Little Big Town includes, from left, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook, Karen Fairchild, and Phillip Sweet.
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It has been an exhausting few days for Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town.
As she talks to The Blade, she is preparing to head to a rehearsal for the group’s The Breakers Tour, which will make a stop in Toledo on Saturday night. Kacey Musgraves and Midland will open the show.
“We have been watching Kacey grow and explode. She is so gifted. She is important to not just country music but music in general. I think she is going to play some of her new music in Toledo. I’ve heard some of it, and it is absolutely brilliant,” Fairchild says. “Midland is just fun, crazy, and talented. We fell in love with them when we met them.”
What: Little Big Town
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Huntington Center
Tickets: 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com, or the Huntington Center box office
On the home front, Fairchild and her husband, bandmate Jimi Westbrook, have been dealing with an unhappy child. Their son, Elijah, 8, has been under the weather. Fortunately, it is not the flu.
“I took him to the doctor, and the doctor told him, ‘The good news is that it is just a bad cold. The bad news is you have to go back to school.’ He was not happy,” Fairchild says, chuckling.
And then there was that afternoon tea with Sir Elton John during a trip to New York City for the Jan. 28 Grammy Awards, where Little Big Town performed and picked up the Grammy for best country duo/group performance for their single “Better Man.” Little Big Town, which consists of Fairchild, Westbrook, Phillip Sweet, and Kimberly Schlapman, performed “Better Man” during the program. The group was perched on a riser made to look like the ledge of a skyscraper, with the New York City skyline in the background and a wind machine rippling the hair of Fairchild and Schlapman.
“We were nervous. You are singing before peers throughout the music industry, and you want to shine, not only for yourself, but for Nashville,” Fairchild says. “I don’t like heights, and I was standing up there in 5-inch heels, trying not to fall while staring at Jay-Z and Beyonce in the front row.”
The Grammy performance was followed Jan. 30 by the filming of the I’m Still Standing tribute concert to Elton John at Madison Square Garden. LBT, along with superstars Ed Sheeran, John Legend, Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Kesha, Sam Smith, Miley Cyrus, and Chris Martin, honored the 50-year career of John during a concert that will air on CBS later this year.
“Elton John had a tea for all those involved. I don’t know that I have ever met anyone as famous who has been as kind and gracious as him,” Fairchild says. “We were so thankful to be part of the recording. I can’t wait for people to see the show, because there were just some electric performances.”
It has been a good run for Fairchild and her longtime pals. This year marks 20 years since the four began singing in Schlapman’s living room. During one session, they picked out the band’s name after flipping over a CD and seeing the name Little Big Town Publishing. The owner was a friend who quickly gave them permission to use the name.
In the early days, the band would pile into a 15-passenger van and often travel for hundreds of miles for a low-paying gig, with each of them taking a turn at the wheel.
“We got out some old videos the other day. They were really funny. It was us driving around in this van, wondering whether we could rent the van for another $86 and still have enough money to feed ourselves,” Fairchild says. “We documented those early days because we knew we were onto something special.”
What followed were lost recording contracts, deaths (Schlapman’s husband Steven Roads died of a heart attack in 2005 at the age of 41 while the band was on the road), divorces, second jobs, marriages, and parenthood. Fairchild and Westbrook married in 2006. Schlapman and Stephen Schlapman wed in 2006. Sweet married Rebecca Arthur in 2007. Each couple has since had a child, and Schlapman also adopted a baby girl.
Our career “didn’t take off right away, but we had to go through all that pain and work it out,” Fairchild says.
Little Big Town performs during the 60th Annual Grammy Awards show on January 28, 2018, in New York.
AFP/Getty Images Enlarge
The big breakthrough came in 2005 with the release of “Boondocks,” written by the group. It became a top-10 hit. The next single, “Bring It on Home,” did even better and paved the way for The Road to Here to become a platinum album. In the years that followed, megahits “Little White Church,” “Pontoon,” “Girl Crush,” and finally “Better Man” boosted LBT to headliner status. “Pontoon” and “Girl Crush” earned Grammys.
It would have been easy for the group to fall apart after the repeated loss of record deals or the death of Schlapman’s first husband or periods of sporadic airplay between big hits. But it just isn’t in the personality of the four to give up.
“You have to believe that you will get there, or you won’t get there. You have to have that ability to dream and to have that work ethic, which I think we do,” Fairchild says. “But I don’t know that we could ever have believed that we would one day have tea with Sir Elton John.”
Little Big Town, along with guests Midland and Kacey Musgraves, will be in concert 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Huntington Center. Tickets are available at the Huntington Center box office, by phone at 800-745-3000, or online at ticketmaster.com.
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