This yr marks 20 years since Little Big Town launched its debut album. On the eve of the Friday’s launch of tenth studio album, Mr. Solar, the foursome stays appreciative of all that has occurred because the 2002 self-titled set—together with 4 Billboard High Country Albums No. 1s — however their eyes are wanting ahead.
“We’ve had such an epic time of making during the last 20 years, and [we’ve had] the chance to take action many issues that I don’t assume we might have ever been in a position to dream up,” says Karen Fairchild, who’s joined within the band by her husband Jimi Westbrook, as wel as Kimberly Schlapman and Phillip Sweet. “And but yearly, I ponder, ‘Is there one thing that we haven’t finished?’ And I do know there are issues which can be across the nook, so I feel we’re at all times wanting forward.”
Although, like with most Little Massive City albums, Mr. Solar’s 16 songs deal with a variety of emotional matters, the themes of resilience, acceptance and the hope for higher days forward shine by means of. Because the world continues to return to phrases with the almost unrelenting trauma and stress of the previous few years, in some methods one of the best method to Mr. Solar is to start on the finish: Closing observe “Pals of Mine” serves as a benediction to discovering the collective energy to persevere by means of robust instances. Considerably, the mid-tempo swelling ballad is certainly one of solely two songs on the 16-track album co-written by all 4 band members (with help from Foy Vance).
“It was our plan to write down a track to thank the followers and raise everyone up,” Schlapman tells Billboard over Zoom. “And our plan now’s to simply finish each present with that track as we ship one another off for the night time, till the subsequent time we meet once more.”
Going into the writing course of for the band’s follow-up to 2020’s Dusk, the mission was to “keep open to what the subsequent steps are going to be,” Westbrook says. That meant embracing acquainted collaborators, but in addition working with new ones, together with Tyler Hubbard and Corey Crowder. In all, not less than one of many band members seems as co-writer on 13 of the 16 tracks and 33 songwriters are credited from three totally different nations in complete.
“Writing with new individuals at all times takes you on a unique journey,” Westbrook says. “There’s a unique vitality and the primary factor is seeing the place it’s going to go and following it. It’s enjoyable to push your self and collaborating with new individuals retains you in your toes. It’s an journey.”
“The story begins to inform itself in some unspecified time in the future,” Candy says. You’ll be able to’t know all the things prematurely. You simply go in with a transparent thoughts and let the story inform you a bit.”
The open course of additionally allowed for no collaborators in any respect. With present observe “Wealthy Man,” for the primary time within the group’s profession, a member of the band is the only author on a track. (It’s additionally solely the second time Little Massive City has minimize a track by a sole songwriter, following “Higher Man,” which Taylor Swift wrote particularly for the band). Though Westbrook had labored on the track — about appreciating the presents that no amount of cash can purchase — for greater than a decade, it was nonetheless a last-minute addition.
“I’ve been listening to it within the dressing room for years,” Candy remembers. “He was enjoying it for some mates of ours on the very finish of this [recording] course of and it resonated so deeply. We had been like, ‘It suits right here.’”
Westbrook admits its inclusion got here as an enormous shock to him since he had labored on it for therefore a few years and the band had even tried reducing an earlier model in 2010. “I felt like final yr I had gotten it to the place I needed it to be. I nonetheless didn’t assume anyone would in all probability hear it. It was just for myself,” he says. “It connects so deeply to my coronary heart and my rising up with my household and my dad, who handed away in 2002. That it made its method onto this file, it’s sort of wild.”
The stirring, nostalgic lyric video for “Wealthy Man” exhibits footage of the band members with their youngsters by means of the years. Westbrook and Fairchild’s son, Candy’s daughter and Schlapman’s two daughters now span ages 5 to fifteen, and the calls for of parenting are consistently altering.
“Our older children, they’ve extra of a social life now and so there’s plenty of issues they don’t need to miss out on and plenty of issues we don’t additionally need to miss out on with them, however generally we’re pressured to overlook out on a dance or a ballgame,” Schlapman says, “What I’m grateful for is that they’ll sit on the aspect of the stage and watch the present and nonetheless recognize what we do. I imply, we’re not a really massive deal to them, however they’ll. Desirous to be within the second of being all mother and never lose a chance enterprise sensible is a juggling sport.”
Two different emotional tracks deal with how addicting love could be even after one’s coronary heart has been shattered. “Three Whiskeys and the Reality” and “One thing Sturdy” reunite the band with high Nashville songwriters Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose, collectively recognized at The Love Junkies, and the trio behind each Little Massive City’s 2013 hit, “Sober,” and the 2014 Grammy-winner “Woman Crush.”
This time, Fairchild and Schlapman contributed to the pair of tracks co-written with the threesome on Mr. Solar. “If you sit down with them, we at all times begin with espresso and rooster salad and find yourself with wine glasses in our palms,” Schlapman says.
“These ladies don’t know the way to sugarcoat something, which is the great thing about what they do,” provides Fairchild. “These classes with the Love Junkies, it’s like remedy. There’s actually a lot freedom in being in a room with those that you would say something.”
The members of Little Massive City have lengthy tackled any topic of their songs, however it took some time to get to the place plenty of individuals had been listening. The quartet was 10 years into its profession earlier than they landed their first No. 1 on Billboard’s Nation Airplay chart with 2012’s “Pontoon.” Chart-toppers like “Woman Crush” and “Higher Man” have adopted — however the band hasn’t skilled a gradual stream of High 10 hits regardless of placing out a few of the most compelling, and infrequently considerate, music of any nation act. “Hell Yeah,” the primary single from Mr. Solar, peaked at No. 37 on Nation Airplay.
“We’re very grateful for the longtime supporters at radio,” says Fairchild, choosing her phrases fastidiously. “They’ve been actually good to us and, but I see the format persevering with to slender just a little bit. We nonetheless want extra ladies on radio, and it will probably nonetheless be extra numerous, and I do know everyone’s working in the direction of that aim. Would we like to be on radio each time and do we expect we’ve information filled with issues that must be on radio? Yeah. Is it disappointing? Certain. Does it change something for us? No, as a result of we’re nonetheless going to tour. You recognize, [2020’s] ‘Wine, Beer, Whiskey’ didn’t even break the highest 30 at radio, however it’s at 360 million streams. The followers are those that inform us that that’s successful.”
These followers have resoundingly turned up on the highway for the band for years. Earlier this yr, Little Massive City and Miranda Lambert co-headlined the second iteration of their Bandwagon tour, and the band will play two dates with Wynonna Judd in October on what was initially presupposed to be Wynonna’s final tour along with her mom earlier than Naomi Judd died unexpectedly in April. “It’s laborious to discuss,” says Candy of being certainly one of a number of handpicked acts — all of whom are feminine or female-inclusive — to open a gig. “[Wynonna’s] so stunning and straight to the guts. And this music [means so much] to us, and that we get to be part of it and honor that legacy.”
Taking part in reside nonetheless gives a thrill, particularly after not with the ability to tour in the course of the pandemic. “It’s so a lot enjoyable. I’m so happy to be standing up there and turning round and seeing my bandmates, seeing the blokes that play with us and connecting with them,” Westbrook says. “In that second on the stage I really feel completely like a child on the playground. I’m so grateful to do it.”
By the years, the members have expanded to pursue different passions, comparable to Fairchild co-writing Kelsea Ballerini’s present hit “Heartfirst,” or Schlapman internet hosting her personal cooking present and publishing cookbooks. A lot of that comes with the quiet confidence that point and success has introduced and the understanding that outdoors endeavors are not any menace to the sanctity of the group.
“I feel the one option to hold artistic individuals collectively is to provide them some freedom. I take heed to Jimi and he’s again there writing what he thinks goes to be a screenplay. Philip is at all times writing with different individuals,” Fairchild says. “You simply must let everybody fly.”
“We’re very snug with one another,” Schlapman says. “And we’re very snug being people and perceive that, at this level in life, let’s simply all do what makes us completely happy. And sure, we are going to at all times come again to residence base– it doesn’t matter what.”