Karen Fairchild, member of the band Little Big Town, is hands down one of the coolest and most well-rounded women whom we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know. Her know-how extends far beyond her killer musical talent – not only is she a performer, wife, and mom, but she also has an eponymous clothing line, Fair Child (available at Macy’s). Yeah…Fairchild basically does it all. Below, the songstress shares her favorite beauty products (spoiler: she’s a product junkie), words of wisdom, and what she’s currently listening to. Happy reading…
From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
My ideal food day would be an egg white omelette with spinach and tomatoes for breakfast, a green salad with salmon for lunch, and great wine and spaghetti bolognese for dinner. I’m a sucker for Italian food.
How do you practice beauty from the inside out?
Working out and eating right are the obvious answers for everyone trying to look and feel their best from the inside out. As a busy working mother, it’s not always easy to find time for workouts, so I balance my time like every other woman trying to stay in shape. Portion control is key and when I have time I love Barre Method. It also doesn’t hurt having a seven-year-old boy to chase around all day! Keeping a normal sleep pattern is also really important to overall well-being.
How do you always start your day? What’s your go-to breakfast?
I love starting the day with a coffee and Grain and Nut granola from Blackberry Farm over yogurt. Sometimes I top it with fresh blueberries or strawberries.
What are your morning and nightly beauty routines?
I’m a bit of a product junkie. In the morning I cleanse my face with Eve Lom Cleanser and use Orlane B21 Extraordinaire to prep my skin. I add ZO Vitamin C Serum and Le Mieux Hyaluronic Serum and Le Mieux face cream. I finish with IT Cosmetics CC Cream with an SPF 50. It has a great finish and coverage for everyday wear.
At bedtime, I cleanse again with Charlotte Tilbury Cleansing Balm. I use ZO TE Pads, ZO Growth Factor Serum and Eau Thermale Avene RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream. I love finishing with a touch of the Charlotte Tilbury Cleansing Balm and sleeping in it – it makes your skin so soft and hydrated. I love adding Sisley’s Eye Contour Mask, another great product for sleep.
What would you last meal be? Who would it be with?
My last meal would be with my family…probably Thanksgiving dinner because it’s my favorite.
What is your favorite Southern meal? Why?
My favorite Southern meal would be fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and biscuits. My mom is an incredible Southern cook and so is my bandmate, Kimberly. I’m spoiled rotten with the best comfort food in the world.
You never liked X till you tried it at Y…
I never liked oysters until I had them at Fin & Pearl in Nashville; they’re so fresh and good.
Congrats on your ACM win! What is the hardest part of touring?
Thank you! The hardest part of touring is missing my family. I’m lucky because I get to travel with my husband Jimi and our son Elijah, and I couldn’t do it any other way, but I don’t get to see friends and extended family as much as I’d like.
Where do you love to travel? What won’t you travel without?
I love London: the shopping, the people, the culture, the food. We’ve had some incredible meals and memories as a band in London. I also love the beach. There’s something calming about being near the water. I love Alys Beach in Florida and Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina. I won’t travel without my iPad. What did I do before I had this thing?
What does your diet on the road usually look like?
I try to load up on veggies and protein before a show, but I do need carbs to keep my energy up. I’ll do a small portion of mashed potatoes or rice to sustain me through a performance. After-show food can be tricky when you’re trying to find healthy options, so that’s when it’s all about making good choices. I am a sucker for sweets, and I try to adhere to the philosophy of not denying yourself, so I’ll take a bite or two of a treat and then put it down.
Who serves the best coffee in Nashville?
Crema in Nashville is my go-to coffee spot. They make the best Cuban I’ve ever had.
What do you wear when performing?
Performance clothing is a collaborative effort based on what we’re doing for a given TV performance or song. We have the most wonderful stylist, Karla Welch. She is so creative and bold in her choices. She’s thinking about the drama on stage and the way light hits clothing.
What advice would you give to girls looking to enter the music industry?
As women, we have to always remember to listen to our instincts and go with our guts. I think too often girls feel like they have to make concessions or change who they are, or what their music says, to make it in this industry. We need to nurture these women to write honest songs, to write from their hearts, and not to pander. Let’s give them some room to do what they do. Being a woman is a very powerful thing; we need to embrace that rather than shy away from it or make excuses for it.
What are your favorite cities for food? What restaurants do you go to in each?
In New York City, Mario Batali’s Babbo is heavenly. We stop there every time we are in the city. In Nashville, Tartufo, City House, Kayne Prime, and Rolf & Daughters are my favorites. The Nashville food scene has blown up over the past five years. If you’re in Alys Beach, George’s is a must, and perfect for a breezy beachside dinner. In Las Vegas, Javier’s in the ARIA has the best margaritas and super fresh Mexican food. Sugarfish, Madeo, and Crustacean are three of my favorite LA spots. Each is so different, but offers dishes that I absolutely love.
What’s on your Spotify (or Apple) playlist right now?
John Mayer, In The Blood; Chris Stapleton, Either Way; Seth Ennis, Woke Up in Nashville; The Weeknd; Daft Punk, I Feel It Coming; Ed Sheeran, Castle On The Hill; Harry Styles, Sign of the Times.
In the same vein as ‘what is the new black’ in fashion, what’s the new potato in music right now?
Vinyl records. There’s nothing like the experience of a whole record top to bottom. Back to the way music was intended; it’s an experience.
*Karen Fairchild, photographed in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann
Source: The New Potato
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.
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