On Wednesday, July 18, 2012, Suite101 spoke via phone with Jimi Westbrook from the Grammy-nominated country group Little Big Town. In addition to Jimi, the band consists of Phillip Sweet, Kimberly Schlapman and his wife, Karen Fairchild.
They have sold over two million albums to date, and their hits include “Boondocks,” “A Little More You,” “Bring It On Home,” “Good As Gone,” and “Little White Church.” They have been nominated for four Grammy awards, nine CMA (Country Music Association) awards, eight Academy of Country Music (ACM) awards and a Teen Choice award. In 2007, they were named “Top New Vocal Group of the Year” by the ACM. Over the past fourteen years, the band has opened for such musical acts as Sugarland, Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, George Strait, Alan Jackson, John Mellencamp, Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban, and they have played for over four million people to date.
New Album and Single
Their upcoming album Tornado will be released on September 11, 2012, via their label, Capitol Nashville. He enjoys all of the songs on the new album, and subsequently describes every song on there as a “mini-experience.” “At the moment, I’m drawn to ‘Self Made’ which is towards the end of the record since it’s the band’s mantra. It’s about pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps and making your life what you want it to be on your own terms. There is such power in that lyric. I also love ‘Can’t Go Back’ that has an unbelievable and haunting melody that people are going to love. It feels like it washes over you when you listen to it. The vocals on there are huge from top to bottom with an acoustic guitar, which is pretty cool. From the first time I heard it, I know that I wanted it on the record,” he says. Its lead-off single “Pontoon” sits at #15 on the Billboard Hot Country Charts, and it has sold over 500,000 digital downloads. “We are so excited about ‘Pontoon’ and from the first time that we heard it we knew that there was something special about it. I think the groove is really cool, different and sexy. That kind of lyric was a little unexpected coming from a girl. We were really intrigued by it and when we cut it with our producer Jay Joyce the song just came to life. Jay is just so talented and he listens with his heart which is really cool. It’s fun to work with somebody like that. The fans have responded so amazing and when we play it in the live setting the people go crazy for it,” he says.
He notes that the title track is one of his favorite songs on the record since it speaks about the process of how this album happened: there was a whirlwind of experiences. “It was fast and we felt that we were hanging on and were trying to live on the edge a little bit, but it was exhilarating. Our friend, Natalie Hemby, brought it to us in the middle of the writing process and we thought it was such a great song and when we brought it to the studio it was just magical,” Jimi says.
Although Little Big Town have appeared on such television shows as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Good Morning America, Conan, Today, Jimmy Kimmel and The Talk, and have been spotlighted by Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, Billboard, AOL and Rolling Stone, Jimi’s proudest accomplishment involves getting to work with so many different artists outside of the country genre such as Lindsay Buckingham, Lionel Richie (Little Big Town sang on “Deep River Woman” with him on his newest album Tuskegee) and John Mellencamp, as well as being able to play in front of large crowds each night. “We were always driven by the live shows and I think that’s why people love these experiences so much,” he says. Although Little Big Town have known Rascal Flatts for many years now, this year marks the first time that both bands embark on a tour together. The Rascal Flatts’ Changed tour hits 40 cities nationwide, and in addition to Little Big Town, it features such special guests as Edens Edge and the Eli Young Band. “They have a great crowd that has been coming out and it’s a whole lot of fun since we are introducing ourselves to people that we’ve never played in front of before,” he says.
“Scattered, Smothered and Covered” Series
Their online video series Scattered, Smothered and Covered, which they commenced in 2011, involves the band taking songs on Top 40 pop radio and turning them into country vocals. Thus far, it has been well-received from fans, and their rendition of Lady Gaga’s smash hit “Born this Way” has been featured on Perez Hilton’s official website, “The Rosie Show,” Yahoo! Music, and on CNN’s homepage. They have not posted any new renditions since their cover of Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” was released in October of 2011. “We have been so intensely working on this new record and getting ready for that, but we will kick around some ideas for new covers on our Scattered series,” he says. Speaking of covers, last year Jimi and his fellow band members honored Martina McBride at the ACM’s Girls Night Out TV special, where he sang a soaring version of her signature song “Independence Day,” and they subsequently collaborated with her on the Linda Ronstadt classic “When Will I Be Loved.” “I also got to sing two songs with Martina on her last record Eleven that just came out. It was amazing! We sang ‘Always Be This Way’ and ‘Summer of Love.’ She is one of the best vocalists on the planet,” he says. Jimi also sang the lead vocals on “Rain On a Tin Roof,” a cover of the Julie Roberts song, which is featured on their The Reason Why album that came out in 2010. “We just saw Julie the other day. It’s the first time we’ve seen her in a while. She’s so sweet and such a great singer. I would love to work with Julie,” he says.