Despite the Controversy, Lady A Still Believe in the ‘Heart’ Behind Their Name Change
When the country trio formerly known as Lady Antebellum decided to change their name to Lady A, they hoped to foster inclusivity and distance themselves from the racist associations of the term "antebellum." However, they didn't realize that their decision would be met with opposition from a Seattle-based blues singer named Anita White who has been performing under the stage name Lady A for decades.
In the months since, White and the band have become embroiled in a heated battle over the name. Talks were broached but broke down; lawsuits were exchanged, and White has argued that the country trio's actions toward resolution were ultimately hollow, counter-productive to the purported goals of allyship they'd put forward by dropping "Antebellum" from their name to begin with. She even recently put out a musical response to the situation called "My Name Is All I Got," a gospel-infused, call-and-response-style song that minces no words about her feelings regarding the group's actions.
But in a new interview on Tamron Hall, Lady A explain that despite the bumpy road that's followed their name change, they stand by the motivation behind their initial decision.
"The heart of our decision still rings true today as much as it did back in June when we made this announcement," says the group's Hillary Scott. "We want our music and our live shows, everything that we're a part of, for everyone to feel welcome and invited."
Lady A's decision, she adds, was part of a larger realization about the band's role in furthering equality. The momentum emerged during the galvanized civil rights movement that intensified in the summer, ignited in part by the death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, at the hands of white police officer Derek Chauvin (Floyd is one of several Black citizens who died in police custody or were mistreated by white police officers in 2020).
"Our name-changing was the first step," Scott continues. "But you never know how things are gonna happen, and we never saw that coming."
Bandmate Charles Kelley admits that 2020 has been a huge learning experience. "I think the word to me that resonates most this year has been 'blind spot,'" he reflects. "And I am so guilty of not -- I didn't think about it. You know, we came up with the name thinking about an antebellum home, and, you know, Hillary Scott's the lady! It's so naive now, looking back."
As they've gotten older, though, and welcomed kids of their own, the members of Lady A have gained more clarity, and a greater desire to make the world a better place for the next generation.
"We knew this was going to be difficult. We knew we were going to alienate a lot of fans. We didn't see some of these other things coming, but it hasn't changed how we've tried," Kelley adds. "We're trying to resolve this issue with Anita, and we're really trying to be a light out there for everybody."
Trio member Dave Haywood adds that a lot of careful reflection went into the decision to leave the "Antebellum" part of their name behind. "We employ several Black people, we spoke to a lot of Black people, in and out of the industry," he explains.
"Our goal was to find out the heat behind what 'Antebellum' could bring up for some, and unanimously, it brought up hardship," he says. "So this decision was simple for us."
It's also the first step in the band's journey towards inclusivity, Haywood adds, which also includes establishing their new Lady Aid Scholarship Fund to support those attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities and provide relief for underserved communities.
"I was just going through my journal the other day, and, man, the common denominator with all my conversations with my friends of color was, 'Let's please keep having this conversation, y'all. Let's keep talking about this. Let's make some long-term commitments to this,'" he explains. "So [changing our name] was not the end, it was the beginning for us."
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