Q&A: Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town
The year 2013 is one that country stars Little Big Town have been looking forward to.
On Jan. 31, the band heads out on its biggest headlining tour, this time with Kacey Musgraves and David Nail. Major television appearances are in the works, and a jaunt with Keith Urban is set for later this summer.
All of this is in support of the group's most successful record so far, "Tornado," which has produced two Top 10 singles to date, "Pontoon" and the title track. It is Little Big Town's first album since 2005's "The Road to Here" to spawn two Top 10 singles.
"It's awesome," said vocalist Karen Fairchild of the headlining run. "We're right in the middle of the pre-production and the planning and the set list changing, merchandise designing. It's exciting. We get to really show the fans this record and dig deeper into our catalog and do some special moments for them."
The album as a whole fared well, too, for Little Big Town -- which also includes vocalist Kimberly Schlapman, vocalist/acoustic guitarist Phillip Sweet and vocalist Jimi Westbrook. "Tornado" debuted at No. 2 on The Billboard 200 album chart, selling 113,000 copies in its first week. The album stayed atop the Billboard Country Albums charts for its first five weeks.
"With the momentum of the record, the timing of this tour, it's probably the most exciting season of touring that we've ever done," Fairchild said.
Fairchild spoke to SoundSpike about the band's first No. 1 song, "Pontoon," its emotional performances and its connection with "American Idol" judge Keith Urban.
SoundSpike: "Pontoon" was your first No. 1. That must be exciting. What do you think was the driving force behind that single?
Karen Fairchild: I guess the fans just made that kind of their summer anthem. When they want something like that and they want to hear it all the time, they give us a No. 1. It's so nice just to feel country radio support the record the way they did and get it out there so the fans could request it. It was a really, really special summer, being out with Rascal Flatts all year and watching the fans connect to that song, and it just made people smile. It was so sweet that it was the band's first No. 1.
When you write your own material, what is the songwriting process like?
We write together as a band a lot. Sometimes we're chasing, an idea or a title or something we want to say. Occasionally it'll start with a musical idea. For instance on this last record, with "Your Side of the Bed," the whole music was there. We just didn't know what we wanted to say. We got with our good friend, Lori McKenna. She had the title "Your Side of the Bed." We wrote the song that day. Pieces of the puzzle come together in a different way. Every song is kind of a new journey. The discovery process in the songwriting is the most exhilarating. You don't know where you're going to take something. Finding the right words to say and the right melody to communicate the right emotion is what makes that process really difficult, really hard. I find it very challenging but when you get it and you get it right it's incredibly satisfying.
How was it to work with producer Jay Joyce?
Jay, I don't know if I've ever worked with anybody like Jay. He's a unique guy. He works straight from his heart and his gut feeling about something. So if he's listening back to a song, it's about the way it makes him feel in the moment, if it feels alive and spontaneous and human and real then he's all about it. He's a great moderator for us on that, on getting the feeling right for a song, then leaving it, not overanalyzing, not overthinking, not oversinging, just leaving it in the moment.
All four of you really have a knack for sharing the emotion of the song live, especially on new tracks like "Sober," "Your Side of the Bed" or "Sober." Is that a difficult thing to do?
Yeah it is, but I find them the most satisfying to sing, really. Even if you're not relating to a song like um, gosh, I'm trying to think of one of the lyrics ... I know, like "Can't Go Back." I can totally relate to "Can't Go Back." I think everybody can. You can't do things over again. You can't get a second chance on some things. You have to take advantage of every moment and live inside the moment. When I'm singing a lyric like "Can't Go Back" or "Night Owl" or "Your Side of the Bed," the last one is so painful. I like to get lost in the lyric and really in my mind and live it out what it would be like to be in that moment. That's the only way I think the fan is going to connect to it is by living the lyric, even if it's not autobiographical. It's almost like acting. It's like being inside the moment. I'm not an actor but I would imagine it's like the same thing. It's storytelling.
You're touring with Keith Urban later this summer, correct?
I watched ["American Idol"] last night for a little bit to see how that was going. He's so smart, so well spoken, an amazing writer and singer and player. What a great addition to that show he is. He just makes country music look great. We're happy for that opportunity for him. We've been friends with Keith forever, but it's going to be fun to watch how this changes his career. I'm sure it's going to bring new fans to the show this year as we're out with him. I think the timing is really great for him, for us, for the whole tour.
You've toured with some amazing musicians. Who do you think you learned the most from?
You take something from all of them. There isn't a tour that we're not on that I'm not soaking up like a sponge. Their expertise and what they're doing and how they're communicating. Keith was the first tour we ever did as an arena tour. We've toured with Martina [McBride], George Strait, Sugarland, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, John Mellencamp--all these amazing people. I could name off a different tool that we learned from all of these artists--the communication, the way they run their business, maybe it's behind the scenes. A lot of it is what they do on stage. It's made us the band that we are. The chance to be around these people and kind of soak up what they do will hopefully make our live shows for our fans for a lot better.
31 - Murray, KY - Lovett Auditorium
1 - Birmingham, AL - Alabama Theatre
7 - Los Angeles, CA - The Wiltern
12 - New York City, NY - Irving Plaza
14 - Washington, D.C. - 9:30 Club
15 - Atlantic City, NJ - Harrah's Atlantic City
16 - Lowell, MA - Lowell Memorial Auditorium
22 - Huntsville, AL - Von Braun Center
1 - Huntington, WV - Keith-Albee Theatre
2 - Cherokee, NC - Harrah's Cherokee Casino Event Center
3 - Lancaster, PA - American Music Theatre
7 - Peoria, IL - Peoria Civic Center Arena
8 - New Buffalo, MI - Four Winds Casino
9 - Mount Pleasant, MI - Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort
21 - Joliet, IL - Rialto Square Theatre
22 - Rochester, MN - Mayo Civic Center Auditorium
23 -Appleton, WI - Fox Cities Performing Arts Center
26 - Winnipeg, Manitoba - Pantages Playhouse Theatre
27 - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan - TCU Place
30- Edmonton, Alberta - Winspear Centre
1 - Calgary, Alberta - Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
3 - Vancouver, British Columbia - Orpheum
19 - Fayetteville, AR - Arkansas Music Pavilion
20 - Bossier City, LA - Horseshoe Casino and Hotel/Riverdome
26 - Catoosa, OK - The Joint at Hard Rock Casino/Tulsa
28 - San Antonio, TX - Majestic Theatre
4 - New Orleans, LA - Fairgrounds Racecourse (New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival)
8 - Augusta, GA - William B. Bell Auditorium
9 - North Charleston, SC - North Charleston Performing Arts Center
29 - Cadott, WI - Chippewa Valley Festival Grounds (Chippewa Valley Country Festival)
12 - Lort Loramie, OH - Hickory Hill Lakes (Country Concert at Hickory Hills Lakes Inc.)
18 - Cincinnati, OH - Riverbend Music Center
19 - Twin Lakes, WI - Country Thunder USA Festival Grounds (Country Thunder USA)
20 - Monticello, IA - Great Jones Country Fair
25 - Charlotte, NC - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Charlotte (with Keith Urban)
26 - Raleigh, NC - Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek
27 - Alpharetta, GA - Verizon Wireless Amphitheater (with Keith Urban)
2 - Detroit Lakes, MN - Soo Pass Ranch (WE Fest)
4 - Clarkston, MI - DTE Energy Music Theater (with Keith Urban)
8 - Columbia, MD - Merriweather Post Pavilion (with Keith Urban)
9 - Canandaigua, NY - CMAC (with Keith Urban)
10 - Mansfield, MA - Comcast Center (with Keith Urban)
16 - The Woodlands, TX - Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion (with Keith Urban)
17 - Dallas, TX - Gexa Energy Pavilion (with Keith Urban)
22 - Birmingham, AL - Oak Mountain Presbyterian (with Keith Urban)
23 - Maryland Heights, MO - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (with Keith Urban)
24 - Noblesville, IN - Klipsch Music Center (with Keith Urban)
12 - Cuyahoga Falls, OH - Blossom Music Center (with Keith Urban)
13 - Burgettstown, PA - First Niagara Pavilion (with Keith Urban)
14 - Camden, NJ - Susquehanna Bank Center (with Keith Urban)
21 - Mountain View, CA - Shoreline Amphitheatre (with Keith Urban)
22 - Wheatland, CA - Sleep Train Amphitheatre (with Keith Urban)
28 - Chula Vista, CA - Sleep Train Amphitheatre (with Keith Urban)
29 - Phoenix, AZ - Desert Sky Pavilion (with Keith Urban)
4 - Tampa, FL - 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre (with Keith Urban)
5 - West Palm Beach, FL - Cruzan Amphitheatre (with Keith Urban)