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, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Little Big Town, Darius Rucker (with Brad Paisley), Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban are among the all-star lineup of performers for ACM® PRESENTS: OUR COUNTRY, a two-hour special featuring intimate conversations and at-home acoustic performances with Country Music’s biggest stars, along with clips from the Academy of Country Music Awards’™ 55-year history. Kelsea Ballerini,Kane Brown & John Legend, Brandi Carlile, Luke Combs, Sheryl Crow, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw, Old Dominion, Thomas Rhett, Blake Shelton & Gwen Stefani will also perform. The special will be broadcast Sunday, April 5th at 8pm ET/PT; 7pm CT on CBS and CBS All Access.
ACM® PRESENTS: OUR COUNTRY will also honor 10-time ACM Award® winner Kenny Rogers with performances by Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley and Darius Rucker. As previously announced, artists will appear from their homes to share heartfelt thoughts and perform acoustic versions of Country hits. Additionally, video clips from previous ACM Award broadcasts will highlight favorite ACM moments from the past. It will be a night filled with entertainment, hope and reflection, bringing the healing power of music to Americans at a time when they need it most.
The special will broadcast during the time slot previously scheduled for the 55th Academy of Country Music Awards, which will now be broadcast Wednesday, Sept. 16 (live 8:00-11:00 PM ET/delayed PT) on the CBS Television Network and streaming live and on demand on CBS All Access. The 55th ACM Awards, hosted for the first time by reigning ACM Entertainer of the Year and 15-time ACM Award winner Keith Urban, honors the biggest names and emerging talent in the Country Music industry.
About ACM® PRESENTS: OUR COUNTRY
ACM® PRESENTS: OUR COUNTRY invites fans to join their favorite superstars for a new kind of entertainment special featuring at-home acoustic performances with top Country artists along with clips of their favorite moments from the Academy of Country Music Awards’™ 55-year history. ACM PRESENTS: OUR COUNTRY is produced for television by dick clark productions. R.A. Clark, Barry Adelman, Mark Bracco and Amy Thurlow are executive producers. Damon Whiteside is executive producer for the Academy of Country Music®.
Country foursome, Little Big Town, will postpone The Nightfall Tour to resume in August amid health concerns over the coronavirus. Previously purchased tickets will be honored at all of the newly rescheduled dates.
“This tour means everything to us, but amid the health concerns surrounding our country, we feel like the only thing to do to protect the health of our fans, band, crew, and families is to postpone the upcoming spring shows,” said the band. “We are already counting down the weeks to be back out there with you all, celebrating life, love, music, and health with a new and different appreciation. Previously purchased tickets will be honored for all rescheduled dates. Stay safe and healthy and try to enjoy this unexpected time to spend with your loved ones.”
August 8 Denver, CO: The Paramount Theater
August 9 Denver, CO: The Paramount Theater
August 10 Denver, CO: The Paramount Theater
September 24 Phoenix, AZ: Arizona Federal Theatre
October 1 Detroit, MI: Fox Theater
October 22 Chicago, IL: The Chicago Theater
October 23 Chicago, IL: The Chicago Theater
January 7 Portland, OR: Keller Auditorium
January 8 Seattle, WA: The Paramount Theater
January 9 Seattle, WA: The Paramount Theater
January 15 Oakland, CA: The Fox Theater
January 16 Oakland, CA: The Fox Theater
January 22 Salt Lake City, UT: Eccles Theater
January 23 Salt Lake City, UT: Eccles Theater
For any additional information in your affected market, please visit the specific venue’s website.
Keith Urban is scheduled to perform (and be interviewed) on Thursday night’s (March 5th) episode of the Late Show With Stephen Colbert. The show comes on at 11:35pm ET/PT.
Carrie Underwood is in the midst of her book tour for Finding Your Path and will chat about the book when she makes a stop by NBC’s Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Friday (March 6th).
The Hot Country Knights will release a new song, “Moose Knuckle Shuffle” Thursday (K)night (March 5th). The song is from the band’s upcoming album, The K is Silent.
Doug has never been a stranger to taking things into his own hands. Moose Knuckle Shuffle is being RELEASED TONIGHT! pic.twitter.com/375Q8S7gZs
— Hot Country Knights (@countryknights) March 5, 2020
Little Big Town just released a VEVO exclusive stripped down live performance of their song, “Sugar Coat,” which is featured on their latest album, Nightfall.
Luke Bryan, Billy Currington, Jordan Davis, Jon Pardi, Caylee Hammack and Jon Langston will perform at this year’s Tortuga Music Festival. The three-day event, taking place April 17th-19th in Fort Lauderdale Florida, will also feature performances by Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw, Cole Swindell, Kelsea Ballerini, Barenaked Ladies, Vanilla Ice and many others. Tickets are available at TortugaMusicFestival.com.