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.
This year’s Grammy Awards show is looming on the horizon and all of the artists are hoping to take home the bronze gramophone.
Eric Church has two nominations at this year’s GRAMMY Awards, including Best Country Album for Desperate Man and Best Country Song for his recent No. 1 smash, “Some Of It.”
Brothers Osborne are up for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for “I Don’t Remember Me (Before You),” while Little Big Town has a nod in the same category for “The Daughters.”
Vince Gill is nominated for Best American Roots Song for “I Don’t Wanna Ride the Rails No More,” and Chris Stapleton has a nomination for Best Song Written for Visual Media for “The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy” for Toy Story 4.
The 62nd GRAMMY Awards will air live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles January 26th at 8pm ET on CBS.
Best Country Duo/Group Performance
“Brand New Man,” Brooks & Dunn With Luke Combs
“I Don’t Remember Me (Before You),” Brothers Osborne
“Speechless,” Dan + Shay
“The Daughters,” Little Big Town
“Common,” Maren Morris Featuring Brandi Carlile
Best Country Song
“Bring My Flowers Now,” Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth & Tanya Tucker, songwriters (Tanya Tucker)
“Girl Goin’ Nowhere,” Jeremy Bussey & Ashley McBryde, songwriters (Ashley McBryde)
“It All Comes Out in the Wash,” Miranda Lambert, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna & Liz Rose, songwriters (Miranda Lambert)
“Some of It,” Eric Church, Clint Daniels, Jeff Hyde & Bobby Pinson, songwriters (Eric Church)
“Speechless,” Shay Mooney, Jordan Reynolds, Dan Smyers & Laura Veltz, songwriters (Dan + Shay)
Best Country Album
Desperate Man, Eric Church
Stronger Than the Truth, Reba McEntire
Interstate Gospel, Pistol Annies
Center Point Road, Thomas Rhett
While I’m Livin’, Tanya Tucker
Best American Roots Song
“Black Myself,” Amythyst Kiah, songwriter (Our Native Daughters)
“Call My Name,” Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan & Sara Watkins, songwriters (I’m With Her)
“Crossing to Jerusalem,” Rosanne Cash & John Leventhal, songwriters (Rosanne Cash)
“Faraway Look,” Dan Auerbach, Yola Carter & Pat McLaughlin, songwriters (Yola)
“I Don’t Wanna Ride the Rails No More,” Vince Gill, songwriter (Vince Gill)
Best Song Written for Visual Media
“The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy,” From: Toy Story 4 (Chris Stapleton)
“Girl in the Movies,” From: Dumplin’
“I’ll Never Love Again” (Film Version), From: A Star Is Born
“Sprit,” From: The Lion King
“Suspirium,” From: Suspiria
Brothers Osborne (I Don’t Remember Me (Before You) 1:05
“There was a bit of the song that was a little on the nose. I don’t – it started the first tag (sings) which was an idea Shane had. He showed up that day and goes ‘I don’t remember my life before I had my babies.’ He said, ‘I literally can’t think of who I was. I don’t remember who I was before [my] husband Michael.’ And we thought man, that is a really interesting thing. An incredible idea. I’m sure it’s been done to some extent, but I can’t really recall that subject being said that way. And so, we were all about it. We loved the idea and the concept, but when Jay [Joyce] heard it, he goes, ‘Man, I think it would be really cool to save the ‘before you’ till the end of the song and I instantly was like, ‘Man, I think that’s a killer idea.’ John and I were all about it. And so, it ends now (sings) it kind of goes in a turn around. You don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. ‘I don’t remember me,’ you keep hearing this, and then at the end is the reveal ‘I don’t remember me before you,’ which I think is great. It also made it problematic [for] the title of the song.”
Eric Church (Some of It coming of age) OC: …figure it out. :56
“That’s a song, a coming-of-age song, it’s an adult song. It’s adult music. If you listen to the thematics in that and what it’s about, it’s about being older and having some wisdom about you. I think that’s something that I appreciate in my fan base now that early on probably wasn’t there. We were young and drunk and fighting and stupid. But I think now to see them grow – to see the fan base grow – it’s just one of those songs that came along at the right time. And again, it was such a blessing that happened. It wasn’t going to be on the album. It was just one of those freak things that I put it on the album, the last song on the album. The album was done, and all of a sudden it becomes the pillar, one of the pillars on the album. I think again, you go back to it’s one of the great things about music, is you just never know what’s going to happen until it’s all said and done. You can try to plan all you want to, but you’ll probably not going to figure it out.”
Eric Church (creative process in the studio) OC: …the creativity. :57
“It was an interesting creative process. This record was made in the studio, from writing to completion, then any record we have ever made. It was really there, ‘cause I wrote songs there, we change things there. I played parts there, I never played, never thought of. I think maybe it was the first album in our career that there was more creative energy in the studio than any other, because it was written, made, conceived, it was all there. I mean, on ‘The Snake,’ for example, that background part was myself, Jeff Hyde and Joanna, and we tried to sound the old blues kind of sound. We were doing that creatively in the studio, and it made a really interesting thing. A lot of people will say, ‘Who sang that? who is that?’ Well it was us! We were feeling the creativity.”
Vince Gill (I Don’t Wanna Ride the Rails No More) OC: …down the road. (laughs) 1:15
“I don’t think that I intended it to be so verbatim about trains. I think it’s about – it could very well be the bus for me. I don’t want to ride the bus no more. I’ve been riding this bus for 40 something years. But it’s just a song of reflection. My brother struggled in his life and probably a good chance he hopped a few trains in his life. And it just has such a – such a great history of Grapes of Wrath and just old school people hopping freight trains and struggling and riding them out. Maybe Dust Bowl folks riding them out, copping a ride on a train somewhere. I just think that that whole image of riding a train has just this great beauty to it. So, it’s really just a song of reflection, of a life that at times is lonely but ‘I don’t want to ride the rails no more. I want to find a woman’s love worth dying for.’ That’s yearning. It’s hopeful. Even, once again, you can get an element of some sense of hope in something then you just don’t depress the crap out of somebody and send them on down the road. (laughs)”
Little Big Town will perform on Live With Kelly and Ryan on January 31st.
Kacey Musgraves will be among the performers for this year’s Primavera Sound music festival. The 2020 event, taking place June 3rd through June 7th in Barcelona, Spain, will also feature performances by Maggie Rogers, Lana Del Rey, Bad Bunny, Beck, Tyler, the Creator and many more.
Kassi Ashton will release a new song “Hopeless” on Friday (January 24th).
Keith Urban is a huge Tennessee Titans fan, and while he had a private show on Sunday, he and his band watched the AFC Championship game during soundcheck at the venue. Later he posted how proud he was of the NFL team as well as the Kansas City Chiefs who advance to this year’s Super Bowl.
— Keith Urban (@KeithUrban) January 19, 2020
Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley and Jon Pardi will headline this year’s Windy City Smokeout country music and barbecue festival in Chicago. The three-day event, taking place July 10th through July 12th, will also feature performances by Morgan Evans, Ryan Hurd, Riley Green, Cody Johnson and many others.
One of country music’s most successful and celebrated groups, Little Big Town, have released their ninth studio album, Nightfall (Capitol Records Nashville). The self-produced album is one of the band’s most intimate and powerful to date.
“Little Big Town Are Beacons Of Hope With Ninth Album, ‘Nightfall’”- American Songwriter
Co-writing nine of the album’s 13 tracks, the band has already kicked off this latest effort with a 2020 Grammy nomination for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for the empowering song, “The Daughters.” The song serves as an inspirational and motivational call for young girls to pursue their passions and believe in themselves regardless of societal expectations of women.
“To use a phrase only occasionally appreciated or particularly appropriate in country, this is a class album from one classy group.”– The Wall Street Journal
NIGHTFALL Track List:
- Next To You (Hillary Reynolds, Michael Jade, Trevor Jarvis)
- Nightfall (Karen Fairchild, Daniel Tashian, Fancy Hagood)
- Forever And A Night (Karen Fairchild, Jimi Westbrook, Phillip Sweet, Foy Vance)
- Throw Your Love Away (Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Hillary Lindsey, Liz Rose, Lori McKenna)
- Over Drinking (Carey Barlowe, Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley, Steph Jones, Hillary Lindsey)
- Wine, Beer, Whiskey (Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook, Phillip Sweet, Sean McConnell, Tofer Brown)
- Questions (Karen Fairchild, Jon Green, Sara Haze)
- The Daughters (Karen Fairchild, Sean McConnell, Ashley Ray)
- River Of Stars (Karen Fairchild, Daniel Tashian, Ian Fitchuk)
- Sugar Coat (Josh Kerr, Jordyn Shellhart, Lori McKenna)
- Problem Child (Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook, Phillip Sweet, Sean McConnell, Tofer Brown)
- Bluebird (Karen Fairchild, Daniel Tashian, Ian Fitchuk)
- Trouble With Forever (Jason Saenz, Marc Beeson, Sara Haze)
“There are plenty of fun moments on ‘Nightfall,’ but Little Big Town continues to be brave enough to make their lyrics matter.” – The Tennessean
The album’s current single, “Over Drinking,” is a pick-yourself-up and dust off the heartache anthem. The single’s music video stars Michelle Monaghan and takes inspiration from classic films like Urban Cowboy and Thelma & Louise – complete with Stetsons, fringe and a mechanical bull.
Another track from Nightfall, “Sugar Coat,” and its accompanying music video starring Kate Bosworth, tells the story of a forbearing wife and mother whose husband’s continuous philandering proves harder and harder to endure, but is pressured out of the responsibility to her family to keep smiling and wearing her ‘sugar coat.’
“Nightfall is a textured album that is every bit the cinematic experience the band promised. Lyrically they don’t just ask questions but draw conclusions that won’t alienate.” – Taste of Country
Last night (Jan. 16), Little Big Town performed a track-by-track showcase of Nightfall at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall. The performance comes just ahead of their two-night engagement (January 17 and 18) at another of New York’s iconic venues, the Apollo Theatre, which officially kicks-off of their national Nightfall tour.
For additional information on Little Big Town including upcoming tour dates, please visit:
LBT (Nightfall album) 2 OC: …what you think. :33
“It’s a very special record, and we got to produce this one on our own and just really wrote a lot of songs. We could’ve done a double record (KIMBERLY: “Easy.”), we had so much content and songs and so many meaningful moments. There’s a song called ‘Throw Your Love Away’ that Kimberly and I wrote with the Love Junkies, you know those girls from the song ‘Girl Crush,’ a very soulful song, and one with Foy Vance called ‘Forever and a Night.’ (There were) just a lot of really special moments. So, check it out, download it, let us know what you think.”