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Little Big Town Discusses Their Major Ups And Downs

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Who needs "Rhiannon" alone? Fleetwood Mac has had their own topsy turvy Behind-the-Music story captivating audiences as much as their unforgettable tunes for decades. And, over the last decade plus, country quartet Little Big Town has had their own parallel narrative going on. Their journey has been similarly spiked with hit records (their most recent, The Reason Why, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, while it's current single, "Little White Church," is now No. 7 on the Country Singles chart), professional setbacks (they've been on three record labels in their 12 years together), fatal tragedies, divorces, marriages and babies. I recently spoke with members Karen Fairchild, Jimi Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman and Phillip Sweet about their checkered history of highs and lows. You are often called the Fleetwood Mac of country music. Do you welcome that comparison?

Kimberly Schlapman: We are grateful for that comparison! Of course they were influential on our  music, as were Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Alabama, Restful Heart, so many harmony bands. We actually got to do CMT Crossroads with Lindsey Buckingham, and that was one of the highlights of our career.

US: You've overcome a lot in the past few years. How have you managed to stay together through it all?

Jimi Westbrook: We are a big family out here on the road together and it's like anything else in life. You go through the good times and the bad, but the people around you are your family, and it creates a strong bond between you. It's like that for us on the road. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs and all of that has made us stronger friends and that continues to grow.

US: Karen, you're married to Jimi. How has that been on the road being husband and wife? 

Karen Fairchild: It's challenging. We are together 24 hours a day, so that is a very good thing and a very bad thing. If you need a break, there is nowhere to go, but the great thing about it is we get to enjoy this
incredible journey with the band together. The band is like one big marriage. You have to really be family and love each other to be in a band this long or you would have gone your separate ways. Kimberly and Philip both have their spouses out here with us a lot. They travel with us as much as they can. We keep the families on the road. Everyone has a child as well, so family is super important to the band.

US: What's it like to have your kids on the road? Karen and Jimi, you have a five month old, Kim has a three year old and Philip has a two-and-a-half year old. 

KS: It's awesome.  To keep the little ones occupied and not bored is the biggest challenge we'll have all week. So many people who tour have to say goodbye to their families a couple weeks at a time. We don't have to do that and we're so grateful. It comes with it's challenges, but when you look at those little ones in the face at then end of the day or in the morning there is just nothing better, no greater reward.

US: Karen, I heard you lost a lot of baby weight?

KF: Yes I had a baby six months ago. I've been working pretty hard in the last few months to get it off. I have been taking a bar method class in Nashville, which is combining dance, yoga and Pilates  together. It has really helped me trim back down. I gained 50 pounds and I’ve got to lose another 10.

US: Are you excited for the awards. Is that flattering and are you excited?

KS: Oh yes very, and we always wait on pins and needles when the nomination for group of the year comes out because we always want to be included and we have been for the last five years. It is very  competitive, so we kept our fingers crossed and said a prayer that we would be nominated and we were!

US: How do you guys feel about Lady Antebellum? They are another big co-ed country group.

JW: They are a fantastic band. I've watched them come up and they've done a great job. Lady A is going to have a ton of CMA Awards I'm sure. We will sit in our seats and be really excited no matter whose name they call. One day we'd like to take that trophy home but I'm not sure if it's this year.

US: You've also endured the death of Kim's husband, who was the band's lawyer and also Philip's father. How did you cope with that?

Phillip Sweet: My father died early on in the history of this band. We were putting out our record on Sony and had just begun touring heavily and doing radio and stuff like that. I think having people who loved and cared about me definitely helped me get through it. It was incredibly hard for me at the time but being out here with my family and friends definitely helped me get through all of that.

US: I assume it was the same with you Kim?

KS: It was the last thing I ever expected, but when it happened I just leaned on them. They did everything for me — I couldn't do anything for myself. I don't know what I would have done without their support. We went on the road not long after he passed away and, it was a decision I made that I was ok with. Literally they carried me and fed me and took care of me like I was their child.

US: Karen, I know you got divorced from your first husband and married Jimi!  How did that happen?

KF:I think Jimi and I had a special friendship and connection that blossomed when we were both single. Sometimes you just have to cross that line and take a chance and when we had that opportunity we did. Of course we didn't want to mess up the band but we decided it was worth the risk.

US: How is married life?

KF: It is amazing. Jimi is my soulmate. I knew there was a deep connection there but once you decide to be together, you find even more, and then to have a child together is a beautiful, beautiful
thing for us to share and a dream come true.

US: Who else on the country scene are you massive fans of? If you could have someone join the band?

PS: First off I don’t want anyone else to get cut a check! [laughs] There is some great music going on. I been loving Miranda Lambert. I think she is on the forefront of country music. Her music is just

KF: I am super happy for Dierks Bentley, and to see him get two nominations for Up on The Ridge. He is just a great guy and a real artist.

KS: Keith Urban took us out on our first arena tour almost six years ago, and I remember that we would always go out after our set and watch him. We learned so much from him about entertainment, pure entertainment. He'll always have a special place in our hearts for sharing his audience with us before we even had an audience.

US: You ended up in the top ten with Eminem and Katie Perry who would you like to work with, if you had to pick one.

KS: I think that would be kind of cool if someone like Eminem would take our song "Boondocks" and create a nasty, dirty rap over it. He's not really a southern boy!

By Ian Drew for To read more of Ian's blog, click here, and don't forget to follow him on Twitter.

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