Lady A's Charles Kelly Explains Why the Group's Name Change Took So Long

After more than a decade as Lady Antebellum, the country trio announced their name change in June amid the Black Lives Matter movement. The group has now weighed in on the public's mixed reaction.

By Samantha Schnurr Dec 21, 2020 10:25 PMTags
Watch: Luke Bryan Calls "Lady A" Name Change "A Mess"

The stars of Lady A are seeing more clearly this year.  

In June amid the Black Lives Matter movement, the longtime country trio announced they were dropping "antebellum" from their name as a result of its ties to American slavery. "When we set out together almost 14 years ago, we named our band after the southern 'antebellum' style home where we took our first photos. As musicians, it reminded us of all the music born in the South that influenced us…southern rock, blues R&B, gospel and of course country," they explained in a statement. "But we are regretful and embarrassed to say that we did not take into account the associations that weigh down this word referring to the period of history before the Civil War, which includes slavery."

The decision was a divisive one with some taking issue with the new name while others criticized the group for not acting sooner. Making matters messier, the name change has since sparked a legal battle between the group and singer Anita White, who has been performing with the name Lady A for more than 30 years. The group filed a lawsuit against the singer in July asking the court to uphold their trademark of the name. 

Reflecting on the public's reaction, Hillary Scott reiterated the intention behind the change six months ago during a virtual interview on Tamron Hall on Dec. 21. 

"The heart of our decision still rings true today as much as it did back in June when we made this announcement," she told Tamron Hall. "I mean, we want our music, and our live shows and, you know, anything that we're a part of, for everyone to feel welcome and invited. And we realized, you know, over the summer I think not touring and watching just this movement happen that is so needed in this country and around the world, we started to see what our part was, what part of our first steps and making a difference could be. And so our name changing was the first step...but you never know how things are going to happen and we never saw that coming." 

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As bandmate Dave Haywood explained on the show, they sought the input of Black people in their lives in making the decision. "I think the experience began with so many conversations with friends of color. We employ several Black people, we spoke to a lot of Black people, in and out of the industry and our goal was to find out the heart behind what 'antebellum' could bring up for some, and unanimously, it brought up hardship," he told Hall. "So, this decision was simple for us."

Still, it came more than a decade after the group's 2008 debut album, which remains named Lady Antebellum. In regard to why the name change took this long, Hall pointed out how the antebellum era has been culturally romanticized. 

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"I think the word to me that resonates the most this year has been 'blind spot.' And I think I am so guilty of...I didn't think about it," Charles Kelley explained to Hall. "You know, we came up with the name thinking about the antebellum home…I don't know. It's so naive now looking back, but I think, as we've grown up, we all have kids now."

"I mean, why now? Well, we're a lot older, we look at the world a lot different," he continued. "We're trying to leave the world a little bit better, too, for our kids and the next generation. And we want to be a part of change."

Though they've encountered some unforeseen challenges, the group didn't anticipate the name change being easy. "We knew we were going to alienate a lot of fans," Kelley acknowledged. "You know, we didn't see some of these other things coming, but it hasn't changed how we've tried. We're trying to resolve this issue with Anita and we're trying to just really be a light out there for everybody. And we know it's going to be tough. It's a very divisive issue, but it shouldn't be a divisive issue. It's just about love."

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