Little Big Town is a country vocal quartet comprised of Kimberly Schlapman, Karen Fairchild, Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet. After forming in the late 1990s, first as a duo, then as a trio, until finally they became the quartet they would take to stardom. Little Big Town steadily honed their craft for years by performing, recording and writing. Their dedication and perseverance paid off big when their 2005 album, The Road to Here, was certified platinum, and they received the first of four consecutive (and counting) nominations for the Country Music Association’s Vocal Group of the Year.
Started As a Duo
Singers Kimberly Schlapman (formerly Kimberly Rodes) and Karen Fairchild met in 1987 while both were students at Samford University in the Birmingham, AL suburb of Homewood. Fairchild, who as a freshman auditioned and won a spot on the school’s vocal ensemble, began singing with Schlapman that same year. Schlapman, who hails from Cornelia, GA, first began singing in church, and she competed in numerous talent shows through junior high school and high school. Fairchild eventually moved to Nashville, and Schlapman followed her six months later. All the while, Fairchild and Schlapman brainstormed on their careers and how they wanted to do something completely different, something that revolved around harmonies and was unique.
In 1998, Jimi Westbrook, a friend of Fairchild’s husband at the time, joined Fairchild and Schlapman, transforming the duo into a trio. As a child, Westbrook sang in the choir and at church, and it was a solo performance during a Christmas production when he was twelve that convinced him that music was his destiny. One year later in 1999, Phillip Sweet made the trio a quartet, and the group decided on the name Little Big Town. Sweet’s musical history included performing in his mother’s country music variety show, as well as a vocal scholarship to Arkansas State University. He recorded some demos of his music, which eventually fell into the hands of the other three members of Little Big Town, who believed in Sweet’s voice they had found the final missing component to their vocal chemistry.
Little Big Town Sign with Mercury
With early support from the renowned talent agency CAA, Little Big Town signed their first major recording contract with Mercury Records in 1999, the same year they made their performing debut on the Grand Ole Opry. No singles or albums were ever released during their short time with Mercury, and they were subsequently dropped from the label. In 2002 Little Big Town signed with Sony Music’s Monument Records and released their first album, Little Big Town. The album’s first single, “Don’t Waste My Time,” made it to No. 33 on the charts, while the second single, “Everything Changes,” just missed being a top 40 hit.
During that time, the members of Little Big Town were going through various personal crises. Not long after their debut album was released, Westbrook’s father passed away, while Fairchild and Sweet both went through divorces. Schlapman had the toughest time after her husband died unexpectedly. He was an attorney who helped the quartet a great deal during those early days. Despite two moderately successful singles, Monument closed its Nashville office, leaving the group without a label and forcing the members to find other work while they toured sporadically and worked toward securing a new recording contract.
A New Contract and Album
In 2005, Little Big Town signed with Equity Music Group, which was co-founded by Clint Black, and they released their second studio album The Road to Here. The album’s first single, “Boondocks,” which the band co-wrote with songwriter Wayne Kirkpatrick, shot to No. 9 on Billboard’s Country chart, as well as No. 46 on the Hot 100 chart and No. 59 on the Pop 100. The video for “Boondocks” would go on to top CMT’s Top Twenty Countdown in late January of 2006. The second single from The Road to Here, “Bring It on Home,” climbed to No. 4 on Billboard’s Country chart and No. 58 on the Hot 100, and it topped CMT’s Top Twenty Countdown for a couple of weeks in June of 2006.
Two more singles were released from The Road to Here, including “Good As Gone” (No. 18) and “A Little More You” (No. 20). The album was certified platinum in 2006 for shipping one million copies in the United States, which helped the group earn the first of four nominations for the Country Music Association’s Vocal Group of the Year.
A Place to Land Album
Little Big Town released its third studio album, A Place to Land, in November of 2007. Six months later, the group left the Equity label for Capitol Nashville. The first single from A Place to Land, “I’m with the Band,” climbed to No. 32. Two more singles were released, including “Fine Line” (No. 31) and “Good Lord Willing” (No. 43). Little Big Town also teamed up with Sugarland and Jake Owen for a Grammy-nominated live recording of “Life in a Northern Town,” which the British band, The Dream Academy, had a top ten hit with it in 1986. Little Big Town promoted A Place to Land by touring with Carrie Underwood in support of her debut album Carnival Ride.
Best Little Big Town Songs:
- “Bring It on Home”
- “Life in a Northern Town”
- “Good as Gone”
- “A Little More You”
Little Big Town Albums: