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Review from Rolling Stone: Little Big Town Explore Contemplative Country on ‘The Breaker’

Our take on crossover hitmakers’ eighth LP – 3 out of 5 stars

Shortly after 2014’s “Girl Crush” provided Little Big Town with their first taste of pop crossover stardom, the country group quietly released Wanderlust, a left-of-center Pharrell collaboration that drew from funk, R&B and dance music. Less than a year later, the vocal quartet is back with The Breaker, a back-to-basics country record that returns the spotlight to the group’s unmatched ability to transform subtle Nashville lyricism into major pop drama – this time with no small assist from songwriters like Taylor Swift and industry scribes like Lori McKenna and Natalie Hemby.
Produced by Jay Joyce, who helmed 2014’s Pain Killer, the group’s Fleetwood Mac power harmonies return front and center, forming the emotional backbone of tearjerkers like “When Someone Stops Loving You” and “Better Man,” the Hot Country chart-topping showcase for lead singer Karen Fairchild. Elsewhere, crisp drums, light acoustic instrumentation and subtle synths decorate understated highlights like “Happy People” and “Don’t Die Young, Don’t Get Old.”

One of Little Big Town’s greatest strengths has always been the ease in which their top-notch party records (“Pontoon,” “Day Drinking”) have coincided alongside heavier, adult-oriented ballads (“Your Side of the Bed,” “Shut Up Train”). The group strives to walk that line once again this time around, but The Breaker is the group’s first record since their rise to stardom in which downtempo, more contemplative material completely outweighs the muscular, radio fodder like “Night on Our Side” and “Drivin’ Around,” songs that feel too vague in their worry-free escapism to sound convincing. At the top of their game, Little Big Town are taking an unlikely path: respectable, mid-career album artist.

Source: Rolling Stone

Little Big Town tackles ‘what’s going on in our world right now’ on new album

The name “Little Big Town” seemed perfect for the group Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook formed nearly 20 years ago. At the time, the city limits of Nashville encompassed their world. With the country music industry slow to respond to their innovative harmony-based sound, all four worked day jobs to get by.

It’s a different story today. With two Grammys, seven Academy of Country Music Awards, eight Country Music Association Awards and three albums breaking the platinum sales barrier, they’ve expanded their audience beyond Tennessee. In fact, their tour schedule for 2017 includes concerts in Europe and, for the first time, Australia.

This global reach can be attributed to two factors: music and message. Through eight studio albums they’ve kept their standards high as singers. And having learned like so many of their fans that juggling family and professional priorities isn’t easy, they speak truth through lyrics that people throughout the world can understand.

These qualities abound on their newest album, The Breaker, out Friday. “When you’re a parent, you become fragile — well, I did, anyway,” says Fairchild, 47. “You just can’t imagine how much you can love something and how deeply you care. I think that does show up in the bones of this record, in our ability to be fragile enough to sing songs like The Breaker or Better Man or Don’t Die Young, Don’t Get Old.”

That last song is perhaps the album’s best illustration of how life and art intersect for the group. “It was actually inspired by Jimi’s sister, who we lost last year,” Fairchild explains. “Jimi was still in Alabama, where the funeral had taken place. I had driven back to Nashville, where Kimberly and I got together with the Love Junkies (Lori McKenna and Liz Rose). Writing this with them was a therapeutic session for us all at such a sad time.”

The Breaker opens with another serious track, though the title and buoyant feel of Happy People belie its message: “Happy people don’t cheat, happy people don’t lie. They don’t judge or hold a grudge; they don’t criticize.” The confrontational temper of our times might have inspired these words, as Fairchild admits.

“We chose Happy People as the first track for that reason. It sounds lighthearted and fun but it has a deeper meaning than maybe on the first listen. It’s pretty profound about what’s going on in our world right now. I really hope this one makes it onto radio because it really means something to us.”

Better Man has already impacted radio, in part because of the news that it was written by Taylor Swift. Unlike Little Big Town, Swift left Nashville, and many took her departure as a farewell to the genre that had sparked her rise to superstardom. Fairchild, however, disagrees.

“She’s a Nashville songwriter,” she insists. “When you write a song like Better Man top to bottom on your own with your acoustic guitar, that’s Nashville. She’s a storyteller. She loves country music. Her last record was more poppy but who knows? Taylor can do anything she wants to. And she will forever be a Nashville girl.”

As will Fairchild. This is why she and her colleagues have committed to perform the first-ever series of residency concerts at Nashville’s beloved Ryman Auditorium throughout 2017. “It’s home,” she says. “But even when we stepped onto the Grammy stage and did the tribute to the Bee Gees, we wanted to pay respect to that music and to shine a light on all the good music that’s coming out of Nashville. Whatever we do, we want to represent this town well.”

Source: USA Today

‘We Have to Show Acceptance to People of All Races, Religions, Colors’

Little Big Town had hoped to dial things back in 2017 after years of hard touring. Instead, as new album The Breaker (Feb. 24, Capitol Nashville) precedes a yearlong residency at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium as well as a slew of domestic and international dates, the reigning Country Music Association vocal group of the year is as busy as ever. The album — a more wide-ranging mix of pop-rock, slick country and blue-eyed soul — has already gotten a boost from its Taylor Swift-penned single, “Better Man,” which has topped Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. The group’s Jimi Westbrook and Kimberly Schlapman break down the “Girl Crush” band’s big collaboration and place within country.

How did “Better Man” come your way?
Westbrook: Taylor sent it in an email — I don’t even know when she wrote it. She never cut it, but it was always a special song to her, and she felt like she could hear our harmonies on that chorus. She doesn’t really pitch her songs to anybody. I love that it’s definitely a country chorus, the chord structure of it and everything.

The song had been out for weeks before her co-writing credit was revealed. Why the secrecy?
Westbrook: Taylor is the biggest star in the world. Everything she does and says, everybody wants to talk about it. We felt like the song needed to be heard for what it was. We all know that when Taylor’s name gets associated with it, it becomes a pop phenomenon. But we wanted it to stand on its own, so we decided not to tell right off the bat. She loved that.

Describe the sound you were going for on the album, and how it differs from past projects.
Schlapman: It’s my favorite record we have ever made. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before. I love the message — it’s warm, it’s nostalgic, it’s uplifting.Every time we make a record we want it to be different … but we always also want it to be still recognizable for fans that have hung in there with us for so many years.

The band wrote only three of the album’s 12 songs. Was that planned?
Westbrook: That wasn’t deliberate. We’re led by the songs that move us, that we fall in love with. Our harmony is the thread throughout all of our albums, but we want to try new things. It’s not really about whether we wrote it or not.

What role has Little Big Town played in helping the sound of country expand during the last decade?
Westbrook: There’s such a wide array of talent, and in that landscape, it’s hard to know where we fit. Our sound has always had different flavors, so hopefully we have opened the door for more diversity within country. We’ve always tried not to stay in those comfort zones.

Any thoughts on the political events of the last few months, or on the role you and your country music peers should play in discussing those issues?
Schlapman: We as a band don’t get political. We just know our job is to make music that helps people escape or feel better, whether it’s in celebration [or] in grief. I look at moments in my life and records that have gotten me through really difficult times. I just needed the therapy of the music. So in today’s time, we want our music to do that for people.

Westbrook: I’ve never been a super-political person. I have been this year, because it’s impossible not to with the circus of politicians that have surfaced, but I don’t think people want to hear that from me. What we do have to do is to show acceptance and love to people of all types: all races, all religions, all colors. This band loves all people. That’s the message — if there is one — that we stand on.


Little Big Town Says Taylor Swift Will ‘Forever Be a Nashville Girl’

Little Big Town is opening up about why they believe Taylor Swift will always be a Nashville songwriter at heart.

The 27-year-old “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” singer wrote the hit song “Better Man” for the country group.

PHOTOS: Check out the latest pics of Taylor Swift

While Taylor has now broken records in the pop genre, Little Big Town insists she hasn’t completely parted with her country roots.

“She’s a Nashville songwriter,” Little Big Town‘s Karen Fairchild told USA Today. “When you write a song like “Better Man” top to bottom on your own with your acoustic guitar, that’s Nashville. She’s a storyteller. She loves country music. Her last record was more poppy but who knows? Taylor can do anything she wants to. And she will forever be a Nashville girl.”

Source: JustJared

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