Seattle blues singer Anita White has a problem with country group Lady Antebellum’s decision this week to change its name to Lady A: She’s been singing under that name for decades.
White told media outlets on Friday that she objects to the Nashville trio’s use of the name, announced Thursday, as it attempts to rebrand in light of widespread protests against racism and police violence and in support of Black lives.
“This is my life,” White told Rolling Stone. “Lady A is my brand, I’ve used it for over 20 years, and I’m proud of what I’ve done. This is too much right now. They’re using the name because of a Black Lives Matter incident that, for them, is just a moment in time. If it mattered, it would have mattered to them before. It shouldn’t have taken George Floyd to die for them to realize that their name had a slave reference to it.”
White told KING-5 that the country group did not reach out to her beforehand.
White was not immediately available for an interview with The Seattle Times. Both she and her booking agent, reached via email Friday night, said she would have more to say next week when she has information about her rights. A representative for Nashville’s Lady A told The Seattle Times on Saturday that the group has since reached out to White about the name change.
White told Rolling Stone on Friday that she has used the name in some way or another since the ’80s when she would perform karaoke as Lady A. She has since put out a number of albums under the moniker, including a forthcoming live album due to be released in July. She says she owns the business Lady A LLC, but is unsure whether that gives her the trademark rights to the name.
Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood formed Nashville’s Lady A in 2006. The trio was one of country music’s hottest acts for several years, winning multiple Grammy Awards. Best known for the crossover hit “Need You Now,” the band has long used Lady A informally as its working name.
Critics say the group’s full name — the Latin “ante bellum” translates as “before the war” — is an overt reference to the pre-Civil War South. Members of the group and its representatives have sidestepped questions about the name’s origin over the years in interviews. On Thursday, the group’s statement on social media said members named the band after the antebellum style homes where they shot their first photos and was a reminder of Southern music that inspired them.
White told Rolling Stone she will fight to keep using the Lady A name.
“I’m not about to stop using my name,” White told the magazine. “For them to not even reach out is pure privilege. I’m not going to lay down and let this happen to me. But now the burden of proof is on me to prove that my name is in fact mine, and I don’t even know how much I’ll have to spend to keep it.”