In a new interview with Vulture, Anita White, aka Lady A, the Seattle singer who was sued this week by the country group that is also calling itself Lady A, says she now believes the band was not acting in good faith during what initially seemed like positive and fruitful negotiations in June.
“I think they always knew what they were gonna do,” White tells the website.
The group formerly known as Lady Antebellum contends in the suit that it has the legal trademark on the name, and that it is seeking no damages from her but is merely asking the Tennessee court to establish that both artists can share the moniker. In a statement, the band said negotiations broke down after White’s new intellectual property attorneys asked the country trio for $10 million.
White confirms asking for $10 million in the Vulture interview, and writer Andrea Williams lays out what her intentions had been if the settlement had been agreed to.
Writes Williams, “White says that it was simply a request for the necessary resources to support herself and, perhaps more importantly, the entire Black community. Her plan, she told me, was to use $5 million to rebrand, to start over as an artist with more than 20 years in the game — but without the high-powered label and management machine of a Lady Antebellum. The other $5 million was to be donated to the charities of her choice, including organizations that provide support to other independent Black artists.”
Since the demand was made by her attorneys on July 3 — and apparently quickly rejected by the Nashville group’s attorneys — “I was quiet for two weeks,” White says in the article, “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. Five million dollars is nothing, and I’m actually worth more than that, regardless of what they think.”
She continued, “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.”
The lawsuit filed by the group formerly known as Lady Antebellum contends that the band applied for the legal trademark “Lady A” in 2010 and was granted it in 2011, even though White released her first album in 2010. The use of it by both acts dates even further back — to 2006, in the band’s case, when they began using it as a nickname upon coming to national attention; in White’s case, to the turn of the century, when she was using it for her more modest gigs in the Northwest.
Lady Antebellum announced in early June that they were formally changing their name to their less offensive nickname out of sensitivity to racial considerations, saying they had become better educated about the associations that “antebellum” has with the Confederacy and slavery in the South. The existence of another long-standing Lady A apparently came as a shock to the group and its reps, who were quickly attacked for not having done the research to know their nickname had already been used by a Black artist for her recordings for years.
On June 15, tensions seem to have eased when White and the group participated in a Zoom call; both took to social media afterward to say that fruitful negotiations were underway and healing was in sight. But Williams writes that White felt pressured when she was “repeatedly asked to take a picture they could post on social media.”
Williams makes her position clear in the article: “Black folk know this game; we have a Ph.D. in white supremacy, even if white folk themselves feign ignorance of its existence,” she writes. “This pivoting and PR spinning has been deployed ad infinitum to turn white victor into wannabe victim, to wrap the already powerless in suffocating layers of guilt and shame.
The Vulture writer acknowledges that it’s possible the country act could have the upper hand, legally, with its trademark of 11 years standing. But, she adds, “It is almost comical that, even if the band thought legal force was the best way to move forward, they would actually follow through with it now … If nothing else, this unabashed disregard for the damning optics of their lawsuit further speaks to the racist bubble of country music and the ease with which folk inside of it can move as they please, Black lives be damned.”
In their statement Wednesday, the band said, ““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.” They said they had actually started writing a song together that they would jointly release — something touched on in the new article, with White telling Williams that the group wanted to record their collaboration, documentary-style, a suggestion the singer soured on as negotiations broke down in the last two weeks.
“You don’t get to just come and take because you have that privilege,” White says, talking about how little the legal trademark matters from her perspective, and why she felt justified in asking for more than the band was willing to give up. “We don’t have that luxury or that privilege, so we need somebody to help us and lift us up.”