Country Group Lady Antebellum Drops ‘Antebellum’ From Name

The trio says it is "regretful and embarrassed" not to have taken associations with the slavery era into account when choosing the name a decade and a half ago.

Lady Antebellum group photo
John Shearer

Lady Antebellum, one of the most successful groups in country music, announced Thursday that it is dropping the word “antebellum” from its name “after much personal reflection, band discussion, prayer and many honest discussions with some of our closest friends and colleagues.”

The trio will henceforth be known as Lady A, the nickname most fans and colleagues have used almost from the start.

The trio says it is “regretful and embarrassed” not to have taken associations with the slavery era into account when choosing the name a decade and a half ago.

Historically there had been little public pressure on the group to drop or adjust the name, but it had quietly come up as a topic of discussion and sometimes concern in country music circles for years.

“Dear fans,” the group wrote in a public letter, “we have strived for our music to be a refuge… inclusive of all. we’ve watched and listened more than ever these past few weeks, and our hearts have been stirred with conviction, our eyes opened wide to the injustices, inequality and biases black women and men have always faced and continue to face every day. Now, blindspots we didn’t even know existed have been revealed.

“After much personal reflection, band discussion, prayer and many honest discussions with some of our closest friends and colleagues,” the statement continued, “we have decided to drop the word ‘antebellum’ from our name and move forward as Lady A, the nickname our fans gave us almost from the start.

“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. 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. We are deeply sorry for the hurt this has caused and for anyone who has felt unsafe, unseen or unvalued. Causing pain was never our hearts’ intention, but it doesn’t change the fact that indeed, it did just that. So today, we speak up and make a change. We hope you will dig in and join us.”

“We understand that many of you may ask the question, ‘Why have you not made this change until now?’ The answer is that we can make no excuse for our lateness to this realization. What we can do is acknowledge it, turn from it and take action.”

The statement continued with a promise to “search the parts of our hearts that need pruning” and to make a donation to the Equal Justice Initiative.

Among the first to respond on Twitter was Mickey Guyton, the most prominent Black female singer in country, who replied with a series of hearts.

The group also received a laudatory post from Scooter Braun, whose Ithaca Holdings acquired the group’s record company, Big Machine Label Group, last year. Braun said it was his proudest moment since taking the reins.

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While over the past year I have taken pride in the association… Today is the proudest I have been to be a partner of @bigmachinelabelgroup thanks to the now @ladya. Go read their full statement on their page. They have shown bravery to lead and bring change and not wait for it. They didn’t get asked or pressured to do this… they did it because they felt it was right. That’s leadership! They showed compassion for others and took action. They did what music is supposed to do.. bring us together and remind us of our common humanity. Well done and thank you #ladyA ! Everyone this is a big deal. This is leadership within country music and a major statement of change that should be applauded but some will bring heat. Show Lady A a lot of love today and make sure love is the majority! Super super proud . One more thing.. if this message bothers you ask yourself why. Why does it bother you to see someone show compassion to another? Why does it bother you to take away hurt and pain away from someone else? It shouldn’t. Not if you value another they way you value yourself.

A post shared by Scooter Braun (@scooterbraun) on

Other names or symbols associated with Southern heritage that also are associated with slavery have come under fire in the wake of the national protests following George Floyd’s death, with NASCAR making the decision — a seismic one, in that world — to ban Confederate flag imagery from its events.

While some groups with a rowdier image or audience might face some blowback from fans in the South for backing off a name or image that is beloved by many in the region, Lady A is unlikely to face that kind of backlash, since the trio has always maintained a gentler attitude and has a fan base that is likely to support the move.

Lady Antebellum is best known among non-country fans for its pop-crossover smash “Need You Now,” which won record of the year and song of the year at the 2011 Grammys.