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.
Little Big Town’s latest music video for their song “Rich Man” is available everywhere now, after making its Facebook world premiere. Off their 10th studio album, Mr. Sun, “Rich Man” was written by LBT’s Jimi Westbrook over the course of the last decade. The video features Charles Esten (“Outer Banks,” “Nashville”), who plays the central role of a father in the emotionally poignant video.
Produced and filmed by Running Bear Films in Nashville, TN, the video is a nostalgic film which pays homage to good men, hardworking people, and loving families everywhere. It tells the story of a young boy and his relationship with his father (Esten) over the course of time. Interwoven with a performance by Little Big Town, the video ends with a beautifully fitting twist: Westbrook himself playing the older grown-up version of the little boy.
— Little Big Town (@littlebigtown) December 16, 2022
“‘Rich Man’ has a special place in my heart, and I’ve been touched by the response it’s gotten from the record and playing it on the road. We wanted the video to show the love of family, and love of a father. This song makes me think of my own dad, and I wanted to honor that as well as the heart I have for my son,” says Westbrook. “Making this with Charles, the other actors, and of course Karen, Kimberly, and Phillip, was really a labor of love.”
Adds LBT’s Karen Fairchild: “‘Rich Man’ tells the story of how the deep roots of family ground us and give us the space to flourish and become who we are meant to be. True wealth is the story of this song.”
Maddie & Tae will perform a pair of songs — “Bathroom Floor” and “Every Night Every Morning” on ABC’s Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, hosted by Ryan Seacrest. Coming at you from multiple locations — New York, Disneyland, Los Angeles and New Orleans — the special, which kicks off at 8pm ET/7pm CT, will also feature performances by Ciara, Aly & AJ, Bailey Zimmerman, Ben Platt, Fitz and the Tantrums, Halle Bailey, Lauren Spencer Smith, Shaggy, TXT, Armani White, Betty Who, Dove Cameron, Finneas, Nicky Youre and Wiz Khalifa.
— Maddie & Tae (@MaddieandTae) December 6, 2022
Luke Bryan, Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley and The War & Treaty are among the performers recently announced for CBS’ New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash. The special, which kicks off at 8pm ET/7pm CT, will also feature performances by Little Big Town, Sheryl Crow, Flo-Rida, Riley Green, Elle King, Ashley McBryde, Steve Miller, Thomas Rhett, Lainey Wilson, Brooks & Dunn, Kelsea Ballerini and Zac Brown Band.
Eric Church and Little Big Town are among the country stars performing in a new tribute show to Paul Simon. The two hour special, Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute to the Songs of Paul Simon, will pay tribute to the iconic singer-songwriter. Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Brad Paisley, Rhiannon Giddens, Stevie Wonder, the Jonas Brothers, Dave Matthews and Sting will also perform during the special, which is set to air Wednesday (December 21st) at 9pm ET/8pm CT on CBS (and available to stream on demand on Paramount+).
While celebrating his 43rd wedding anniversary with his wife, Denise, Alan Jackson also announced he became a grandfather to grandson Jack.
Denise and I are celebrating our 43rd wedding anniversary with our new grandson Jackson Alvie Bradshaw.
Ali and Sam welcomed Jack into the world on Dec 13, 2022.
So happy that this little guy has made us grandparents! -AJ pic.twitter.com/gc9PghhUtg
— Alan Jackson (@OfficialJackson) December 15, 2022
The members of Little Big Town have their own traditions, but one they’ve all seemed to have adopted is Kimberly Schlapman’s annual holiday tradition.
“My favorite holiday tradition is, it’s happened every year that I can remember that I’ve been alive,” she says. “We would go over to my grandmother’s house and have Christmas over there, and everybody would come home to Mama and Daddy’s house. We’d sit down and Mama hands out everybody a gift, and we act like we don’t what it is, but we do ’cause it’s always Christmas pajamas. So, everybody opens their Christmas pajamas and goes and puts ’em on, and we come back to the living room and we sit around Daddy and he reads ‘The Christmas Story,’ and we tuck ourselves in until Santa comes.”
One of Karen Fairchild’s traditions include making candy. “Christmases at our house usually included making candy with my mother and my grandmother,” says Karen. “We did everything from potato candy to chocolate dipped peanut butter (JIMI: “That all sounds amazing.”) and fudge. My mom’s fudge recipe is amazing.” KIMBERLY: “What is potato candy?” KAREN: “It does use a potato, but it’s rolled and it has peanut butter inside.”
The Christmas holiday season for the group begins with movies and music. “One of our favorite Christmas traditions is gathering around the television to watch holiday movies,” says Karen. “And I know [for] Kimberly, it starts with [KIMBERLY: “It’s a Wonderful Life.”] It’s a Wonderful Life. Ours is holiday movies and records, like certain records have to be played in order for Jimi.” Jimi is adamant about beginning with a certain artist. “You have to start out the season right with Elvis, a little Elvis Presley.”
A couple of years ago, Kimberly released a children’s book, A DOLLY FOR CHRISTMAS: The True Story of a Family’s Christmas Miracle. A DOLLY FOR CHRISTMAS celebrates the season’s themes of hope, love, and family as it explores a family’s adoption process. Inspired by Schlapman’s struggle to conceive her second child and how she and her family decided to adopt, the book delves into how Schlapman’s first daughter wrote letters to Santa Claus about her desire for a sibling until the family was actually surprised by their new baby girl, Dolly, days before Christmas. In the story, all Daisy wants for Christmas is a little brother or sister. Her parents have tried everything to make her dream come true, but nothing is working. So Daisy takes matters into her own hands, praying every day and writing a letter to Santa Claus about her one and only wish. Daisy’s parents are touched by her strong belief and grateful for her help, but as they explain, sometimes you have to wait. God will give you the perfect gift when the time is right. In this heartwarming holiday tale, Schlapman shares the true story of the Christmas when her family became whole.
LBT (Christmas) OC: …Santa comes. :28
“My favorite holiday tradition is, it’s happened very year that I can remember that I’ve been alive. We would go over to my grandmother’s house and have Christmas over there, and everybody would come home to Mama and Daddy’s house. We’d sit down and Mama hands out everybody a gift, and we act like we don’t what it is, but we do ’cause it’s always Christmas pajamas. So, everybody opens their Christmas pajamas and goes and puts ’em on, and we come back to the living room and we sit around Daddy and he reads The Christmas Story. And we tuck ourselves in until Santa comes.”
LBT (Karen-candy making) OC: …peanut butter inside. :19
“Christmases at our house usually included making candy with my mother and my grandmother. We did everything from potato candy to chocolate dipped peanut butter (JIMI: “That all sounds amazing.”) and fudge. My mom’s fudge recipe is amazing.” KIMBERLY: “What is potato candy?” KAREN: “It does use a potato, but it’s rolled and it has peanut butter inside.”
LBT (Holiday movies) OC: (Phillip) …whatever I touch. [LAUGHS] :38
KAREN: “One of our favorite Christmas traditions is gathering around the television to watch holiday movies. And I know [for] Kimberly, it starts with [KIMBERLY: “It’s a Wonderful Life.”] It’s a Wonderful Life. Ours is holiday movies and records, like certain records have to be played in order for Jimi.” JIMI: “You have to start out the season right with Elvis, a little Elvis Presley.” KAREN: “I like the Charlie Brown Christmas movie.” KIMBERLY: “It’s sweet.” KAREN: “Yeah, it is sweet.” JIMI: “I like all those classic ones like the Rudolph and what is the one with the Abominable Snowman?” KIMBERLY: “Frosty, the Snowman?” PHILLIP: [sings] “I’m Mister Heat Miser/whatever I touch…” [LAUGHS] (The song is from the Claymation special ‘A Year Without a Santa Claus.’)