Country band Lady A, formerly Lady Antebellum, sues blues singer Lady A

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Lady Antebellum. Photo via CBS News

In June, the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum announced it would change its name to Lady A to remove any association with slavery. But weeks after appearing to reach an agreement with Seattle-based blues singer Anita White, who has been using the same name for more than a decade, the country group announced on Wednesday it is suing her.

“Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended,” the band members of Lady A said in a statement to CBS News. “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.”

Band members Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and David Haywood decided to sue after “White’s attempt to enforce purported trademark rights in a mark that Plaintiffs have held for more than a decade,” according to the lawsuit. The band is not seeking monetary damages, the lawsuit said.

The band has been using the name Lady A, along with their original band name Lady Antebellum, since 2006-2007, according to the lawsuit. They officially dropped Antebellum from their name on June 11 amid ongoing protests against racial injustice.

“Lady A” became an official trademark for the band in 2011 after no one filed in opposition against the name, according to the suit. “Prior to 2020, White did not challenge, in any way, Plaintiffs’ open, obvious, and widespread nationwide and international use of the Lady A mark as a source indicator,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit does note that White has identified as Lady A since 2010 and that she also features her music on a Spotify artist page. But the suit pointed out that White’s artist page at the time of the court filing had 166 monthly listeners, compared to the band’s more than 7 million.

White’s website says that she performs primarily in the Pacific Northwest, but that she’s also performed internationally. She told Rolling Stone that she has been performing under the stage name Lady A for more than 20 years. Her latest CD is set to release on July 18.

On June 15, White posted a photo of a Zoom call between her and the band on her Instagram page, saying “transparent, honest, and authentic conversations were had.”

“We are excited to share we are moving forward with positive solutions and common ground,” White said in her post. “The hurt is turning into hope. More to come.”

During the call, the musicians discussed “co-writing and jointly recording a new song,” according to the lawsuit.

The next day, White told Newsday that she received a draft agreement from the band’s attorneys, and that she was “not happy about [it].”

“Their camp is trying to erase me and I’ll more to say tomorrow,” she told Newsday. “Trust is important and I no longer trust them.”

White did not immediately respond to CBS News’ request for comment.

White previously told CBS News that following the Zoom call with the band, she had forgiven the band for their “misstep.” She also commended the band for standing up for the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I applaud them for it, and I’m willing to help any way I can and they are wiling to help any way they can. So we’re gonna work together,” she said. “This is where white allies need to start listening to black people, indigenous people, people of color. We need to make sure that you’re listening so that we can change this narrative of racism in this world.”

The band said in a statement that when they realized White had already been performing under the name Lady A, they had “heartfelt discussions with her about how we can all come together and make something special and beautiful out of this moment.”

Their publicist, Tyne Parrish, told CBS News at the time that the artists agreed they could both continue to use Lady A.

“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. …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,” the band said in the lawsuit.

“We’re disappointed that we won’t be able to work together with Anita for that greater purpose,” the suit added. “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 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.”

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