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.
Last Night’s CMT Music Awards included several performances from many locations around Nashville and around the world.
Luke Bryan, who picked up the award for Male Video of the Year (“One Margarita”), performed his No. 1 hit, “What She Wants Tonight.”
— CMT (@CMT) October 22, 2020
Little Big Town turned in a fiery performance of their latest single, “Wine Beer Whiskey,” and the song ended up at #1 on the iTunes sales chart this morning.
— CMT (@CMT) October 22, 2020
Sam Hunt performed his recent chart-topping smash, “Hard to Forget.”
— CMT (@CMT) October 22, 2020
Shania Twain performed all the way from Switzerland with a rousing performance of “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under.”
So happy I could be a part of the #CMTAwards even though I'm in Switzerland! Thanks @CMT for having me and for spotlighting so many exceptional women, the 50/50 pledge is a step in the right direction and I hope it will help make a difference elsewhere ✊ https://t.co/MNwPGJ94CO pic.twitter.com/2XjrCBhQze
— Shania Twain 💎 (@ShaniaTwain) October 22, 2020
Travis Denning performed his recent No. 1 hit, “After a Few,” on his first-ever awards show appearance.
— Universal Nashville (@UMGNashville) October 22, 2020
Caylee Hammack performed her new single, “Just Friends.” Prior to the awards show, she answered a few fan questions.
— CMT (@CMT) October 22, 2020
Mickey Guyton delivered a beautiful performance of her single, “Heaven Down Here,” which is featured on her new EP, Bridges.
📸 John Shearer pic.twitter.com/lM1mhFQVH1
— Mickey Guyton (@MickeyGuyton) October 22, 2020
As the Grand Ole Opry® continues its 95th anniversary celebration this month, the show joins together with Susan G. Komen® and Komen Central Tennessee in the fight against breast cancer Saturday, October 24th for the Opry’s 12th annual Opry Goes Pinkshow. Lauren Alaina, Little Big Town, and Rita Wilson with Victoria Shaw and Erin Kinsey are scheduled to perform on the Opry’s 4,797th Saturday night broadcast.
The show will air at 7 p.m. Central on Circle and Gray TV stations as well as DISH Studio Channel 102, Sling TV, and other TV affiliates in addition to a companion livestream hosted by four-time CMA nominee Carly Pearce on Circle All Access Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The Opry can also be heard on 650 WSM-AM, wsmonline.com, and SiriusXM: Willie’s Roadhouse. Throughout the show, fans will learn more about the fight against breast cancer and the work of Susan G. Komen and be invited to donate to the cause.
An in-venue audience of 1,100 is planned in compliance with operating plans developed in collaboration with the Nashville Public Health Department that include socially distanced seating, mandatory masks for all guests and staff, as well as enhanced cleaning practices.
Brothers Osborne will perform from the Sofar Listening Room on Thursday (October 15th) beginning at 3pm ET/2pm CT. The duo just released their brand new album, Skeletons, last week and are currently making their way up the country charts with their latest single, “All Night.”
— Brothers Osborne (@brothersosborne) October 15, 2020
Reba McEntire will reportedly star in a television adaptation of “Fried Green Tomatoes” with legendary producer Norman Lear at the helm as executive producer, according to Variety. The hour-long drama, possibly airing on NBC, is described as “a modernization of the novel and movie that explores the lives of descendants from the original work. When present-day Idgie Threadgoode (McEntire) returns to Whistle Stop after a decade away, she must wrestle with a changed town, estranged daughter, faltering cafe and life-changing secret.” Reba is also said to be one of the executive producers, as well.
Reba McEntire, Brothers Osborne and Little Big Town are among the artists performing at various venues around Nashville for the virtual Save Our Stages Festival, taking place October 16th – 18th. The three-day event will also include performances by Kelsea Ballerini, Dave Matthews, Marshmello, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Jason Mraz, Foo Fighters, Leon Bridges and many more. This benefit will raise awareness and money for the NIVA Emergency Relief Fund to support independent music venues across the nation during this devastating pandemic. Check out all the information on times, venues and performances right here.
Sam Hunt has been added to the list of performers at this year’s CMT Music Awards. Sam is up for Male Video of the Year for “Hard to Forget,” and he’s also nominated for CMT Performance of the Year for his cover of Reba McEntire’s iconic hit, “Fancy,” at the 2019 CMT Artists of the Year ceremony. He joins previously announced performers Luke Bryan, Little Big Town, Maren Morris, Kane Brown, Dan + Shay and Ashley McBryde on the main stage. Also performing are Gabby Barrett and Morgan Wallen, as well as several performances from the the Ram Trucks Side Stage featuring Caylee Hammack, Mickey Guyton, Travis Denning, Ingrid Andress, Hardy and Riley Green. Shania Twain will also make an appearance at the CMT Awards ceremony, her first since 2011. The 2020 CMT Music Awards will air October 21st beginning at 8pm ET/7pm CT.