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Little Big Town Interview: Band Shares Stories Behind Songs and Secrets to Keeping the Peace

Little Big Town
Williams + Hirakawa

Little Big Town are absolute originals. The country foursome and ‘Pontoon’ hitmakers have stood the test of time — as well as numerous personal lows and highs. As the genre pendulums between pop and traditional trends, Phillip Sweet, Kimberly Schlapman, Karen Fairchild and Jimi Westbrook have never compromised their unique harmonies or blunted their sharp, descriptive lyrics. They’ve stayed true to a scenic winding road built just for them, even if at times it took them out of public eye for a bit. 

It’s clear after listening to the band’s interview with Taste of Country Nights host Jeremy Robinson that ‘Tornado‘ is going to be special when it hits stores and iTunes on Tuesday (Sept. 11). Typically, radio interviews are light and fluffy, but one song on the group’s fifth studio album left the deejay reaching for a tissue.

The album seems to be a reflection of a band that isn’t afraid to address the good and bad times, the smiles and sadness, the heartache and healing. They’ve shared many of these moments together, and there are certainly more to come. Fortunately, the members of Little Big Town are well-versed at dealing with the changing tides.

ToC Nights Host Jeremy Robinson: Fans are really going to feel your unique and endless energy when they listen to ‘Tornado.’ Do you guys feel that behind the scenes?

LBT’s Phillip Sweet: We were really trying to capture the live energy when we were recording. We all laid the tracks down all together with our band and sang at the same time. I think you feel that — what you’re talking about. We were really just doing what we do every night, going out to play a show.

LBT’s Kimberly Schlapman: Listeners might not know that normally when you record a record you record everything separately these days. But we did it way old school and all got in a room together, a big old studio room together, and did it at the same time, just like we would do a regular show.

Host Jeremy: The song ‘Can’t Go Back’ I think can be interpreted a lot of different ways… and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve got my great-grandmother who is still living, and I love her to death. I’m so blessed and I know that I am. I got my mother, my mother’s mother and her mother. And I was listening to these words of ‘Can’t Go Back’ and the way I interpret it was right now I could get off this bed, stop working. I could call her and tell her I love her right now, because I don’t wanna give this up. I can’t go back… and I called her and she answered and I said ‘”I wanna call you and tell you I love you.”

Jimi Westbrook: You know that song, it hits me the same way. From the first time we heard it, there is something I feel like with that song that there’s a spiritual something in that lyric and in that melody that moves you on a soul level and I’m so glad … thank you for sharing that.

Phillip: The fact that you were moved to act and do something in your own personal life, that’s what music does for all of us and I think that was what we set out to do when we were making this music and this album. We wanted to be moved by everything we put on this thing, to take us to new places.

Jeremy: ‘Pavement Ends,’ this is [all start laughing]

Phillip: That’s good ruckus fun man.

Jeremy: Yes! Is this going to be the next single?

Jimi: We haven’t decided yet. We are racking our brains trying to figure out which one but I love that song. That is definitely one that I feel should be considered. I love that it starts the record off cause it’s just kind of like cranking up the car.

Kimberly: Yes!

Jeremy: ‘Your Side of the Bed,’ gosh. I’m single, I’m not in a relationship but God I could feel it.

Phillip: I have to share that our great young guitar player named Johnny Duke, we were playing that track and Jimi and Karen delivered that so obviously well, that he came up to them after we tracked it a few times and he said, “Uh, hey are you guys OK?” [all laugh]. He was worried about the status of the relationship.

Jimi: It’s funny I was looking at him. He actually had a tear in his eye [laughs].

Jeremy: Here’s a letter that we got [shortened]. How do you keep the same harmony that you have in your songs in your daily life? Does it get to any of you working with each other and working every day?

Karen Fairchild: We’re like an old married couple the four of us. We just work it out. We just love making music together and we love what we’re doing and we have grown up together, literally. Kimberly and I have been friends for 25 years this year. We have had some of the greatest experiences you could ever have. We’ve stood on the Grand Ole Opry stage and we have sung with people that we have looked up to our whole lives and shared the stage with them. And then we’ve had some really low moments. But the good way outweighs the bad.

Jeremy: When you work so closely with a friend, you have those moments where you step on each other’s toes. How do you guys know? Is it a cold shoulder? How do you know there is dissension in the ranks?

Phillip: It’s way more vocal than that [all laugh].

Jimi: We’re like brothers and sisters, man. It makes me think of a particular incident. This is like seven or eight years ago probably. And we were on the bus and we got into some kind of little spat. It wasn’t anything serious but we were all kind of done and over the discussion we were having. And we pulled over at the mall to get something to eat or something. And I remember the four of us going in four completely different directions in the mall [group laughs].

Jeremy: Who’s the clean freak on the bus?

Kimberly: Um, Karen and Jimi’s nanny [all laugh]. Thank goodness.

Next: Read Jeremy's Interview With Kix Brooks

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