Behind the Band Name: Little Big Town

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Before Little Big Town released their 2002 self-titled debut, they already had their name checked off.

Getting permission from the former owner of a music publishing company, the foursome took their name from the then-defunct Little Big Town Music Group, which had a number of hits, including George Strait’s 1996 No. 1 single “Blue Clear Sky,” before it was sold.

Made up of Jimi Westbrook and Karen Fairchild (who were married in 2006), along with Kimberly Roads Schlapman and Phillip Sweet, the group wanted a name that would reflect their small-town roots as well as their eclectic tastes in music. Westbrook said Little Big Town perfectly conveyed “a small-town feel with a big musical sound.”

Little to Big

The origins of Little Big Town began when Kimberly Schlapman and Karen Fairchild first met in 1987 while studying at Samford University. The two later moved to Nashville in the ’90s, where they connected with Westbrook in 1998, and Sweet later on.

After some ins and outs with labels in their earlier years, Little Big Town, released their debut in 2002, which pushed them onto the country charts with singles “Everything Changes” and “Don’t Waste My Time.”

Releasing their second album, The Road to Here, in 2005, the single “Boondocks” peaked at No. 9, while the follow-up, “Bring It On Home,” gave them a few more notches up at No. 4. The album, a majority of which was written by the band, was certified platinum and earned the group two Grammy nominations for Best Country Album and Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for “Boondocks.”

John Mellencamp

In between The Road to Here and their third album, A Place to Land, Little Big Town sang backup vocals on eight tracks off John Mellencamp‘s 2007 album, Freedom’s Road.

Fairchild later joined Mellencamp again for a duet on tracks “A Ride Back Home” and “My Sweet Love,” off his 2008 album, Life, Death, Love and Freedom

“Pontoon”

By the time Little Big Town released their fifth album, Tornado, in 2012, they went straight to No. 1 with “Pontoon.” Written by Barry Dean, Natalie Hemby, and Luke Laird, “Pontoon” was originally a song called “Fine Tune” for Miranda Lambert. After some mispronunciation of the song title by the publisher, the band just went with “Pontoon.”

The song, centered around a party on a pontoon—a flat boat for easy sailing—won the Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance in 2013 and also earned Little Big Town a CMA for Single Of The Year.

Grand Ole Opry and “Girl Crush”

Just two years after winning their first Grammy, Little Big Town made their Grand Ole Opry debut and was inducted by Vince Gill on October 17, 2014.

That same year, Little Big Town released another No. 1 hit with “Girl Crush,” off their sixth album Painkiller. The song, written by Hillary Lindsey, Liz Rose, and Lori McKenna, earned them two more Grammy awards for Best Country Song and Best Country Duo/Group Performance.

Big League

Over the past 20 years, Little Big Town has earned four Grammys, multiple CMT and CMA awards, and other honors with a catalog spanning 10 albums and a collection of hits, including “Tornado,” “Bring It On Home,” “Little White Church,” “Day Drinking,” and their 2018 No. 1 single “Better Man.”

“We’ve had such an epic time of creating over the last 20 years, and [we’ve had] the opportunity to do so many things that I don’t think we would have ever been able to dream up,” said Fairchild in 2022. “And yet every year, I wonder, ‘Is there something that we haven’t done?’ And I know there are things that are around the corner, so I think we’re always looking ahead.”

Photos: Courtesy of UMG Nashville

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