Category: Article

Opry Entertainment launches exclusive artist-curated merchandise line with LBT

Opry Entertainment, together with Opry member group Little Big Town, took friends and family to the “boondocks” earlier this week to celebrate the debut of their exclusive artist-curated merchandise line.

The line, which features a collection inspired by lyrics in Little Big Town’s hit song, “Boondocks,” is part of a larger retail collaboration between Opry Entertainment and the CMA/ACM Vocal Group of the year. Three additional collections, each inspired by Little Big Town’s music, will be announced throughout the year.

“The relationship we have with Little Big Town is a special one that began over 15 years ago when they first appeared on the Opry stage,” said Opry Entertainment COO Michael Guth. “Opry Entertainment is uniquely positioned to help share their stories and deepen connections with their fans through the residency at the historic Ryman Auditorium, through our social and digital channels, and now through this exciting retail collection.”

As revealed in a special Opry House backstage launch party, the merchandise collection celebrates the southern living that inspired one of Little Big Town’s biggest hits. The members of Little Big Town –Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook–were on hand before their finale performance on Tuesday’s Grand Ole Opry to talk about the inspiration and personal stories behind the collection which includes apparel, leather goods, jewelry, and totes, among other items.

“There’s so much of where—as the song says—we all came from ingrained in each of these pieces,” said Fairchild. “We can’t wait to share it with our friends and fans and see what everyone thinks.”

“We’re excited about this collection and its companion collections coming later this year,” said Kim O’Dell, Opry Entertainment vice president, retail. “Little Big Town’s great style reaches beyond just the group’s music into fashion, home goods, and more. It has been an honor to develop a line that is so reflective of this group’s individual and collective passions. I know their fans across the globe are going to love having another way to share in the feel-good fun that is Little Big Town.”

The merchandise collection is exclusively available on Opry Entertainment websites and in Opry Entertainment retail stores in Nashville, TN.

The launch of the collection marks the latest of several recent milestones for Little Big Town. Earlier this year, their new album, The Breaker, debuted No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and No. 4 on the Billboard 200, marking the group’s fourth Top 10 project on the Billboard 200 chart. The album features their current hit at country radio, “Happy People” as well the two-week #1 single, “Better Man.” The group is also currently in the middle of its 2017 residency at Opry Entertainment’s lauded Ryman Auditorium, in celebration of the venue’s 125-year history. For more information on residency dates, visit www.LittleBigTown.com.

Kimberly Schlapman Is Launching a New Dishware Collection: ‘Cooking Is Just My Passion’

Kimberly Schlapman might rule the stage when she performs with her band Little Big Town, but at home, her kitchen is where she really shines.

Cooking is just my passion,” she tells PEOPLE.

The 47-year-old mom of two has been living her country music dream daily for years, but now she’s moving forward on a different goal that highlights her culinary aspirations: launching her Love & Daisies dishware line on HSN.

My first set of dishes my daddy bought for me when I was a little girl. And I still have them today,” she says. “I meet no stranger when it comes to a pretty dish. So when I found out we could do this beautiful line of kitchen and home things with HSN, I was like, ‘I’m in.’

The collection, which includes essentials like pans and knife sets, will debut on April 19th. The whimsical designs are inspired by Schlapman’s childhood, flea market finds and her love of cooking, which she’s passed on to another member of the household (who also makes a cameo in the line’s name).

[Daisy]’s been cooking since she could hardly stand up. She started on a stool by the counter just like I did,” Schlapman says of her oldest daughter, who became a big sister to baby Dolly in January 2017. “She used to put way too much baking soda in everything and it was wretched. But my husband would always eat it. Sometimes I would have to fake it,” she says, adding, “She still makes up her own recipes but now they’re really tasty.

He may be a champ when it comes to testing Daisy’s concoctions, but that’s about as advanced as Schlapman’s husband, Stephen, gets in the kitchen.

He’s cooked for me twice,” the singer says with a laugh. “When we were dating he made grilled salmon. It was amazing. I was like, ‘And he can cook!’ But then he didn’t cook for me for ten years. It’s ok, he can do everything else. I’ll cook for him.

Source: People

Billboard article + photoshoot: LBT, Nashville Royalty With an Outlaw Streak, Wants to Heal America


The members of Little Big Town — Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet, and Karen Fairchild and Jimi Westbrook, who have been married since 2006 — choose to believe that, in Westbrook’s words, “music always unites.” “We have simple things we fall back on as a foundation of the band,” explains Fairchild one recent afternoon in a drafty but bright downtown Nashville loft. “Family, faith, taking care of each other.” Which may be why they’re somewhat at a loss to weigh in on what’s happening just four blocks away, at the Municipal Auditorium, where President Donald Trump has staged a rally timed to the 250th birthday of Andrew Jackson. Roads have been closed, news cameras dispatched and thousands of people have gathered, despite the mid-March cold snap, to participate in — or protest — the event.
Fairchild, 47, who was busy choosing the band’s outfits for that day’s photo shoot, didn’t even realize Trump was in town. “That’s why all those people were out there with the hats on,” Westbrook, 45, points out to his wife in a tone of gentle amusement, referring to the wearers of “Make America Great Again” ball caps he’d spotted from the second-story window. Fairchild was “happier” not even knowing about the nearby spectacle, notes Schlapman, 47.

Indeed, the polarizing scene down the street clashes with the convivial conversation, fueled by paper cups of red wine, about the ability of music — in particular, country-pop like Little Big Town’s, all feathery, four-part harmonies, easy sentimentality and stylistic fluidity — to bring people together. But it also fits right into it: Before Trump came up, the band was discussing how the combination of politics and social media feeds an ugly impulse, as Westbrook says, to “tear people down.

Little Big Town is hardly radical in the context of pop music, and while it’s often compared to Fleetwood Mac, its four members agreeably sharing two tour buses — as they do now, with spouses and preadolescent kids in tow — is a far cry from the cocaine-dusted, partner-trading ’70s exploits of John, Stevie, Lindsey, Mick and Christine. Lindsey Buckingham even told them that they were wise to limit the romantic pairings in the group to the one between Westbrook and Fairchild. (The two have a son. Schlapman is married with two daughters, and Sweet, 43, has a daughter with his wife.)

But in Music City, LBT is unique: It’s a coed vocal group that’s progressive but not polarizing and as steeped in soft-rock smoothness as it is in country’s core values of rootedness and authenticity. “They don’t sound like anybody else,” says Vince Gill, who asked them to sing harmony on his 2016 album Down to My Last Bad Habit. “In the history of country music, there’s nobody like them.” At this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards, LBT won vocal group of the year — its fourth win in the category.

The act is also open to — and adept at — reaching across musical aisles. It has performed with Ariana Grande; covered Alicia Keys, Oasis and Katy Perry; and in major TV appearances been called upon to honor both David Bowie and (at the 2017 Grammys, where it appeared twice) the Bee Gees. In 2016, LBT released a surprise album, Wanderlust, produced by hip-hop wizard Pharrell Williams, and while on tour, played Beyoncé’s Lemonade on repeat. When Beyoncé and the Dixie Chicks stole the show at last November’s Country Music Association Awards, the whole band was thrilled. Sweet, who says he found the backlash to the genre-bridging performance “bizarre,” remembers thinking, “‘Man, country is legit right now.’

In other words, nearly 20 years since it initially formed and 15 since it released its first album, Little Big Town is not only Nashville royalty — with eight top 10 country singles, three No. 1 country albums and a 2016 Ryman Auditorium residency, the first in the history of the venue, among its credits — but a designated ambassador to the wider music universe. “Little Big Town fits a broader stage because of their musicality,” says Cindy Mabe, president of Universal Music Group Nashville. “They have the ability to bend genres and appeal to worldwide audiences.” The band’s Jay Joyce produced latest album, The Breaker, debuted at No. 1 on Top Country Albums and No. 4 on the Billboard 200 in late February and includes the group’s most recent hit, “Better Man,” which was written by none other than country-pop crossover queen Taylor Swift.

But it was “Girl Crush,” LBT’s No. 18 Billboard Hot 100 hit from 2015, that first won the band mainstream recognition — and also encapsulates how it (gently) challenges Nashville pieties. (Music Row aces Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose wrote the song.) Some radio listeners were scandalized by the lyrics, sung by Fairchild, in which a jealous woman fantasizes about her female rival. “We were secretly hoping people would use their brain power a little better and listen to the whole song, as opposed to just shut it off after they hear this one thing,” says Sweet. It wasn’t even the allusion to same-sex attraction that had the group concerned ahead of the single’s release: The song is a ballad with a 6/8 time signature. “Just the sheer tempo was controversial” for country radio — then dominated by rowdier party tracks — says Fairchild.

The intrigue over “Girl Crush,” naturally, helped attract pop fans. The track also won LBT two Grammys, for best country song and best country duo/group performance. “We ran into pop artists at the Grammys that had never given the band a look,” says Sweet. “Nick Jonas loved ‘Girl Crush.’

In 1998, Fairchild and Schlapman, friends from their time together in a choir at Alabama’s Samford University, handpicked Westbrook and Sweet to round out a coed quartet. The vision, which Fairchild now describes as “barefoot in Saint Laurent,” was to blend down-home warmth with decadent harmonies. LBT quickly joined the new-artist circuit with Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan, who began racking up hits while the quartet watched first one, then another label deal disintegrate. The band weathered divorces — Fairchild’s and Sweet’s — the sudden death of Schlapman’s first husband and new marriages all around.

It wasn’t until LBT had secured an enterprising new manager, Jason Owen, and signed with its third label, Capitol Nashville, that it finally scored a Hot Country Songs No. 1: the lighthearted 2012 summer jam “Pontoon,” its 13th single. And it was years into its recording career before it began writing songs that singled out perspectives from one gender and developed its arrangements into showcases for individual voices in the group. It’s most often Fairchild out front, but during the course of an album, everyone gets their chance.

We try to look for ways to show the individual talents, because we’re proud of each other,” says Sweet. It’s his low, grainy timbre that anchors the vocal blend. Schlapman’s twang supplies effervescence at the high end; she’s by far the most Southern-sounding in the bunch. (She’s also the one with the Southern cooking show — not to mention a nimbus of blond curls that might be the group’s most distinctive visual element.) Westbrook has a smooth tenor that sits closest to Fairchild’s broody alto.

They write from the perspective of the melody and how the harmonies will work together,” says Lori McKenna, who has written numerous songs for the band. “The way they line up the harmonies and the words is magic.

Theirs is an egalitarian outfit, but one shaped by the personas of the two women who got the ball rolling. Westbrook calls Fairchild, a fashionista who launched a Macy’s clothing line in 2016, “our big-city girl.” “Being Southern doesn’t mean you’re stupid,” says Fairchild, who was born in Gary, Ind., but like the rest of her bandmates has spent most of her life below the Mason-Dixon line. “And being a woman in country music doesn’t mean that you’re simpleminded. You can be a complex, powerful businesswoman — and there’s a lot of that in this business. We have a lot of role models.
The male members of LBT, maintains Westbrook with a wry grin, “don’t have side projects.” He’s the least serious of the four, or at least, the one most easily amused by face-warping Snapchat filters. Sweet, on the other hand, has the mindful air of an introvert who has learned to speak up, though he has a knack for entertaining the children with hand puppets — adults, too, when the whiskey comes out on the bus late at night.

All of their families travel with them. At this point, Schlapman’s the only one with a baby, her recently adopted daughter Dolly Grace, onboard. The three oldest children treat one another like siblings and regularly commander the green room for impromptu performances by their own band, Little Big Kids. Schlapman’s and Sweet’s daughters Daisy and Penelopi write folk songs together and strum an acoustic guitar flat across their laps like an Appalachian dulcimer. “Daisy’s dying for us to cut a Christmas record, because she has a song to pitch to us,” says Schlapman.

Lately, Westbrook and Fairchild’s son Elijah has been telling them he prefers Bruno Mars and INXS to country. But he’s hardly impervious to his parents’ musical world. A couple of weeks ago, Fairchild caught him practicing hip-thrusting dance moves. “I said, ‘Where did you learn that?’ ” she says. “And he goes, ‘That’s my Luke Bryan dance.’ Thanks, Luke.

It’s Swift, meanwhile, that LBT has to thank for its latest hit. She emailed Sweet “Better Man,” an anguished confession of a woman reflecting on her ex’s callousness, in 2016. That Swift, who’s not in the habit of offering her compositions to other artists, chose Little Big Town as her conduit back to the country airwaves says all one needs to know about the group’s current stature. Even so, the act got her blessing to play coy about its authorship for a bit — crediting it to a “young singer- songwriter from Nashville” — lest the song’s impact be overshadowed by people fixated on figuring out which of Swift’s former flings had inspired it. “Better Man” was beginning its climb up the Hot Country Songs and Country Airplay charts when LBT admitted Swift wrote it, and a slew of Swifties were turned on to the band.

Little Big Town’s latest single, “Happy People,” is about the closest the group has gotten to a pointed political statement, which is to say, not close at all — Westbrook says the song is “a statement about humanity.” With their breezy delivery, Fairchild and her bandmates suggest that living in a world of difference isn’t a zero-sum game, that coexisting can actually add to people’s sense of well-being. “Here’s to whatever puts a smile on your face/Whatever makes you happy, people,” sings Fairchild.

There’s probably not a house in America that’s not divided right now, disagreeing about things going on in the country,” she says. “If you can’t learn to look across the table and go, ‘I love you and I totally disagree with you, but hey, let’s have a glass of wine…’” she trails off.

Why is it now OK to say horrible things about people?” echoes Schlapman, lamenting the venomous tone of social media. “Why is it now normal?

Because they didn’t go to Camp Elegance,” Fairchild shoots back, eliciting laughter. “They didn’t go to Mr. Manners class like we all did.” “Hashtag ‘bring back manners,’” says Schlapman.

Source: Billboard

Think Country reviews ‘The Breaker’

Little Big Town welcome their eight studio album. The new album is called The Breaker and includes 12 tracks one of which, already radio released and one other due for release.

Kicking off the album is, ‘Happy People’ a light yet catching song, with a subtle beat that is accompanied by soft vocals, when we are led in to the chorus it makes you want to sing and clap along to the song, therefore its title being successful indeed a highlight of the album and at only 2:47 in total, it does well to create such impact, thumbs up!

Night on our side, is straight in their with punching harmonies, something this band are the award winning at! The tempo is turned up slightly and includes a bit more depth in sound, which comes well in choice from previous song and is a welcome addition in track listing.

Another feel good addition is ‘Driving Around’, a sharp introduction and flawless harmony by the Little Big town girls, has you feeling the lyrics and structure immediately. The hook that is the chorus, and the extended emphasis on ‘Cruise’ and ‘Sky’ works well and personally echo’s back to the feel of their song ‘Pontoon’ it has the ability to have you instantly drawn in and it leaves an impression on you. A possible, track to be added to a summer playlist.

‘Better Man’ is their most recently released single and was written by Taylor Swift and has topped US hot country songs and US country airplay #1, it is a powerful song, a song of which people will relate too, it has a really well filmed music video for it which features the band playing different roles. This is certainly another top track for me on the album.

Throughout this album what is evident is what good pace and flow and consideration they have taken to track listing, when a slower tempo track is in place it is followed by a punchier number and that is apparent that straight after ‘Better Man’ comes ‘Rollin’ it has a edgy rocking guitar riff and sits well within this album.

‘When Someone Stops Loving You’ is a beautifully written song, it captures the essence of what everyone goes through, in break ups and relationships, I really enjoyed listening to this song and I feel it was creatively written and it empowers emotions retains your attention throughout.

Featured last on the album is the title track, it is a perfect ending to a great album and includes a playful melody, a perfect way to end.

THINK COUNTRY RATING 9/10

OVERALL:

Another perfectly delivered album by the group, it includes a variety in style and tempo and did not loose my attention in any way, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it and would certainly keep it within easy reach and would highly recommend it.

TRACK LISTING

1. “Happy People”
2. “Night on Our Side”
3. “Lost in California”
4. “Free”
5. “Drivin’ Around”
6. “We Went to the Beach”
7. “Better Man”
8. “Rollin’”
9. “Don’t Die Young, Don’t Get Old”
10. “Beat Up Bible”
11. “When Someone Stops Loving You”
12. “The Breaker”

Fearless Foursome

LITTLE BIG TOWN BOLDLY REPRESENTS THE MODERN SOUTH

KAREN FAIRCHILD, KIMBERLY SCHLAPMAN, PHILLIP SWEET AND JIMI WESTBROOK may well be the nicest people in country music. And that’s magnified by the fact that as Little Big Town, the foursome also makes some of the genre’s smartest and most progressive music. Always willing, always seeking, it’s given the band—which was equal parts Fleetwood Mac, dream syndicate and The Oak Ridge Boys before Jimmy Buffett tapped them to sing background vocals on his early albums—a career that’s manifested everything they’d ever wanted. Since the two women met at summer choir camp, LBT has weathered labels closing, the death of a spouse, a slow climb and a bit of controversy, while consistently making fearless choices.

As the hits accumulated—“Boondocks,” “Girl Crush,” “Pontoon,” “Tornado,” “Day Drinking” and now “Better Man”—artists from John Mellencamp to Pharrell Williams reached out to collaborate, Lindsey Buckingham shared an episode of CMT’s Crossroads, and Miranda Lambert tapped them for her yearning (and Vocal Event-winning) “Smoking and Drinking.” LBT have won a pair of Grammys and own the Vocal Group categories at the various country music awards shows—as well as regularly populating the Album, Song and Single categories.

Their latest LP, The Breaker, is easily their strongest work in a career of genre-pushing songs and singles. Since signing with Sandbox Entertainment’s Jason Owen, the group has been turning up in fascinating places—cooking shows, clothing lines and books—but it always remains about the music. With a first-ever residency at the Ryman Auditorium underway, Little Big Town took time out of a busy schedule to assess the strengths, faith, hope and music that have brought them here.

There is no act in modern country music that has your against-all-odds, nine-lives ability for survival. It’s uncanny.
Jimi Westbrook: I would say we are definitely scrappers and fighters and strivers.
Phillip Sweet: Early on, we all looked at each other and said, “We aren’t going to let somebody be the boss of this. We are going to—no matter what—make sure it comes down to us. And we are going to keep it alive.”
Karen Fairchild: No matter what happened, we never talked about quitting. I remember one truck stop, 16 years ago, driving all night to get to Boston. It was 2am, and Kimberly said, “What are we doing?” It was crazy—not in a bad way, but more of a “How are we going to do this?” Because it’s hard, and we ran into a lot of stuff. But there was never an option to quit.

Was there ever a moment when it felt like it wasn’t going to happen for you?
KF: There were maybe moments. Early on, when I’d left a party in town or a show, and success was so close but so far away, I cried a lot of quiet tears in private. I think we all did at different times.

What did success look like to you back then?
KF: I remember thinking, “If I could only have health insurance and a car that started in the rain.” The bus used to drop me off, the short time we had one before we lost our record deal; if it was raining, the van or the bus would have to take me to my apartment. I’d have to leave my car in the Kroger parking lot and come back when it was dry.
Kimberly Schlapman: From the first time we struck a chord in my living room in the fall of 1998, there was a bond between us. The way our voices sounded together was something else, and we were all addicted to the chemistry of it.
KF: We were just four young kids, with dreams and very lofty goals and expectations, trying to figure it out. But we loved listening to each other sing. From the very first chord, there was this buzz you get from hearing those harmonies.
JW: We knew—at all those times—we had so much to offer, and we felt we’d never had our chance, so we would become more determined. And we were also protectors of the music. Six months into your career, to make the decision to ask out of a record deal? That’s crazy—but that was our confidence and belief in what we had to offer.

Ultimately, it turned out more than all right. And what’s most heartening is that it seems like it was the music that pushed you guys forward.
JW: That’s where our belief came from—our love of music. We wanted to make great music, music that matters.
PS: We push ourselves, or try to. We’ve had people come up to us and say, “You could sing the phonebook and make it sound pretty,” but that wouldn’t feel good to us. We don’t wanna go somewhere obvious.
Schlapman: That’s been intentional. [laughs]. There are songs on the radio that have been huge hits, but they just didn’t say as much as we wanted, or they didn’t go somewhere musically. Because that’s important to us.

It shows. You guys draw people to you—from Pharrell Williams to John Mellencamp, David Nail to Miranda Lambert. As different as those artists are, you wear them like all like a second skin.
JW: You brought up John Mellencamp. When we came out of those sessions, we were changed. That was a marked moment. We were on a couch in a studio, being challenged by him to be a better group, better artists.
PS: He was railing at us: “You don’t need to be cutting that fluffy shit. You need to be cutting ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,’ songs that matter.” His pushing us really did make us stronger.

One of the things that stuck out: “Boondocks” was a call to pride, a real statement of being Southern and down with it.
KF: If you’d asked us what kind of music we made 18 years ago, we’d have said, “We do Southern American music—driven by an acoustic guitar.” That was who we were. And we wrote “Boondocks” almost out of spite. When we first started, people would look at us, and say, “They look like some band a producer put together. Let’s dress them like the cast of Friends—it’ll be huge.” And we wrote that song to really tell people who we were.
Schlapman: “Boondocks” always has been and always will be that song that gets people really excited. It’s the most prideful for sure, because for everyone, where you come from, you’re really proud of it. With a few exceptions, I know. But for us, when we wrote that, we were out to prove who we were. People had so many questions because of how we looked, and that song answered them all [laughs].

You all look very fashion-forward, yet you’re really the embodiment of the modern South. Beyond the clichés, you bring this fresh face to what it is to be Southern.
KS: I think it comes from our bones—we were all raised by Southern people, with those roots and those values. That informs everything we do, and there’s not any way around that. It wouldn’t be authentic.
PS: I feel like that came through even more on this record. That’s who we are; that’s our heart. And it comes out in the songs. We grew up as conservative as you can imagine, as small-town and religious, as you’d think—although one of us didn’t. But those values? It’s everything to us.

On the heels of a pretty freewheeling project with Pharrell, The Breaker returns you to Jay Joyce. It’s more focused, and yet it’s arguably your broadest record to date.
JW: We love working with Jay, because he believes in music and it’s where he comes from too. With this record, all the good and bad, we’re more comfortable in our skin—and what we have to offer—and I think you hear it.
KF: Every record is a photo book of our lives, and a time capsule. Maybe because of the Pharrell record, which was so free and different from the way we’d made records, we came back. With Jay, all things are possible, and there are all these layers and effects, and why not?
Schlapman: He was so free and open in the studio, just throwing out ideas and trying things. He chased any idea. It really gave us a whole new freshness in the studio with Jay. We were inspired in a new way, had a different kind of confidence—and he captured that, really put it to good use.

How?
KF: Take “Happy People.” We always thought that song was really profound—especially with what’s going on in the world. It’s very simple when you listen, but Jay had a vision. There’s that train groove underneath; the linear loopiness of the drum beat. It was so many different things and ideas. Jay’s a master of taking all those ideas and all this music that seeps in, and creating something unlike anything else.
PS: I love “Don’t Die Young, Don’t Get Old.” It was written around the time my sister passed away, and the bridge reminds me of my family and all the pieces of going through it together. But there’s so much hope to it, so much light.
JW: And the cousin to that feeling is “Night on Our Side,” the living in that moment. Maybe you’re going to live forever for just a moment, just for tonight. There’s such a feeling of freedom and happiness, to be so in the moment. And the harmonies and the track just hold that. I love the bridge: “Who says we can’t defy gravity? Let’s start a revolution.”

Songs have always been really important for you. Whether it was “Pontoon” really pushing you to the next level, or “Girl Crush” creating…I don’t even know what.
KF: When you connect on a real level, like “Girl Crush” did, or “Boondocks,” which made people feel pride. You might be someone’s theme song, or the only way they can access their heartbreak.
PS: And with “Girl Crush,” I think saying it in those ways makes people reconsider.
JW: It wasn’t hard to understand the metaphor.
PS: I remember thinking, “Wow! Really?! This proves people aren’t really listening to the songs.”
Schlapman: Honestly, it hurt my feelings. We don’t care to push any agenda on people. We were trying to identify with people who were deeply hurt—and we’ve all been there—and show that pain.
JW: It’s also us wanting to push other people to be more accepting, to push their boundaries a little and how they see the world. We all have our darker sides, that’s life in general, but you realize you can look at everything with love and see that instead.
Schlapman: And then, as light as “Pontoon” is, I was at the FedEx place and this mother came up to me. She told me how much the song means to their family, because it’s about a boat, but it’s about their family and roots and making memories. Those things in the world are precious to people—and it reminds you.

And then there’s the song from Taylor Swift. What’s it like to get a song from Taylor?
PS: We couldn’t get enough of that melody; it just entranced us all. While we were out on the road with Luke Bryan, we were playing it all the time in our dressing room. He was like, “You better get back home and cut that.”
JW: What a great country chorus. It proves she can do anything. And she’s never done that, never sent another artist a song. I wanna think she had a vision.
PS: Yeah, it was an email, just like it would be from any songwriter friend. “Hey, I know you’re in the process of making a record; I’ve got this song I’d like you to consider. I can hear your harmonies all over it.”
JW: She knew she wasn’t gonna cut it. She’s such a musical person, so creative and always inside the music. So she had a vision.

It’s been a massive #1, but it was decided not to reveal her identity.
JW: The reason we were quiet is simple. She’s the biggest pop star in the world, and there are certain things that come with that. It’s a beautiful song, the record is beautiful—especially with Karen’s rich, lush vocal—and we wanted people to hear that. But when Taylor writes a song called “Better Man,” everybody wants to know who it is. So for her, and for the record, we thought we’d wait to tell people who it was. Taylor thought it was a great idea too. She wanted to know how the song would be taken.

It’s fascinating that Taylor even wrote a paper on you guys for school. Do you know what grade she got on it?
PS: She’s such an overachiever, I’m sure she got an A+++.
JW: I’m inclined to wonder what the teacher thought, if he even knew who we were. It was about perseverance, and I wonder what he made of that—a group he’d never heard of.

LBT are the first artists doing a residency at the Ryman. We talked about how you represent the modern South, but you’re also lifting up its past.
KF: We take being Opry members very seriously, and doing this residency is part of it. Handing off the tradition to the next generation: you look at Bill Anderson, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless and you think you’re part of that. Brad Paisley called us “the Guardians of the Opry,” and that was maybe the ultimate compliment. The traditions of it, like sitting around the dressing rooms singing. We do that a lot [with] Luke Bryan, Dustin Lynch, even Blake Shelton, just sitting around singing old country songs.

At the end of the day, it’s the chemistry, isn’t it?
Schlapman: We’ve always given each other hope. When it was flailing for so many years, and nobody really cared what we were doing, we had each other. We had nothing else, but so many times, we’d find ourselves looking at each other, going, “How’d we get here?” And we’d laugh.
KF: And when one of us was struggling, there were three other people to carry the load. It helps.
PS: Music, too. It’s beyond anything else out there. It touches people’s lives, lifts them up, motivates them like nothing else. It’s not easy. If you don’t love it, you won’t last. But us? It’s why we’re still climbing on buses and getting up early and making it the energy that our lives run on.
Schlapman: We believe in that, also. If we have a mantra or philosophy, it’s that there’s always hope. Maybe we were forced to be all heart because there was no sensation. But if it had been a faster journey, maybe some of the heart might’ve fallen off. After everything, we are who we are. We’re OK with it. Hopefully, the people are too.

Source: Hits Daily Double

LBT to perform on the “52nd Academy of Country Music Awards”

The first round of performers for the 52ND ACADEMY OF COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS™ has been announced and includes ACM Award nominees Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, and Maren Morris. Plus, the Backstreet Boys will make their debut appearance at Country Music’s Party of the Year®,performing with Florida Georgia Line for a must-see performance. The ACM Awards will broadcast live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas Sunday, April 2 (live 8:00-11:00 PM, ET/delayed PT) on the CBS Television Network.

As previously announced, Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley will return to co-host the 52nd ACM Awards, which honors and showcases the biggest names and emerging talent in country music, and is produced for television by dick clark productions.

Additional acts and presenters will be announced in the coming weeks. For event updates, tickets and hotel information, please visit www.ACMcountry.com.
The official red carpet pre-show for the 52nd Academy of Country Music Awards™ will live stream exclusively on Twitter on April 2, starting at 3pm PT/6pm ET. The pre-show will be available to logged-in and logged-out audiences on Twitter and connected devices.
Sponsors and partners for the 52nd Academy of Country Music Awards include T-Mobile and Xfinity from Comcast.

The 52ND ACADEMY OF COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS is dedicated to honoring and showcasing the biggest names and emerging talent in the country music industry. The show is produced for television by dick clark productions. Allen Shapiro, Mike Mahan, R.A. Clark, Barry Adelman and Mark Bracco are executive producers. Pete Fisher and Tiffany Moon are executive producers for the Academy of Country Music.

Why Little Big Town’s ‘The Breaker’ Is Made for the Concert Stage

Reliability – that’s been the defining trait of Little Big Town over the course of their nearly 20-year career.

The gifted country quartet – with its signature, exquisite four-part harmony vocals – has worked its way through six solid, intermittently spectacular, kissed-by-classic-rock country albums and one quirky detour into funkier sounds with Pharrell Williams.

They’ve enlivened awards shows: with their own material, with game pop crossovers with folks like Ariana Grande, and are the go-to group for tributes (most recently at a salute to the Bee Gees for an upcoming CBS special). They scored a slew of hits, from 2005’s swampy “Boondocks” to the watershed of the sultry Grammy-winning “Girl Crush.” The group has been generally well-liked, critically-acclaimed and showered with accolades. But each stage of Little Big Town’s growth felt incremental.

But with new album The Breaker and their just-launched residency at Nashville’s iconic Ryman Auditorium, things have exploded exponentially, propelling members Phillip Sweet, Kimberly Schlapman and wife and husband Karen Fairchild and Jimi Westbrook onto another plane.

And it’s clear that the band knows it.

Throughout their promotional tour for The Breaker and during the first two Ryman shows on February 24th and 25th, the veteran group seemed to be seeing itself through new eyes, with each performance sparkling with an electric sense of rebirth.

That palpable excitement is both rare and heartening to witness in artists – of any genre – this deep into their catalog. Onstage at the Ryman on the second night of the residency, it radiated from the stage, with Little Big Town playing The Breaker in its entirety. While normally a risky move, especially for an album so new and unfamiliar to the crowd, it was the perfect showcase for LBT’s renewed vibrancy and the thematic cohesion of the album, produced once again by Jay Joyce (Pain Killer).

Opening with the buoyant “Happy People” – the ideal snapshot of The Breaker, all vibey rhythm and acoustic warmth – the band was off like a shot.
Whether floating through the Laurel Canyon cool of the gauzy “Lost in California,” bringing complex harmonies to the windows-down, radio-blasting anthem “Drivin’ Around” – enlivened this night by feisty songwriter Audra Mae – or lamenting a lover who took a good thing for granted on the winsome Taylor Swift-penned Number One ballad “Better Man,” the singers used their voices to showcase the songs instead of using the songs to showcase their voices. It’s a subtle, but crucial distinction, with the emphasis tilted toward musicianship as opposed to showy self-glorification.

Aided by the intimacy of the venue, the emphasis on new songs also brought into focus the lyrical gems from The Breaker, which is littered with crushing couplets of heartbreak. Among its most poignant is the image of sleeping in the curve of the mattress left by a former lover and ultimately giving up for the couch on the wrenching waltz “When Someone Stops Loving You,” led by Westbrook. Sweet took the lead on the mournful title track (co-written by TJ Osborne of Brothers Osborne), an elegant expression of remorse for not being able to love someone the way they deserved.

While Fairchild may get the lion’s share of lead vocals, both the album and show were a good reminder of how gifted her compatriots are. It also illuminated the members’ sense of humility, seamlessly ceding the spotlight to one another, receding into the background to support their special guests (Chris Stapleton and Sam Hunt made cameos on Night One) and frequently voicing their gratitude to the songwriters whose songs they cut.

Following The Breaker, the group romped through a short greatest-hits set that included the whimsical “Pontoon,” the country-noir rattler “Tornado” and the night’s biggest singalong, that gorgeously messy mix of emotions – longing, jealousy, hurt – “Girl Crush.”

In addition to Audra Mae, soul-pop singer Andra Day joined the group for two songs on Night Two – a stirring rendition of her anthem “Rise Up” and a jubilant run through Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” Opener Ashley Monroe appeared for the hymn “He Walks With Me (In the Garden)” and a closing, hushed, microphone-free cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.” Both were moments not of pandering piety but genuine reverence, and a fitting coda to their first weekend of the residency at the “Mother Church of Country Music.”

The focus, though, was firmly and rightfully on The Breaker, an album that embraces maturity and the passing of time, rather than struggling in vain to turn back the clock. Onstage at the Ryman, Little Big Town proved they are evolving into one of country’s most innovative artists – and just maybe future Hall of Famers too.

Source: Rolling Stone

LBT talk Taylor Swift, Beyoncé vs. Adele, and their excellent new album ‘The Breaker’


Imagine if a game-changing email from Taylor Swift went to spam. Little Big Town can, because the pop princess wrote one such message and sent it to Phillip Sweet, the quartet’s least reliable member when it comes to timely internet replies. “He’s a horrible responder,” says Karen Fairchild, 47, glancing fondly at Sweet, at 42 the baby of the band: “I love you, but you are.” Fortunately, Sweet eventually did check his mail and saw the offer to record the Swift-penned break-up ballad “Better Man”; the song went on to become the group’s third chart-topping single. “It opened up a brand-new audience for us,” says 47-year-old Kimberly Schlapman. Over very potent fruity cocktails at Catch LA in West Hollywood, we asked the longtime friends and musical soul mates—who also include Jimi Westbrook, 46, Fairchild’s husband for more than a decade—to talk about their new album, The Breaker, their recent Grammys appearance, and being totally, ahem, synced up.

ROUND 1: Passion fruit margaritas for FAIRCHILD and SCHLAPMAN, tequila for SWEET, bourbon for WESTBROOK

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your cover of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” at the Grammys was phenomenal. Whose idea was that?

KAREN FAIRCHILD: The producers were thinking about us singing an intro for Katy. I always thought it would be beautiful if it were almost folksy and soulful, so we combined those ideas together and slowed it down.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So were you Team Adele or Team Beyoncé?

KIMBERLY SCHLAPMAN: We love them both so much.

FAIRCHILD: I don’t know if we played a record more in our dressing room this year than we did Lemonade. That was our get-hype, get-going music. And I don’t think there was a kinder tribute than what Adele did.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where do you fall when it comes to the Grammys adequately honoring the country genre?

FAIRCHILD: The Grammys have always been good to us. I know in past years that maybe some of the country community didn’t feel like it got its due. But we have a voice in all of music. We have a following that is worldwide. Our tickets just went on sale for Royal Albert Hall in London, and it looks like we’ll be sold out. It’s crazy.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Speaking of which, “Girl Crush” now has more than 69 million views on YouTube.

SCHLAPMAN: Holy cow! Oh my stars!

PHILLIP SWEET: That’s crazy. I had no idea.

JIMI WESTBROOK: Cheers to that! [Everyone toasts.]

FAIRCHILD: Get your gimlet up! Giblet?

SCHLAPMAN: Giblet? That’s in chicken.

FAIRCHILD: What’s a gimlet?

SWEET: Isn’t that a drink?

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There’s a vodka gimlet with lime or a gin gimlet with lime.

SCHLAPMAN: Or you can do a chicken giblet. You can fry them and they’re pretty good.

ROUND 2: Strawberry-infused vodka for SCHLAPMAN, more margaritas and tequila for FAIRCHILD and SWEET, more bourbon for WESTBROOK

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: “Girl Crush” was such an amazing success story: winning two major Grammys, crossing over to the Hot 100. What did you learn from the experience?

WESTBROOK: The unbelievable beauty of the way that song was written, it reinforced with us to just go with our gut. That’s the lesson this band has held on to and learned.

FAIRCHILD: At the time, a 6/8 ballad beat in country music should not have worked.

SWEET: It was against the odds.

FAIRCHILD: Look back at the songs that made country great: “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” “When I Call Your Name”…We’re talking about heartache songs. Thank the good Lord above that we had a shot of putting “Girl Crush” out on radio and now we’re hearing more ballads on radio. I’m not going to say we are responsible for that, but I know that every artist in Nashville has a “Girl Crush” on their record, a song they love so much that they are so passionate about. I hope the song was a stepping-stone for getting back to that.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s talk about your new album, The Breaker. Is it true that you recorded it in a church?

FAIRCHILD: Well, it’s [music producer] Jay Joyce’s studio in East Nashville. I don’t know if he believes in God, but he owns a church.

SCHLAPMAN: We recorded it in the sanctuary, which has a high ceiling. It has incredible acoustics. And since it’s a huge room, we can all be together and make eye contact. Jay is in the middle, like the pastor.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What were your hopes for the album going in?

SWEET: It evolved as the process went on. A lot of times there’s a song that feels like the cornerstone of the record. That happened early on in the process for this. Some amazing writers sent us “Free,” and that’s a sentiment that we really wanted to start with—about the love in your life, that the things that matter are your family.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Which song do you think will be the crowd-pleaser?

SWEET: There’s one called “Happy People” that kicks off the record, about how you can’t [rely on] someone else to make you feel happy. It’s a hopeful song, and it’s really perfect for where the world is right now. It seems like we’re in a gigantic swirl of chaos.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Sounds like you just got a little political there.

FAIRCHILD: It depends on what you mean by political. If tolerance and kindness and acceptance and love are political, then I guess we’re political.

SCHLAPMAN: “Better Man” is a crowd-pleaser. The audience has expanded for that because it’s from Taylor Swift—all of her fans want to know, “What? She wrote a song and a country band cut it?”

SWEET: [When we got her email] I was thinking, “Please let it be good. Please let it be good.” [Everyone laughs.] We all fell in love with the melody.

SCHLAPMAN: It’s the first time she’s pitched a song to another artist.

WESTBROOK: We’ve known her since she was knee-high to a grasshopper.

FAIRCHILD: We used to hang out in the dressing room with her at the CMA Awards and play videogames.

SCHLAPMAN: She wrote her high school paper about us!

FAIRCHILD: It was a paper about perseverance, how to keep going. It was pretty cool.

ROUND 3: Water and crispy shrimp hors d’oeuvres for everyone

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Was there a song you would say just wrote itself?

FAIRCHILD: “Don’t Die Young.” We’d just lost Jimi’s sister to cancer, and I had come back to Nashville to get together with the girls who wrote “Girl Crush.” It was therapeutic to be in the room and talk about it. Lori McKenna said she had this title, “Don’t Die Young, Don’t Get Old.” That’s what we would say to each other on Panama Beach during spring break.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Is there a song on Breaker you’re afraid will be overlooked?

FAIRCHILD: I hope “Beat Up Bible” isn’t. It’s a beautiful, heartfelt sentiment about faith and family. We sang it the other night at the San Antonio Rodeo, and people literally cheered halfway through. It rings true for people right now. They just want to feel some peace. [Looks at Sweet] You got all teary-eyed!

SWEET: Stop it.

FAIRCHILD: A band that cries together stays together.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Speaking of which, have you ever visited that college choir camp where you gals first met before deciding to form a band? What is choir camp, anyway?

SCHLAPMAN: It was an a cappella choir. I got a scholarship. Karen was a year ahead of me in college. I was a freshman.

FAIRCHILD: Did you have to say that?

SCHLAPMAN: She was a year behind me. I was three years older. [Laughs] I’m really not. On the way to choir camp we were sitting back-to-back. We found out we were both from Georgia. We knew the same guy that broke my heart. That started our friendship.

FAIRCHILD: She’s more like my sister. She knows what I want to be buried in: my black Tom Ford dress, my beautiful fringe leather coat, and all the hair extensions in Nashville.

SCHLAPMAN: I’ll make it happen. I’ll also make sure she has false eyelashes. This is how close we are.

FAIRCHILD: For a while, we synced up.

SWEET: Their moon cycles corresponded to one another.

WESTBROOK: There’s your scoop!

SWEET: It’s hard to find firsts with this band, but that’s one right there.

WESTBROOK: Are we on the fourth round or what?

FAIRCHILD: I’m totally sober. It’s the dang truth. It’s three rounds and the truth.

Source: Entertainment Weekly

Little Big Town Double Down on Their Signature Sound with ‘The Breaker’

Nobody makes country music like Little Big Town. And for a band that’s been at it since 1998, that’s a remarkable feat. On their new album The Breaker, the foursome doubles down on their signature sound.

When Little Big Town teamed up with producer Jay Joyce back on 2012’s Tornado, the dynamic team dipped their toes in the murky waters of alternative country. Now, with 2017’s The Breaker, the foursome and Joyce are practically bathing in them.

To call Little Big Town’s eighth album “highly anticipated” is an understatement. When they released Pain Killer in 2014, the group smashed the preconceived notions of what they could accomplish. Yes, the harmonies still took center stage.

But they chose dangerous songs. They blew out your speakers. They made weird, funky noises. And then they went on a sweet instrumental trips before rounding it back to pure country. Not to mention the radio revolution that was “Girl Crush.”

And then they had some weird fun on Wanderlust, a funky eight-song EP collaboration with producer wunderkind Pharrell Williams. The work was more or less a surprise, and more or less flew under the radar. But nonetheless, it was an important step in proving just how much this band doesn’t care about breaking the genre convention rules, usually in an infectious way.

That sets the stage for The Breaker, officially the band’s first album as country music royalty.

Off with the Training Wheels

Up until this point, Little Big Town still clung to a bit of country radio safeguards. Even Pain Killer, with all its cool textures, presented songs like “Day Drinking” — surefire, feeling-free radio fodder. But on The Breaker, Little Big Town lets down the guards.

For starters, lead single “Better Man” comes straight from the pen of Taylor Swift. As much as Nashville still operates on a first-name basis with the megastar, there’s a bit of bitterness in town. Some of it relates to her transition to pop, but most of it is self-hate for not realizing country music could’ve still hung onto her and she’d fit in fine.

But Little Big Town clearly love Swift, and since she sent them the song in the first place, she obviously loves them back. The song, which is in no way a typical modern country radio release, shot to the top of the Country Airplay charts in record time for the band, where it still sits.

A Soft Place to Land

Much of the album circulates between wistful and forlorn. Songs like “Lost In California,” which may be one of the strongest tracks on the record, almost hit five minutes in their breezy, backbeat-driven longing for love.

Then you’ve got songs like “Free,” the band’s stab at the old saying that all the good things in life are free. Drowning in guitar delay and reverb, Karen Fairchild keeps the song afloat just long enough for the four-part harmonies to lift you up in goosebump-giving fashion.

On the one hand, these songs feel right in the wheelhouse for Little Big Town. But on the other, we’ve never really heard them do something quite like it.

The only track that really feels like an obvious stab at recent country tropes is “We Went To The Beach.” It’s not that it’s a bad song, it just feels like one of the only songs on the record where we might have already heard all those lines in a different country song.

Not Your Grandpa’s Country

That’s not to say all of the songs float around in the ether. “Night On Our Side” picks up the pace considerably and feels like something that may have been ripped right from a Ryan Adams record (in a good way). “Drivin’ Around” may be the closest we’ll get to hearing a B-52s song from a country act. And “Rollin’” very well may be a lost Steve Miller Band tune.

But if you’ll notice, none of that comes from a traditional country sound. And you’re not going to find anything traditional on The Breaker. But that’s one of the things that makes it so enjoyable.

Most of the frustrations with modern country stem from trite lyrics that make us feel dumb and shiny production that feels like two wax coats too many. Very little about this record feels trite or too shiny.

Lyrically, Little Big Town have left behind the sure-fire country cliches of 2012 almost certainly for good. You still get songs about salvation — “Beat Up Bible” is an absolutely gorgeous performance by Kimberly Schlapman and one of the most “country” songs the foursome have done in a while.

You still get songs about heartbreak — “When Someone Stops Loving You” will rip your heart out in all the right ways. But none of it feels obvious, and in the modern world of country music, that’s the golden ticket. Feeling familiar without feeling obvious.

Ultimately, The Breaker should rack up a hefty batch of hardware come award season. Under the vast umbrella that is country music, Little Big Town occupy a space all to their own. And it may not feel like a traditional country offering, but they’ve forged ahead with an exciting sound and interesting songs that tell good stories. It don’t get much more country than that.

Source: Wide Open Country

Little Big Town Shines With New Album And Historic Ryman Residency

It’s hard to make real history in a genre as storied as country music, but that’s exactly what Little Big Town did this weekend. On Friday, the Grammy-winning quartet kicked off the first residency in the 125-year history of Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium.

The band kicked off the first pair of nine scheduled 2017 shows (with more expected to be added) by performing their new album, The Breaker, from front to back on Friday and Saturday nights. For some artists, playing an hours-old album all the way through on street date would be risky. However, the gamble paid off for Little Big Town: hundreds of fans were singing along with the brand-new songs as if they were old favorites.

It helps that practically every song on the album is memorable. The Breaker is perhaps Little Big Town’s best album yet—its own remarkable accomplishment when you consider the band has been performing together for almost two decades. The group is a bit like Tom Brady in that sense: they’ve always been great, but they seem to get even better with time.

The Breaker includes a number of standout tracks, including the Taylor Swift-penned “Better Man,” which has been No. 1 at country radio for two weeks in a row. “Free,” a track written by back-to-back Grammy Best Country Song award-winner Lori McKenna, plus Barry Dean, Natalie Hemby and Luke Laird is an early favorite, as is the McKenna and Hailey Whitters-penned “Happy People.” The album should land at No. 1 on next week’s Billboard Top Country Albums Chart and make a strong showing on the Top 200.

Little Big Town has been a favorite in the country genre, regularly winning CMA and ACM Awards, for more than a decade. In the past few years, however, they’ve transcended country to gain a following beyond the genre. In 2016, they won a Grammy for “Girl Crush,” a phenomenal song that spent 13 weeks atop the Hot Country Songs chart (the longest ever for a song by a group). They also released Wanderlust, a pop EP produced by Pharrell Williams with guest vocals by Justin Timberlake. At this year’s Grammy Awards, the group was one of only three acts to perform twice—the others were Adele and Bruno Mars.

After playing through The Breaker, Little Big Town delighted fans with a medley of hits. Fans hoping to see the complete album next time the band takes the Ryman stage are out of luck, though. “We’re going to play this record once tonight and once tomorrow night and that will be it,” Kimberly Schlapman told the crowd. “We are so excited about this night, y’all. We have worked on it for over a year.”

The 2,300-seat theater was filled with the band’s family and friends, songwriters and collaborators. The artists frequently waved to, thanked, and said “hello” to faces they recognized in the crowd. They invited some friends onstage, too—Sam Hunt and Chris Stapleton joined the party Friday night, with Andra Day making a guest appearance on Saturday. All in all, the Ryman’s first residency couldn’t have kicked off on a higher note.

Ryman VP/GM Sally Williams has hinted that more residencies will follow. Given the venue’s rich tradition of music, the next act to set up shop may not be a country act. The Ryman Auditorium (then known as the Union Gospel Tabernacle) opened in 1892 and has played host to countless historic shows. Perhaps most famously, the Ryman was home to the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 – 1974. It was also the home of several Country Music Association (CMA) Awards broadcasts and the ABC variety series The Johnny Cash Show.

“Little Big Town At The Mother Church” will continue throughout 2017. Tickets range from $50 – $90.

Source: Forbes.com

Page 2 of 3 1 2 3