Little Big Town may be one of Country music’s most revered vocal groups today, but it hasn’t always been an easy road for Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet. Through it all, the foursome has amassed a career built on hard work, perseverance and the family-like bond they share with one another.
With a discography full of hits like “Boondocks,” “Pontoon,” “Girl Crush” and “Better Man,” their four-part harmony has become their calling card, earning them Platinum records and a slew of accolades, including three GRAMMY® Awards. Just when you think you know Little Big Town, they continue to surprise fans and critics alike with their creative artistry, bold lyrics and big hearts.
Here are 10 things you didn’t know about the supergroup:
1. Little Big Town started out as a duo. Karen and Kimberly became fast friends and musical collaborators in college at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. It was a decade before they added Jimi; and Phillip soon rounded out the quartet shortly thereafter.
2. Before she found her musical soulmate in Kimberly, Karen was one-half of Christian music duo KarenLeigh. The short-lived collaboration between Fairchild and Leigh Cappillino, who is now a member of award-winning Christian vocal group Point of Grace, produced the noteworthy single, “Save It For A Rainy Day.”
3. Two members of another Country supergroup were once a part of Little Big Town. Both Gary LeVox and Joe Don Rooney were recruited for LBT at separate times before joining forces with Jay DeMarcus (who, incidentally, sang with Jimi in college) for Rascal Flatts. Ironically, LBT opened for the Flatts on the group’s “Changed Tour” in 2012.
4. LBT derived their band name from a now defunct Nashville publisher called Little Big Town Music Group, whose former owner gave them permission to use the name. Jimi later told The Boot that the group felt like the name “perfectly conveyed a small-town feel with a big musical sound.”
5. Although the hitmakers are currently at the top of their game, it was a slow start for Little Big Town. They lost their first record deal in 1999 with Mercury Nashville before they even had a chance to release a debut project. A series of stops and starts followed with subsequent deals with Monument Records and the Clint Black-owned Equity Music Group before the quartet finally found their footing with longtime musical home Capitol Nashville.
6. They all had day jobs while trying to make it in the music business. According to PEOPLE, after losing their first record deal in the late ’90s, the foursome all found jobs in Nashville while they chased their musical dreams on the weekends. Karen payed the bills as an assistant to a Music Row agent. Kimberly lived off tips as a waitress. Jimi valeted cars, and Phillip worked at a liquor store.
7. Personally, the band members have suffered their share of ups and downs as well. Both Phillip and Karen went through separate divorces. Phillip found love again with wife Rebecca. Meanwhile, Karen and Jimi wed in 2006. In a tragic turn of events, Kimberly’s first husband, Steven Roads, died suddenly from a heart attack. “I didn’t know if she would ever sing again after Steve died,” Karen told CBS News in a 2015 interview. “There was so much sorrow in her eyes. I kind of thought the band was over.”
8. Both Karen and Kimberly have pursued passion projects outside of Little Big Town. Reflecting her lifelong love of design, Karen launched her own clothing line, Fair Child, in 2015. Meanwhile, Kimberly’s penchant for cooking surfaced in an exclusive line of home decor, kitchenware products, a cookbook and her very own television show, Kimberly’s Simply Southern.
9. Kimberly loves Dolly Parton. In fact, she loves the Queen of Country so much that she named her adopted daughter after Parton. Kimberly and her husband, Stephen Schlapman, welcomed Dolly Grace to the family in 2017, much to the delight of the couple’s oldest daughter, Daisy Pearl.
10. They aren’t afraid to take musical risks. From bold fashion choices to their infamous “Girl Crush” controversy, the members of Little Big Town don’t back down when it comes to stepping out on a limb. To the surprise of fans, in the summer of 2016, they released Wanderlust, a full-on pop collaboration with Pharrell Williams. While the eight-track album wasn’t a commercial success, the creative departure did solidify LBT as one of Country music’s most fearless acts. “It’s not like anything we’ve ever done,” Karen told Billboard. “It’s fun to be spontaneous… We’re going with our gut and putting it out there.”