Blues Singer Lady A on Why She's Battling Country Trio Lady A: 'I Don't Want to Share in the Name'
"I've worked too long and too hard to just walk away and say I'll share the name with them. They want to appropriate something I used for decades," Anita White said in a recent interview
Anita White, the Seattle-based blues singer who has performed under the name Lady A for decades, is opening up about why she is fighting for her right to continue using the moniker.
While the country trio — which announced in June that they would be going by their longtime nickname of Lady A moving forward because of their full name's reference to the racist Antebellum south — has held the Lady A trademark since 2010, White says that she began losing visibility after they officially shortened their name last month.
"They want to change the narrative by minimizing my voice, by belittling me and by not telling the entire truth," White told Rolling Stone in an interview published Friday. "I don't think of myself as a victim, but I've worked too long and too hard to just walk away and say I'll share the name with them. They want to appropriate something I used for decades. Just because I don't have 40 million fans or $40 million, that should not matter."
White explained to the magazine that she had asked the band, which is made up of Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, for $10 million to split between herself and various charities, including Black Lives Matter.
White said if the band is "going to appropriate my name," she "thought it was only fair I could rebrand myself with $5 million."
"I could help my community, I could help my church, I can help other artists," she said. "And that other $5 million was supposed to go to Black Lives Matter to help other artists with this very struggle. And it was for my seniors and youth."
As PEOPLE previously reported, the trio called White's request in their lawsuit "an exorbitant monetary demand." They are seeking a court declaration that they are lawfully using the Lady A trademark and that the continual usage of the name does not infringe on any trademark rights White may legally hold or her "non-trademark use of 'Lady A' to identify herself as a musical performer," according to the suit.
White told Rolling Stone that she believed the group's conversations with her were one-sided.
"When they talked about how talks broke down, they never talked outside of trying to get me to do what they wanted me to do, which is coexist, and that’s something I never wanted," she said. "I stand by that. I've said it so many times."
The singer added that she told Scott, Kelley and Haywood in previous conversations that she "didn't think coexistence would work." And while the group told her they would "do their best efforts at insuring that my name could stay out in the forefront," she is already experiencing the negative impacts of sharing a name with the country trio.
"Now you can't find me anywhere, so their ability to keep their word was false," White said. "Their best efforts were hollow; they didn't mean what they said. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been erased. I have new fans sending me emails asking how to get my music because they can't find me anywhere."
RELATED VIDEO: Band Formerly Known as Lady Antebellum Files Lawsuit Against Lady A After Singer Asks for $10 Million
White continued to say that it is "ironic" that in an effort to escape a name with racist undertones, the band is appropriating the name that a successful Black woman has been using for years.
"They claim to be allies and that they wanted to change their name out of the racist connotation, and then they sue a Black woman for the new name," White said.
White said that she felt like the band's efforts to collaborate with her and to "coexist" were not sincere.
"I said it'd be nice to do a song together — to do a documentary on allyship and how we could come together on this — but I still didn't think coexistence could work. I said that from the beginning and I'll never change my view on that," she said, explaining that she only ended up asking for a monetary settlement so that she would be able to rebrand herself.
"They wanted a story that showed us getting along," White said, referencing a Zoom call that involved herself and Scott, Kelley and Hayword that both Lady As shared on Instagram on June 15.
"They wanted me to make them look good in the eyes of the public, and that's why that Zoom call was so important to them," White said. "It wasn't important to me. I went along with it figuring maybe they'd keep at their word, but that didn't happen."
"I'd never asked for a dime, but they weren't listening to me, and I knew they weren't being genuine," White continued, adding that a "real ally" puts "your money where your mouth is [and] you put your words into action."
"They tell a story that I asked for $10 million, but they didn't tell the true story, and they didn't say why I did it. I saw this wasn't going anywhere and they erased me," White said.
"So what do you think I’m going to do? I have to rebrand myself. I don't want to have to share a name with you. And you shouldn't be allowed to just get a slap on the wrist. I wanted my name. All I ever wanted was to keep my name in the blues genre doing what I did. I should not have to bend to [the band’s] will because they’ve got money."
White said that if the trio claims to be allies to the Black community, "they are lying to the American public."
"This is what kills me about white privilege," she said, adding that she never saw the group referred to as "Lady A" in the past, only as "Lady Antebellum." (Fans of the country trio have referred to them as "Lady A" since 2006.)
"Their advantages let them do whatever it is they want to do. They have people in their camp to go out and get these trademarks. I never had that. I managed myself, I booked myself, I put my brand name out there. 'Lady A' has been tattooed on my shoulder for over 20 years."
White added that her fight "isn’t just about me. I didn’t ask for that money just for me. If I give up my name or share my name, I’d be a sellout to my people."
White concluded by saying the "ideal situation" would be for the country band to change their name again — to something completely unrelated to their old one.
"Lady Antebellum to Lady A didn't change the connotation or yield to them being inclusive," she explained. "They are yet again using their privilege to take because I don't want to share in the name. They brought this to the forefront. I didn't. If they had been true to their word, their name would have completely changed. They have the means and the power."
"We have to remember the reason for the name change," she concluded. "If that wasn’t the true reason for the name change, none of this makes sense."
At the time of the band's filing Wednesday, Haywood, Kelley and Scott said in a statement that, "We are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended. She and her team have demanded a $10 million payment, so reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that we need to ask a court to affirm our right to continue to use the name Lady A, a trademark we have held for many years."
The band continued, "It was a stirring in our hearts and reflection on our own blindspots that led us to announce a few weeks ago that we were dropping the word 'Antebellum' from our name and moving forward using only the name so many of our fans already knew us by. When we learned that Ms. White had also been performing under the name Lady A, we had heartfelt discussions with her about how we can all come together and make something special and beautiful out of this moment."
"We never even entertained the idea that she shouldn’t also be able to use the name Lady A, and never will – today’s action doesn’t change that. Instead, we shared our stories, listened to each other, prayed and spent hours on the phone and text writing a song about this experience together. We felt we had been brought together for a reason and saw this as living out the calling that brought us to make this change in the first place," they said.
"We're disappointed that we won’t be able to work together with Anita for that greater purpose. We’re still committed to educating ourselves, our children and doing our part to fight for the racial justice so desperately needed in our country and around the world. We’ve only taken the first small steps and will prioritize racial equality as a key pillar of the work of LadyAID, specifically leaning into supporting and empowering our youth. We hope Anita and the advisers she is now listening to will change their minds about their approach. We can do so much more together than in this dispute."