Gypsum: Harmonizing with Karen Fairchild from Little Big Town
Gypsum, CO Colorado
GYPSUM, Colorado –Karen Fairchild nrolled in Alabama’s Samford University as an elementary education major, but her life reached a major turning point when she joined the school’s vocal ensemble.
“I never stopped singing after that,” she said. “It kind of took off from there.”
Today Fairchild brings her gorgeous alto to the country quartet Little Big Town.
The up-and-coming band formed in Nashville, Tenn., in 1998 and broke onto the national scene with its 2005 album “The Road to Here.” Now famous for Top Ten country singles “Boondocks” and “Bring it on Home,” the group’s 2007 album “A Place to Land” produced the Top 40 country hit “I’m with the Band.”
Fairchild met fellow bandmate Kimberly Schlapman at Samford and the two teamed up with Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet in Nashville to form Little Big Town.
Speaking from a tour stop in Danville, Va., Fairchild chatted with the Eagle Valley Enterprise about and the group’s male-female dynamic and why hitting ‘those screaming high notes’ aren’t in her future.
Vail Daily: How do you perfect those four-part harmonies?
Karen Fairchild: We’re still working on it. We’re always striving to be better and for it to be more emotional… I like it when people feel as though (the harmonies are) familiar. You know how you grew up listening to harmony bands like Alabama and the Eagles and all those amazing harmony bands? I love it when people say, ‘oh your music sounds familiar to me.’ That’s a real compliment.
VD: What do you like and dislike about being an alto?
KF: I like it because I’m in the middle of the harmony blend. That means I float around from singing the top with Kimberly to singing the middle with Jimi. I’ve even sung the bottom with Phillip… I think the positive is that I have some flexibility in moving around. The negative is, I’m not going to hit all those screaming high notes like Kimberly is. That’s just not in my future.
VD: When you and Kimberly came up with the idea for the group, why not just form a girl group? Why did you want a mix of men and women?
KF: At the time the Dixie Chicks were out. To Kimberly and I there wasn’t going to be anything better than that. We really admired their music and the style of what they were doing… We just wanted to do our own thing, and so we were just thinking, what are the fans missing out on? What are we missing out on when we look at the music scene? Well, there’s nothing really with girl-guy harmony that’s Southern and roots oriented and country… We wanted to do something that had never been done.
VD: Are you recording anything new?
KF: We’re in the process right now looking for a record single to lead the brand new record coming out in October and probably the full record in March.
VD: How does the stuff you’re writing for this new record differ from what we’ve heard from Little Big Town so far?
…The harmony blend people have come to know through the years will still be the same in there but we’re writing some happier music I think this time, things that make us feel good because that’s where the band is in this moment in our lives. We’re all in a really good place. The babies are on the road with us (Sweet and Schlapman each have young children). I think some of the music will reflect that. At the same time, we’re always going to write the moodier moments. We wrote something just stone cold 6/8 country that we love, more traditional country than anything we’ve ever done.
VD: There is no one lead singer in the band. Everyone takes turns. How does that affected the band’s identity and the dynamic between everybody?
KF: You know, we just figure out who the best story teller is on a song and everybody kind of leaves their ego at the door. We just figure out how to highlight and explore each voice on our record, and we write moments around that, moments that would be great for Kimberly and moments for Phillip, which would be vastly different. Phillip is very blues influenced and Kimberly is very bluegrass influenced, so we’re looking for different moments and I think that’s what makes the band unique: the fusion of all those things.
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