Lady A's Charles Kelley says band 'knew we were going to alienate a lot of fans' with name change

Raechal Shewfelt
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·4 min read

Members of the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum knew not everyone was going to agree with their decision to change their name, as they did in June. They thought it was important enough to do it anyway.

“You know we’re trying to leave the world a little bit better too for our kids and the next generation,” Charles Kelley said Monday on the Tamron Hall Show. “And we want to be a part of change. We knew this was going to be difficult. We knew we were going to alienate a lot of fans, you know we didn’t see some of these other things coming, but it hasn't changed how we’ve tried.”

Dave Haywood, Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley make up Lady A. (Photo: Trae Patton/NBC)
Dave Haywood, Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley make up Lady A. (Photo: Trae Patton/NBC)

The trio made the move to disassociate themselves with the period of America’s history that includes slavery. Instead, they permanently adopted Lady A, the nickname they said fans have called them for years.

Lead singer Hillary Scott reiterated that the musicians were affected by watching developments in the Black Lives Matter movement.

“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,” Scott said. “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.”

Kelley called the band’s use of the word “antebellum” since 2006 the result of a “blind spot,” which is the word that resonated most with him in 2020.

“And I think I am so guilty of... I didn’t think about it,” Kelley said. “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. You know, we’re trying to leave the world a little bit better too for our kids and the next generation.”

As Dave Haywood said, they came to the conclusion they needed an official change after a lot of listening.

“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,” Haywood said. “And our goal was to find out the heart behind what ‘antebellum’ could bring up for some, and unanimously, it brought up hardship. So this decision was simple for us, we’ve been going by ‘Lady A’ since 2006. And I was just going through my journal the other day and, man, the common denominator with all of 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,’ which we decided to do with our organization, Lady Aid, to support some HBCUs and underprivileged communities. So it was not the end, it was the beginning for us.”

Kelley acknowledged the band’s ongoing battle with soul, funk and gospel singer Anita White, who has gone by the name Lady A since the ‘90s. Over the summer, after White, who is Black, noted the group was taking her name, the country act reached out and apologized. White accepted. However, both parties have since sued for the right to use Lady A.

“We’re trying to resolve this issue with Anita and we’re really trying to be a light out there for everybody,” Kelley said. “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.”

As for White, she told Rolling Stone in July that she recognizes the band wants to leave behind any association with racism. But “to do so by taking the name on which I, a Black woman, have built my career in the music industry for over 20 years is ironic. Lady Antebellum to Lady A didn’t change the connotation or yield to them being inclusive. They are yet again using their privilege to take because I don’t want to share in the name.”

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