Little towns suit Little Big Town


Little Big Town likes playing little towns.
Jimi Westbrook, who sings the tenor line in the band’s rich four-part harmonies, said he can sense the
enthusiasm of fans when the band rolls into town.
"They’re excited. They worked hard all week, and they’re ready to have a good time," he said.
"It’s this magical thing that the music gives you. It’s special. There’s nothing else like
Little Big Town performs Saturday at 8:30 p.m. at the Wood County Fair. Tickets are $20 and $25. Call
(419) 352-0441.
Westbrook said as good as it is to listen to music on the radio or on a recording, hearing it live has
"a different energy."
"It’s just a lot more spontaneous," Westbrook said. "There’s just an intangible energy
that happens in front of people."
True the live show may not be as polished as a record, but it packs a punch that a CD doesn’t. And fans
in the audience sharing the one-time-only moment with friends "come away with a deeper connection
to the music."
The band celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. Karen Fairchild and Kimberly (Roads) Schlapman,
friends from Samford University, started the band after moving to Nashville, Tenn. Soon they were joined
by Westbrook, a friend of Fairchild’s. Later in 1998 Phil Sweet added his bass to Little Big Town.
The band, Westbrook said, has had its ups and downs, both in the business and personally. Schlapman’s
husband died suddenly in 2005. The band was dropped from their record label. "We faced a lot of
The band is on the upswing now. After years opening for top country acts including George Strait, Martina
McBride, Sugarland and Alan Jackson, Little Big Town went out early this year as headliners.
While being an opener for a star offers "amazing opportunities," Westbrook said, headlining
means the burden of carrying the show rests with Little Big Town.
Now instead of playing a 45-minute set packed with fan favorites, the band gets to stretch out in shows
that can last up to two hours. That gives them a chance to dig deep into their catalog, pulling out
tracks they may never had sung live before.
One of those songs "Lost." After Schlapman’s husband died, the emotion of the song was too raw
for the band to sing it live. Now they’ve play it, paired with Coldplay’s "Fix you," with just
acoustic guitars with a break featuring the four singing completely unplugged, letting their vocals
soar. (Schlapman has remarried.)
That vocal richness comes from college training that gave the members experience in singing everything
from pop to classical music.
They all grew up, Westbrook said, in families that sang. There’s a natural attraction to harmonies,"
he said. When the group formed their intention was to bring that experience to bear on country music.

They wanted four voices to fill out the harmonies beyond the basic three-notes most common in country
harmony. "Sometimes we go more in depth with the notes we sing," Westbrook said. That means
including notes that have just a hint of dissonance, providing a little harmonic rub that makes the
melodies resonate. That comes, Westbrook said, from having sung so many different styles of music.
Having four voices, all of whom can sing lead, provides the band with a lot of options for delivering a
Between touring Little Big Town has been in the studio recording a new album for Capitol Records
Recording is another kind of journey, he said. The CD won’t break any new ground. "We’re not
re-inventing the wheel," but the tone and lyrics will be different. "We’re in different places
in our lives," he said. "You’ll hear a different spirit."
Maybe, he added, one of those new songs will find its way into the band’s set at the Wood County Fair.

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