Blues singer Lady A responds to Lady A(ntebellum)’s suit: “I am not going to be erased”
Blues singer Lady A, aka Seattle artist Anita White (who has been using "Lady A" for over 20 years), has responded to the lawsuit from country pop band Lady A (who changed their name from Lady Antebellum last month). In a new interview with Vulture, White says, "You don’t get to just come and take because you have that privilege," speaking of both the band and the music industry in general. "We don’t have that luxury or that privilege, so we need somebody to help us and lift us up."
A quick catch-up for those not following along closely: Country pop group Lady Antebellum announced in June that they were changing their name to Lady A, due to the "hurtful connotations" of "Antebellum" and its ties to the Confederacy and slavery. But it turned out there was already a Black blues artist in Seattle, Anita White, who had been using the name Lady A for over 20 years. After a Zoom meeting, White agreed that the band could also use the name Lady A, but things broke down pretty quickly after that.
The band claim that when those talks broke down, White's attorneys "delivered a draft settlement agreement that included an exorbitant monetary demand" of $10 million. The lawsuit they've now filed does not ask for monetary damages, but an official declaration that the band are lawfully using the Lady A trademark and that their continued use does not infringe on White's rights under state or federal law.
“The first contract they sent [on June 30] had no substance,” White told Vulture. “It said that we would coexist and that they would use their best efforts to assist me on social-media platforms, Amazon, iTunes, all that. But what does that mean? I had suggested on the Zoom call that they go by the Band Lady A, or Lady A the Band, and I could be Lady A the Artist, but they didn’t want to do that.”
White also told Vulture that while the band Lady A's presence grew in the public eye (and on search engines, Spotify and Apple Music), hers shrank. When she tried upload her new independent single via independent distribution service DistroKid, she couldn't verify her name at first and is now "waiting until my July release to see if my single will be buried.”
As for the $10 million she asked for in the latest draft of the coexistence agreement, White tells Vulture it was a request "for the necessary resources to support herself," and planned on using half to help her rebrand and start over, with the other half to go to charity, including organizations that help other independent Black artists.
“I was quiet for two weeks because I was trying to believe that it was going to be okay and that they would realize that it would be easier to just change their name, or pay me for my name,” White says. “Five million dollars is nothing, and I’m actually worth more than that, regardless of what they think. But here we go again with another white person trying to take something from a Black person, even though they say they’re trying to help. If you want to be an advocate or an ally, you help those who you’re oppressing. And that might require you to give up something because I am not going to be erased.”
Related: Jeff Tweedy talked to Rolling Stone recently about the need for reparations for Black artists in the music industry, and his pledge to give 5% of all future publishing royalties to organizations that are working toward racial justice. ”American culture is Black culture. It’s not my place to be this voice of this, but it is real and it is true that [royalty theft] is an unaddressed crime.”
Meanwhile, Deer Tick's John McCauley has given his support to Anita White in the Lady A battle, writing on Instagram, "Your band's name is not Lady A. It never was. Your band's dumbass name is Lady Antebellum. Drop your lawsuit you fucking pigs," adding, "I really, really, really want to stay off social media this year but goshdangit, @ladya is a bunch of fart-sucking imposters and the real Lady A is being sued by these monster-clowns. I’m with the blues singing Lady A 100% all the way! Fuck you, Lady Ante-stupid-name-um! Fuck you! I hate people like you! I’m mad! I’m mad and I love the word fuck! Fuck you, Lady Antebellum, you should be fucking ashamed of your fucking selves. Fuck you. Fuck."