Little Big Town continues prescription for success with Pain Killer
Critically acclaimed country quartet Little Big Town (LBT) continues its hit-making hot streak with new album, Pain Killer. The Capitol Nashville/Universal release follows up 2012’s platinum-selling Tornado, a project that debuted atop the Billboard Country Albums chart, and includes the twice-platinum No. 1 single ‘Pontoon’ along with the No 1 title-track single. Pain Killer is the Grammy-winning group’s sixth studio album, and was produced by Jay Joyce (Emmylou Harris, The Wallflowers, Eric Church), who also helmed Tornado. Lead single ‘Day Drinking’ is the group’s highest chart debut to date, and is currently No. 10 on the Mediabase Country radio airplay chart and No. 13 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.
The LBT foursome of Karen Fairchild, Phillip Sweet, Kimberly Schlapman, and Jimi Westbrook co-wrote eight of the 13 tracks on Pain Killer with Fairchild, Westbrook, and Sweet writing ‘Day Drinking’ along with songwriters Troy Verges and Barry Dean. The two years since the band’s release of Tornado have proven to be the “most formative and motivational for the inspired family of artists.”
The group’s heightened reputation has inspired each member to adopt a “fresh and very intentional approach to [Pain Killer],” a project that took months to complete as opposed to only weeks devoted to Tornado. “Sometimes you don't know what's going to happen in the studio,” says Fairchild. “You just have to dive in head first and work hard to do something unique. We're always striving and pushing ourselves to go somewhere new. Pain Killer is a new place for sure.”
The CMA Vocal Group of the Year in 2012 and 2013 recorded 23 songs for the new album before settling on the final 13 tracks. The band drew from a mix of influences including vintage ‘50s and ‘70s country, funk, groove, a cappella, bluegrass, and “straight up” rock and roll. The “provocative” Pain Killer reportedly has something for everyone from a treatment for a broken heart to a rallying cry for “those exhausted by love yet still inspired by it” to a testament to the “enduring hope of a long relationship.” Tracks such as ‘Quit Breaking Up with Me’ are presented as a “power pop anthem for those infamous on-again/off-again relationships that are plagued with drama and indecision.” In addition, the title track refers to a “love drug” that Fairchild likens to music being “a vice, a drug, a muse.”
Westbrook tells Rolling Stone Country that ‘Save Your Sin' will surprise people because “you've never heard Kimberly [Schlapman] sing like this before … the girl can sing to the rafters, it's unbelievable. She's putting some growl and gravel on it in that upper range,” he says. Another new song making its way into Little Big Town's live show is ‘Turn the Lights On’ along with a ballad with the “flirty title” ‘Girl Crush.’ “The record is bold and provocative and yet it's very fun,” remarks Fairchild to RS. “It's not a departure, it's the next step.”
In 2013, the foursome’s sold out Tornado Tour hit more than 25 venues in the U.S. and Canada in addition to a 50-city tour supporting Keith Urban. Little Big Town’s current Pain Killer Tour with Brett Eldredge and Brothers Osborne kicks off Nov. 30 in Youngstown, Ohio. The group travels to 15 other U.S. venues before wrapping up Dec. 13 in Rockford, Illinois.
Watch Little Big Town in the official music video for ‘Day Drinking,’ the quartet’s latest single of new album Pain Killer.
As A Matter of Fact…
* The beginnings of country vocal quartet Little Big Town started when Georgia natives Kimberly Roads and Karen Fairchild began singing together in college. Arkansas-born and Alabama-raised Jimi Westbrook—a friend of Fairchild's husband—later joined to form a trio, and the group was completed in 1998 with the addition of Arkansan Phil Sweet.
* Little Big Town devotes its sound to harmony and multiple lead vocals—a combination that made the band a hard sell early in its career. After a deal with Mercury Records fell through, the success of the Dixie Chicks similar formula gave LBT new life, signing to the Chicks' Monument Records label in 2000.
* The 2002 debut single, ‘Don't Waste My Time,’ was on its way up the charts when the group’s accompanying self-titled album was issued later in the year. While a few minor hits followed, Little Big Town’s breakthrough release came in 2005 with the platinum-selling The Road to Here, which yielded four Top 20 singles, including the ballad ‘Bring It On Home.’
* In 2007, the album A Place to Land netted LBT three more singles as the band's profile continued to grow behind tireless touring in support of acts such as Sugarland and Carrie Underwood. More success followed in 2010 as the single ‘Little White Church’ peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart prior to the release of fourth studio album, The Reason Why.
* Little Big Town topped the country charts in 2012 with ‘Pontoon’ off the album, Tornado. The album peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and highlighted the band’s more than 25 award nominations with wins including a Grammy Award for Best Country Group/Duo Performance (‘Pontoon’), CMA Single of the Year (‘Pontoon’), and ACM Video of the Year (‘Tornado’).