Little Big Town
The night, with its curtain of darkness, contains many things. Hope, doubt, faith, need, resolution, joy, rage, dreams, exhaustion, romance. From that first dusky “Babe…” over a few vacillating guitar notes, Nightfall’s intimacy washes over listeners. Opening with a velvety song of desire, “Next To You” suggests a subtle look at how the world gets the best of us, how connection heals and ultimately, love is the answer.
Easily Little Big Town’s most nuanced project, upon inception, they didn’t realize they were on the verge of producing their ninth studio album. But with songs to capture, creative fires to stoke, Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet, and Jimi Westbrook went into the studio to develop what was there with no masterplan. It wasn’t long before the fiercely musical foursome realized they’d found a new creative horizon – and they just kept going until Nightfall emerged from 34 songs, myriad experiments and the inherent harmony singing that has defined the Grammy-winning group since they emerged with the steamy, stark “Boondocks.”
“From the first time we sat in the living room, it was amazing that we all gravitated to the harmonies we sing,” explains the sunny-voiced Schlapman. “In 20 years, we really have stayed with the harmonies we settle into organically. We’re all really strong and opinionated, and we’ve always been really involved, but over the years, we’ve become more comfortable with who each of us is. Our different personalities and strengths have become the thing that brings us together as us.”
Nightfall includes the Grammy-nominated consciousness tug “The Daughters,” debuted to universal acclaim on “The Academy of Country Music Awards,” the cascading loveliness of “River of Stars,” the Mexican horn stomping revelry of “Wine, Beer, Whiskey,” the James Taylor-esque hope of “Bluebird” and the naked piano/gospel vocal chorus-tinged soul plea of Sweet’s raw vocal pledge on “Forever And A Night.” This is grown-up music, complex, wise, yet vulnerable.
“It’s so easy to keep layering guitars on top of each other,” Westbrook says of the sonics. “Every sound is intentional on this record. We’d empty tracks out to create more space. Those spaces let the energy come through. The space allows you to absorb what we’re saying.”
In the ache, there is surrender. In the conflict, solutions. Fairchild injects “Sugar Coat’s” whispery self-examination with a dose of awareness. Ruminating “Sometimes I wish I liked drinking, Sometimes I wish I liked pills/Wish I could sleep with a stranger, but someone like me never will,” her clear-eyed examination of societal expectations suggests the potential for a rejection of the good girl’s smile in the face of what’s handed her with a truth-reckoning “One of these nights I’ll meet you in the driveway, and tell you to go to Hell…” “How many of us are going through Hell in secret?” Schlapman asks. “For generations, women were taught not to complain, not to explain, while behind the scenes, it’s a total disaster. Secrets are so cancerous, and most of us have them. That’s the empowerment: she suffers for knowing…until…” Fairchild agrees, “Through her awakening she finds resolve and is willing to tell the truth. No more sugar coating.”
It’s followed by Westbrook’s searching “Problem Child,” which turns the rejoinder of “What’s your problem, child?” into a recognition and invitation to seek solace. As Fairchild, who Schlapman calls, “the Tom Brady of the project,” says of the song’s tenderness, “We had just written this song and instantly wanted to record it. That’s Jimi’s very first vulnerable vocal, where he said, ‘I don’t know if I know this enough to really sing it…’ That made this vocal, and everything this song is trying to communicate.”
Sweet sees the cinematic juxtaposition of it. “With those beautiful strings and that vocal, it speaks to everyone that has felt like a black sheep, like a problem child. We’ve all been that person, whether (it was when) we were a child or not, and it takes something sad and cloaks it in hope.” Not that Nightfall is a somber place. Yes, it opens the gates to reflection, but in that comes freedom and joy.
“Over Drinking,” which sounds like a throw down, celebrates moving through angst to lighter ground… “I’m Over Drinking, Over You.”
Real country, classic material with a metaphor that turns the tropes inside out. Pretty profound. “If I’m out at a bar and I’ve tied one on…I’m drunk ‘cause I’m happy not drunk ‘cause you’re gone.”
“When ‘Over Drinking’ got texted to my phone,” Fairchild marvels, “it was such a fun song, country and smart. We immediately knew it belonged on Nightfall, although the record was basically mastered and finished. We knew this was a song our fans would love. We didn’t waste a moment despite being on the road.”
Dispatching a runner to a local Bed, Bath + Beyond to buy all the baffling they could find, an “instant session” was born in an empty room backstage. “It was so spontaneous and creative!” Fairchild continues. “We carry a recording rig with us, and set it up. The drums, bass, and guitars sounded amazing. That ‘in the moment’ feeling is all over the track.”
In perfect 6/8 time, Little Big Town leaned into hard country with a slinky, celebratory earthiness. The Telecaster stings and the sticks on the rims usher in a triumph from tear-in-my-beer anguish. It juxtaposes the pluck of the teasing nag of the gently undulating “Throw Your Love Away,” which finds the ether-voiced Schlapman sparkling through a catalogue of indelible memories, or the acoustic smolder “Questions,” where the burgundy in Fairchild’s voice illuminates as she sifts through the post-breakup doubts she will never voice.
Obviously, there are layers of Fleetwood Mac’s intoxicating harmonies, the acoustic nature of Laurel Canyon, the sweeping sense of emotion that underlies Joni Mitchell and the great respect and love for the songwriters of Nashville, TN. “I’m a dreamer,” Sweet offers. “This music hopefully honors that as musicians in country music. If people can open their hearts and just connect with music in a way that feeds them, makes them feel what they need or want to, then we got it.”
Westbrook explains, “The atmosphere everyone’s living in right now had our heads in more adult places. You always want to have fun, but we’re adults with families – and needed to say something that mattered.” Still, as Schlapman boils it down, “This was a journey, and still is. Whether you’re going to the mountains, or the beach, even sitting in your living room with a glass of wine, this record is an experience. It will take you through so many places in life, hopefully sink in, and take you where you need to go, or give you what you’re looking to find.” Fairchild adds, “The sequence is deliberate to take you through the romance of Nightfall…the questions we have when we’re alone, the joy and the frolic of love and friendship, and the strength to overcome.”
As fingers find a gut string guitar, then a piano, that tranquility closes Nightfall with the reality tug of “Trouble with Forever.” Four voices caressing the breathlessness of how things start, showering the truth about how love and life fade like a benediction for the best of who we are.
Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osborne, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Mickey Guyton, Alan Jackson, Little Big Town, Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood are among the performers at this year’s ACM Awards. They’re joined by Kelsea Ballerini, Lee Brice, Kane Brown, Kenny Chesney, Luke Combs, Dan + Shay, Ryan Hurd, Jack Ingram, Elle King, Miranda Lambert, Ashley McBryde, Maren Morris, Carly Pearce, Jon Randall, Thomas Rhett, Blake Shelton, The War and Treaty, CeCe Winans and Chris Young.
Over 25 artists will perform more than 30 songs from three iconic Country Music venues: the Grand Ole Opry House, Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium and The Bluebird Cafe. Additional details on the exciting performances including unprecedented collaborations and surprising moments will be announced in the coming weeks. First-time ACM Awards performances from many of the legendary artists in the lineup can be found HERE.
The health and safety of the artists, fans, industry, staff and partners involved in the ACM Awards is the number one priority. All guidelines set forth by national, state and local health officials will be closely followed and implemented during the production along with additional safety measures to be instated by dick clark productions and the Academy of Country Music.
For more information, visit ACMcountry.com. You can also like Academy of Country Music on Facebook, follow on Twitter at @ACMawards, follow on Instagram at @ACMawards and sign up for the FREE ACM A-List for more immediate updates.
The 56th Academy of Country Music Awards, hosted by Keith Urban and Mickey Guyton, will air Sunday, April 18th beginning at 8pm ET/delayed PT on CBS.
This year’s Grammy Awards have set the stage for this Sunday (March 14th), and several UMG Nashville artists are in the running. Little Big Town picked up two nods for Best Country Album for Nightfall, as well as one for Best Country Duo/Group for “Sugar Coat,” along with Brothers Osborne for “All Night,” their sixth career Grammy nomination.
Eric Church’s “Stick That in Your Country Song,” Vince Gill’s “When My Amy Prays” and Mickey Guyton’s “Black Like Me” are nominated for Best Country Solo Performance.
Mickey, the first Black solo female artist to be nominated in a Grammy country category, will perform her nominated song “Black Like Me” on Sunday’s show, and she says it will be very emotional for her, as is her first Grammy nomination.
“Getting my first Grammy nomination for ‘Black Like Me’ means the absolute world to me,” she says. “I’ve been pursuing music for a very, very, very long time, and there are many times that I thought I was going to quit. And my music journey didn’t change until I stopped running away from who I really am, embracing who I really am, and opening the door for other people, other people that are marginalized.”
Of significant note, Taylor Swift earned six nominations. folklore, a follow-up to her Lover album, was nominated for best pop vocal album. The album’s lead pop single, “cardigan,” was also recognized in the overall Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance categories. Her collaboration with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, “exile,” received a nod in Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. If that wasn’t all, the “betty” artist earned a nomination for best song written for visual media for her collaboration with Andrew Lloyd Webber on Cats’ “Beautiful Ghosts.”
The 63rd annual Grammy Awards, hosted by Trevor Noah, will broadcast live on Sunday, March 14th beginning at 8pm ET/5pm PT on CBS. The show will also be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.
Best Country Album
Lady Like, Ingrid Andress
Your Life Is a Record, Brandy Clark
Wildcard, Miranda Lambert
Nightfall, Little Big Town
Never Will, Ashley McBryde
Best Country Solo Performance
“Stick That in Your Country Song,” Eric Church
“Who You Thought I Was,” Brandy Clark
“When My Amy Prays,” Vince Gill
“Black Like Me,” Mickey Guyton
“Bluebird,” Miranda Lambert
Best Country Duo / Group Performance
“All Night,” Brothers Osborne
“10,000 Hours,” Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber
“Ocean,” Lady A
“Sugar Coat,” Little Big Town
“Some People Do,” Old Dominion
Brothers Osborne (All Night) 2 OC: …what we did. :15
“‘All Night’ is a song we wrote with our friend, Andrew DeRoberts. We wanted to write a song that just felt good. We didn’t want to think too hard about it. We wanted to write a song that no matter what happened we knew that our fans at our shows were gonna love to sing along to (it), and that’s what we did.”
Mickey Guyton (Grammy performance) OC: …right now. :33
“My performance at the Grammys is going to be so special and emotional, like it’s not just about me, there’s it’s the song Black Like Me. It is so many people’s stories. And that was my goal in this performance. There’s representation as well, which is really important to me in this performance. But I just wanted people to feel like they’re coming together. This is a huge moment for black people in country music, and I just feel so honored to stand in these shoes right now.”
Mickey Guyton (Grammy nomination) OC: …are marginalized. :29
“Getting my first Grammy nomination for ‘Black Like Me’ means the absolute world to me. I’ve been pursuing music for a very, very, very long time, and there are many times that I thought I was going to quit. And my music journey didn’t change until I stopped running away from who I really am, embracing who I really am, and opening the door for other people, other people that are marginalized.”
LBT (Nightfall) OC: …proud of it. :23
“Nightfall is our ninth studio album, and we poured our hearts into this project and we’re so proud of it. We feel like it makes a beautiful statement about where we are right now as a band and how much we love making music together and also that the album takes you on a journey. It will transport you hopefully into a beautiful place, because we love it and we’re very proud of it.”
LBT (Sugarcoat) OC: …what’s going on. :20
“I love ‘Sugarcoat.’ It’s a story about a woman who is putting up all these fronts to live a perfect life, and actually what is happening behind closed doors is the opposite of perfect. It’s really devastation, but she’s covering it up at every time but then she realizes that she needs to let her man know she knows what’s going on.”
Eric Church (STIYCS) OC: …found itself. :56
“I’ve never had a song in my career that was a harbinger of things to come. When we recorded ‘Stick That in Your Country Song,’ we had a booming economy and a pretty great world going on. And I remember thinking when I did it, ‘Wow, I’m not sure this, I’m not sure how relevant this is for right now. I love the song. I love the sentiment, but I’m just not sure.’ And within about 30 days, the world changed, and it changed for a while, and this song just became more and more real and more and more relevant. And truth be told – 100% honesty – I had a different single picked out as the first single, and then the world kept changing and it kept bringing itself almost like a magnet back to this song and back to this moment. So, this song found itself. It wasn’t me finding it, it found itself.”
Vince Gill (When My Amy Prays) OC: …give myself. :15
“To me the real beauty of that song is the light that I paint her in, obviously. But the, golly, how is the right way to say this? Maybe the emotion comes from the vulnerability that I give myself.”
Monday (February 8th) is International Women’s Day, which is a global day celebrating
the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900’s.
Many of your favorite female country artists are also celebrating this day in honor of women everywhere and of their influences and inspirations.
Carrie Underwood (Musical influences) OC: …do it too. :54
“I think my biggest influences musically, or career-wise, would have to be women like Reba, like Dolly, like Faith Hill, like Martina McBride. You see all of these women just juggle everything masterfully and many of them are moms and they’re superstars and they’re talented, and you know, I know how hard they work because I’m in their shoes somewhat and doing the same juggling. You know, you have the kids and the career and you’re just trying to crush everything you do and being pulled in a million different directions. And to see women like that who are just beautiful and smart and strong and talented, knowing that they have come first and they’re still getting to do what they love and they’re still getting to be the mom and the wife and all the things – that’s just such an inspiration to me and just lets me know that I can do it too.”
Carrie Underwood (biggest female influence) OC: …ever had. :25
“I would say my biggest female influence would have to be my Mom. She was the first person that I was around that really taught me what it was like to be a woman, to be a Mom, to be a wife, to be a daughter and a sister. And just watching her and how she did everything with grace and integrity and she’s so strong. I mean, she was just the best role model anybody could have ever had.”
Caylee Hammack (Loretta Lynn and professional inspirations) OC: …look up to. :31
“My first concert ever was Loretta Lynn. I was 13 years old and I got to see her in Columbus, Georgia. I begged my Dad to bring me, and I just remembered sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to see what she’d sing or say next. Loretta Lynn has been such an inspiration to me and all of the women who came before me – Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, all the way to Miranda Lambert and the legends of today. It’s unreal how many amazing women I have been given in this world to look up to.”
Caylee Hammack (Loretta Lynn) OC: …should listen. :28
“My female idol growing up was Loretta Lynn. I was 13 when I got to see her live in-concert for the very first time. It was my first concert ever, and I will always remember sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to just see what she was gonna sing or say next. The power she had on stage is something you don’t see much; there’s a magic there. I think that when a woman tells her story – a woman like Loretta Lynn – everyone should listen.”
Caylee Hammack (Miranda, Ashley, Tenille) OC: …more grateful. :46
“I could on and on about Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette and Reba and Dolly, but I want to actually mention a few friends that I’ve recently made in this year of quarantine and that’s Miranda Lambert and Ashley McBryde and Tenille Townes, these women that I’ve really gotten to connect with over this time in random group messages and such. I‘m just so very grateful that not only do I have women that have paved the way for us coming up in the country music industry, but I also have amazing women around me that I get to celebrate every single time that they put a new song out or win an award. I feel like I’ve found a family in country music, in the women of country music and I just couldn’t be more grateful.”
Kacey Musgraves (women in Country Music) OC: …of it all. :37
“I look at people like Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, songwriters who were sassy and intelligent and beautiful and also intelligent and humorous. They inspired me, and if I can be at all any part of that in carrying that on, then I feel like, that’s just the icing on the cake for me, and I feel like I’ve done my job.”
Kylie Morgan (International Women’s Day) OC: …so young. :21
“For me, International Women’s Day is not only about women supporting women but also looking up to other women. And the very first tiny woman, actually, I ever looked up to was Shirley Temple. Not only was she a child star, but she never let her age hold her back. And I feel like I continue to grow up with that mentality and why I started my career so young.”
Lauren Alaina (woman she most admires) OC: … :24
“A woman that regularly inspires me would be my manager, Trisha. She is the most positive person that I’ve ever met. She’s constantly putting out fires. Trisha’s putting ‘em out and calming me down and helping me get to the next place and she just does everything with such grace and poise and she’s such a problem solver and she’s always positive and I just really admire that about her.”
Loretta Lynn (which songs had most impact) OC: …double hits. :10
“‘You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)’ and ‘Fist City’ is another one. They both hit women, you know? I wrote them about other women at the time and myself too, so I think that’s why they were double hits.”
Maddie & Tae (women most admire) OC: (Maddie) …everybody! :43
“I definitely can’t pick just one inspiring woman in my life, because I’ve been blessed by many. (TAE INTERRUPTS) Yeah, I was gonna say Tae is definitely one that inspires me always for many different reasons. You are really good at living in the moment, I feel like; very good at being present and I always pick that up from you every time we hang out. (TAE SAYS, “Your joy inspires me.”) My mom, she is just a baddie and amazing. I would say our manager Haley. She is just so great at balancing work life and family life, and I really admire that. And I would say, I don’t know. All the women in my life – my sister, my sister-in-laws, my mother-in-law. I love ‘em all. My grandma…everybody!”
Mickey Guyton (started with LeAnn) OC: …done. :24
“I was eight-years-old, and my church, I grew up singing in the church, and my church drove to Arlington [Texas] from Waco to go see a Texas Rangers baseball game. We were all the way up in the nosebleed section, and the announcer says, ‘Please rise as 10-year-old LeAnn Rimes sings the National Anthem,’ and that was before ‘Blue’ came out. I was already stuck on her, and then when ‘Blue’ came out, I was just like done.”
Mickey Guyton (on pursuing a career as a singer) OC: …all those people. :50
“It wasn’t like something where I was like, ‘Dad, I want to be a professional singer.’ It wasn’t until I was older when I finally admitted it. When you say something like that, it’s pretty crazy. What are we normally supposed to be? We’re supposed to be a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, go to school and for me to even say that was just kind of crazy. So, I took an interest in singing. I started doing solos in the church choir or the school had a talent show. I’d bring my boom box, and I’d sing ‘I Will Always Love You.’ I was just mesmerized by big-voiced women, so from LeAnn, I started listening to Dolly and Patsy Cline and Patty Loveless and Reba McEntire and Faith Hill and Martina McBride, all those people.”
Mickey Guyton (why the song Sister is so important to her) OC: …out there. :21
“As a woman, we need our sisters and this song is just so important for women, for girls, for everyone right now, to show solidarity and support for each other. No matter what it is that you believe, no matter what it is that you do, this song is exactly that for every woman out there.”
Priscilla Block (Dolly Parton) OC: …me some Dolly. :19
“Hey-this is Priscilla Block, and I would say one female country legend that I look up to would be Dolly Parton. I love how honest she is, and she’s always just embraced who she is as a woman, and I love that so much, you know. Big hair, big hoops and you know what’s next. I love me some Dolly.”
Priscilla Block (Mom) OC: …in the butt. :25
“I would honestly say one of the most inspiring women in my life is my mom because she raised five kids, and honestly had no clue what she was doing, but kind of always just made life so fun. She was there when we needed to laugh and when we needed to cry, and she was also there when we needed a little kick in the butt.”
“Hey y’all, this is Catie Offerman. Happy International Women’s Day. This is such a special chance for all of us to celebrate each other and all the women around the globe and all their amazing accomplishments. We love you!”