Little Big Town Interview
By Hannah Compton
Tuesday October 6th 2015
On October 6th 2015 I was very kindly offered the opportunity by Annette, owner of Think Country, to attend The Launch event for London’s Country 2 Country Festival which was being held at The Brooklyn Bowl, 02 Arena, where Bob Harris would announce all of the artists who will play in 2016. After the launch announcement, one of Country Music’s finest groups, Little Big Town were to perform for the rest of the evening.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Little Big Town, I recommend getting familiar. They have been a band for sixteen years and have had and still have an amazing career. They consist of not one but four lead vocalists, two male (Jimi Westbrook and Philip Sweet) and two female (Kimberley Schlapman and Karen Fairchild). They are a vocal harmony group who currently sing some of the best music, not just in Country, but all genres. This of course, has not gone unrecognised as they are leading in the run-up to the CMA Awards with six nominations.
I was very fortunate to catch up with Little Big Town, before the night’s event, for a lovely chat. As a huge fan of theirs since I heard the song Little White Church in 2010, I was both excited and a little bit nervous.
As a big fan, I did not arrive unprepared – and did something I vowed never to do, by making my own T-shirt. As I am six month’s pregnant, I had an idea for a T-shirt that would play on the name of the band and my pregnancy.
As soon as I arrived, Kimberley of Little Big Town noticed it and insisted we all take a photo. I was more than happy to oblige, of course.
Little Big Town are such warm, welcoming people that I felt at ease right away. Hope you enjoy the interview!
Hello, I am Hannah from Think Country, thank you for letting me interview you. Welcome back, we are all really excited to have you back.
LBT: Thank you.
Jimi: We are excited to be back.
Me: Glad you are well again, Jimi.
Jimi: Thank you, I am too.
Me: I know I speak for all Country Music fans across the UK when I say ‘Welcome back’. It is so important for us to have artists such as yourselves visit our country. How much does it mean to you to expand your tour and fanbase overseas?
Philip: Oh it’s incredible.
Jimi: It’s exciting as well.
Karen: Yeah, well we have wanted to do this for years and years and years, so it was a bucket list for us – and to now come over here and not only to attempt it but to be well received. You guys are so warm and welcoming, yeah, we’re just loving it.
Kimberley: You’re special fans, you’re good fans because you know all the music and you care about all the music and that’s really special.
Me: Yeah, I have been told that before – artists saying ‘You guys listen to all the tracks, you know all the songs’. I think it was Brad Paisley who said he can play anything over here and we will appreciate it and know what it is.
Karen: So true.
Jimi: It is true.
Philip: It’s very inspiring to us on stage to feel that too.
Me: You were supposed to come over here before, to another festival before C2C , during the Tornado record being made?
Kimberley: Yeah we played in Sweden at a festival many years ago and then yeah we were supposed to come over and then that was the only time our producer could do our record, so we didn’t get to come over.
Karen: Yeah and then we played Shepherds Bush in February which was amazing.
Me: Yes, I was front row ha!
LBT: Aww great.
Jimi: It was an amazing night, won’t forget that!
LBT: It was.
Me: The Painkiller album has been out for about a year now and has received a lot of positive response from fans and critics. Was Day Drinking always set to be the first single – and how do you decide on such an Important thing as that?
Philip: It kind of always was the first single in our minds and it really did kind of kick start the whole process of making the record. It was one of the first songs we all really agreed upon and thought, hey this could be a great first single. It took a little while, I mean we did record that one first, I think.
Karen: We did
Jimi: We hadn’t completely committed to it – of course we wanted to see how the rest of the record played out and to see but it was definitely one that was always like, well that’s a good, that’s a good possibility as the first one. Then, as it came around, it felt like the right way to go. We have a great team around us that we consult and talk with about those decisions and that’s kind of how that happens. Because you have people at Radio that are helping to work your song so you wanna take all their opinions and figure it out and make the best decision that you can for the first single, and that one worked out well. it was a good start.
Philip: It was the tip of that too. it was the theme of the album Painkiller you know, we kind of figured that out as we went, and it kind of went along with the theme of the whole record. Nice introduction.
Me: I really liked the CMT performance too, that was really fun.
LBT: Thank you!
Me: Girl Crush is a very relatable song for a lot of women in terms of being somewhat fixated with the woman, who the man you want to be with is dating. Did you have any concerns before putting out the song that people would misinterpret the lyrics without really listening to what the song is about? Because in reality it is really a very heartbreaking song and a very rare song, that is so real that you just don’t get these days.
Karen: Yeah, we weren’t afraid of it, we wanted that song. We knew it was a special song so we were a little bit surprised when there was some push back from some very conservative, loud folks that had a different opinion and wanted to hear it in a different way. But it was a great lesson to us that when we do love something, we should speak up and let the positivity be the louder voice in the room, because there were so many more people that loved it than didn’t. So it kind of changed the tune, like our friends started almost campaigning for Girl Crush because they wanted that song to be heard. Everybody has a Girl Crush moment on their record that they want to get to you and that’s what Country Music was built on – those heartbreaking ballads – and we don’t get much of that on radio in the States anymore, so it’s nice that this song has such a big, big moment and impact.
Me: Definitely, I think so. it’s nice as an individual to know you’re not the only person that feels that way.
Me: You do, as a woman – you can get completely fixated with the woman being better than you. It’s like you almost forget about the man who caused the heartache in the first place, it’s all about her – It really is almost like a Girl Crush!
Kimberley: Yeah, exactly!
Karen: Glad you liked it.
Me: Despite the rumours of Girl Crush being pulled from the radio stations across America, BBC Radio 2 embraced it here and it is being played not just by Bob Harris but other prime time DJ’s too, giving the song a much wider audience beyond Country’s usual demographic.
Non-Country fan friends of mine were asking me if I had heard of it. How does it feel to know that you are one of the few Country artists being played on prime time radio shows in a country which, although it’s changing, still has little understanding of Country music in general?
Karen: It’s exciting.
Kimberley: It’s so cool.
Philip: Yeah, it’s so cool.
Kimberley: I think it’s because this song speaks so strongly to people who have been in that situation. I mean, we’ve all felt that emotion of jealousy – why don’t I have what she has, what is it that she has that I don’t have? The same thing happened in the States, where it started to appeal to a way broader audience than we have ever had before. I think it just speaks to what a great song that is, but over here it’s really exciting that we knew y’all would like it and I am so glad it’s being played so much.
Me: It’s so precious, it’s like whenever we hear a Country song on the radio we all message each other and say “Oh my god, LBT is on the radio.”
Kimberley: That is so sweet.
Karen: I hope it keeps going because then at C2C it will really be fun for us you know? Oh gosh.
Me: Are you headlining?
Karen: We are on right before Carrie (Underwood).
Me: Oh that’s cool. It’s going to be a great year, I just personally can’t wait.
Me: Artists often get compared to other artists. I find yourselves to be very unique and individual and if I was to compare you to another Country Group, I couldn’t. However, when I first heard you, I heard an element of Fleetwood Mac in your style.
Philip: Haha that’s true, we take that as a compliment.
Me: Ha! I was hoping you would, there are similarities – and of course you covered The Chain and have done Crossroads with Lindsey Buckingham.
Philip: With Lindsey, yes – oh, it was so incredible.
Me: So they must be quite an influence on you?
Philip: Yeah, I mean, I think they influenced a lot of people and us especially.Them being a mixed group with the male and female harmonies – there wasn’t many people doing that – so I think that they were some of the most inspiring ones for us to do something like that. They inspired us to do unique and different things with our voices too and, yeah, their sound is amazing, so it’s a nice comparison – thank you.
Me: You are welcome. I think they are one of the acts that I couldn’t hold to a genre and feel you guys are the same and that you have the ability to expand your style – and your fans will follow you no matter what, and you will still be loved.
LBT: Thank you.
Me: The first time you ever played together as a band was in 1999 at The Grand Ole Opry -is that correct?
Philip: That is correct.
Me: You were invited to become Opry Members by Reba McEntire a year ago three days ago (3rd October). Has the year gone by quickly? What does it mean to you, to be a Member, and do you have any plans to play the Opry on the anniversary?
Kimberley: We just played last weekend. So that was kind of like an anniversary. That’s as close as we will get.
Philip: It was the 90th Birthday of The Grand Ole Opry so we were there for the big celebration and it was just such an honour – and it has gone by really fast, don’t you guys think?
Jimi: Did you say it was a year ago three days ago?
Me: Yeah, October 3rd.
Jimi: So we almost did play to the date, what date was that?
Kimberley: Erm, the first?
Jimi: Interesting, I didn’t realise it was so close to being that date.
Kimberley: It was the second. Wait, did we play Friday or Saturday?
Jimi: It was very close gosh. Almost to the date, wow.
Karen and Jimi: We played Friday.
Me: And your Induction was the 17th – I don’t really know the difference.
Karen: You get asked and then you get Inducted.
Kimberley: You get surprised when you are asked and then two weeks later you get Inducted.
Karen: We were Inducted by Vince Gill and we were in the last Induction from Little Jimi Dickens before he passed away, so it was very special that we were with him.
Me: Aww, that’s so sad.
Karen: It was nice to be with him.
Kimberley: That was his last time on The Opry.
Philip: He didn’t feel well that night, but he came, he came anyway.
Karen: He never missed. It is an incredible honour I think, it’s probably an honour that we are going to try to live up to, you know? And we take it really seriously, preserving all the goodness of the heritage of Country music. The traditions of the Opry.
Me: You have to play a certain number of times a year is that right? Quite a commitment, but worth it.
Karen: Yeah, worth it. There is no like set number or anything, but it’s just you want to play.
Karen: So when you’re at home …
Jimi: You just want to do as much as you can.
Me: I have always wanted to see you at The Opry. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will one day.
Me: Alongside Eric Church, you are leading the CMA Awards this year with the most nominations, having six nominations, so congratulations,!
Me: You are up for Album of the Year, Song of the year, Single of the year, Vocal Group of the year, Music Video of the year and Musical Event of the year with Miranda Lambert. Which award are you hoping for the most?
Philip and Jimi: Haha!
Jimi: Oh my gosh, well being nominated for Album of the year is thrilling. I mean that’s the whole body of work you created and to be recognised for that is really exciting. so that would be fun.
Philip: (Laughs) That’s a tough category though.
Me: Well, I hope you get it and I am going to try to be awake to watch it.
Jimi and Philip Laugh.
Kimberley: Oh it will be the middle of the night, right?
Me: I have done it before, haha!
Me: Girl Crush was written by some of Nashville’ finest songwriters Lori KcKenna, Liz Rose and Hilary Lindsay, who I believe call themselves the Love Junkies? Is that correct?
Me: They are also up for a CMA with Girl Crush. How important is it to you as songwriters yourselves, for songwriters to get such wide recognition? I truly believe that Country is one of the only genres where artists truly embrace and showcase the songwriters behind the song, and where Country fans know who all the songwriters are.
Philip: It’s the heart of it, it’s the heart and soul of it and I think it would be the coolest thing ever to see those women honoured. They deserve it so much and the song it would be one of the most emotional things to see that happen. A beautiful thing.
Me: I have to say it’s so nice to see songwriters get recognition and have things like Songwriters Rounds and sessions, because I haven’t really seen that before in a genre. I wasn’t always into Country Music but you just don’t get that in any other genre.
Kimberley: Yeah, Country Music very much appreciates the songwriter.
Me: The Painkiller Tour is still going very strong and we, the UK, are delighted to hear that you will be taking our very own Country stars The Shires along with you. Was this decision based on how much they impressed you when they supported you in London?
Philip: Absolutely, they were great. We were introduced to them and we thought – ‘Why not have them play with us over there?’ and it just made sense – they are great.
Me: How do you think the US will respond to their music?
Karen: Good, I think it will be great. It’s going to be a great tour and I know they are just killing it over here. It’s exploding, so it will be perfect timing and a great introduction for them over there. I think they have done some shows over there (USA) have they?
Me: Yes, they did the Opry and part of the International section at CMA Fest and then on tour with you guys. We are very thrilled.
Me: Just one more question. Word on the street is that you want to do Sesame Street one day, has the invitation arrived yet?
Kimberley : Nooo, what do we have to do?
Me: Ha! I don’t know, ring Elmo?
Kimberley: Aww call Elmo.
Karen: Yeah, we gotta get working on that.
Philip: That is one of those bucket list things.
Kimberley: Our kids are getting out of the age where they would have thought we were really cool a couple of years ago.
Philip and Jimi (laugh)
Karen: We gotta do it soon.
Me: My kid will think you are cool.
LBT: Haha Thank you!
Me: Well thank you for the interview.
LBT: Was lovely to meet you.
Me: Was lovely to meet you too -and good luck for tonight. I am really excited.
Little Big Town will be returning to the UK, Glasgow and Dublin for C2C Festival 2016 in March. All information is here: http://www.c2c-countrytocountry.com/
You can purchase their current album ‘Painkiller’ here:
Pain Killer by Little Big Town