson was with him, but Tomlinson was told he "had to go." Tomlinson said the incident "was something that really stuck with me."
Brunson said he learned "very early" not to go to concerts in jeans. "I always went with a black suit with a button up shirt with a plain color underneath it where I had to look at the part."
But he would get looks and comments to the effect, "The 6-4 black guy in the corner. Why is he here?"
"I think I'm a nice guy, but there's the initial, can we help you? You have those situations, and you have to learn very quickly how to take the bull mess off."
"There are certain pre-conceived notions of what you're supposed to be doing, but that is sad. That's our cross to bear," Brunson said.
MarQuis Hardin, who is at Concord Music, said he, too, had negative experiences. He recalled going to a concert with "some fans standing behind me, (saying) 'I'm surprised that he's here. I didn't think black people liked country music'. It just put a bad taste in my mouth when going to country shows. Am I really appreciated? Am I welcome or a I token black person taking up space?"
Reynolds got out on the dance floor in Denver participating in line dances. Another dance commented that she was surprised Reynolds knew the dance. "I was really offended," she said, adding, "God forbid, a black girl has cowboy boots."
Berry said she has seen Confederate flags at country festivals. "For me, that makes me uneasy. For (blacks), it's a sign of oppression. I'm just going to enjoy country music, but tailgating, drinking, the truth comes out. I speed walk as fast as I can to go to the (concert) entrance."
Nashville Music Equality will host its next discussion on July 29 on "The History of Music City" with Dr. Steven Lewis, the head of the National Museum of African American Music.