It was a night that Little Big Town had waited 25 years for.
It was January of 2020, and the country quartet found themselves on stage at the legendary Carnegie Hall, playing for a sold-out crowd of mask less people standing together, shoulder to shoulder, singing chart-toppers such as “Boondocks” and “Day Drinking” and the 5X-platinum, Grammy- winning single “Girl Crush” together in unison, without a care in the world.
LBT’s Phillip Sweet can still hear the sound of that roaring audience. But even more so, he can still hear the sound of that sole horn that heralded the arrival of “Wine, Beer, Whiskey.”
In fact, he will never forget it.
“We had trumpet players coming down the aisles,” remembers Sweet during an interview with American Songwriter about the rousing performance of the drinking anthem. “We were having so much fun.”
Little did anyone know that the fun was soon about to end, as the pandemic and political tensions and racial uprisings took hold of the country just a few short weeks later.
“That was a tough pill to swallow,” Sweet remembers of watching LBT’s much anticipated Nightfall tour come to a halt due to the pandemic. “But we will be able to play it again. Just knowing that makes you feel better.”
And with a fandom that was looking to ‘feel better’ during the majority of last year, LBT’s single “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” certainly got the job done. Written by the members of LBT alongside fellow songwriters Topher Brown and Sean McConnell, the song still conjures up some good feels for Sweet and his LBT bandmates – Karen Fairchild, Jimi Westbrook and Kimberly Schlapman – a foursome that coincidentally extended its global publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music Nashville recently.
“It’s kind of funny,” Sweet chuckles at the recollection. “We had Topher Brown and Sean McConnell out on the road writing with us for a few days, and we had just finished something really heavy.”
That heavy song was “Problem Child,” track eleven on the album that debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart soon after its release back in January of 2020 and an example of the juxtaposition of emotions displayed within every note of the Grammy winners’ ninth studio album.
“Maybe it wasn’t heavy, but it just really emotional,” Sweet remembers. “We had taken a break after writing (‘Problem Child’) and I remember asking everyone ‘is it too early to drink? We have wine and beer and whiskey.’”
And they were off.
“Wine, Beer, Whiskey” was written in a matter of minutes.
“Lines were just flying out of people,” Sweet remembers. “People just kept on throwing out things, and we were literally bouncing lyrically off each other.”
In particular, there was one line that nearly had them on the floor.
“That line that says, ‘My friend named Tito, he’s my amigo, I’m gonna follow him around wherever he go,’…I mean we were busting out laughing,” Sweet says. “It was hysterical.”
And while the song signaled a bit of a left turn from the otherwise heavy lyrical material that made up Nightfall, Sweet and his bandmates knew from the very beginning that it belonged on the album.
“It really was a no brainer,” remembers Sweet, who also snagged writing credits on LBT classics such as “Fine Line,” “I’m With the Band” and “Your Side of the Bed.” “It was just one of those things. We needed some levity to balance some of those other moments. It stood out and just had this cool kinetic energy. I mean, let’s face it, it’s a party song.”
And yes, we will party once again.
Currently, LBT is nominated for Best Country Album (Nightfall) and Best Country Duo/Group Performance (“Sugar Coat”) at the upcoming 63rd Annual Grammy Awards in March. And all indications seem to be that there is at least a chance that artists will be able to get back out on the road before the end of the year. But while nothing is official, Sweet says he will be looking forward to hearing one sound in particular.
“I just want to hear that trumpet again in the beginning of ‘Wine, Beer, Whiskey,’” he says. “That’s when the fun will begin again.”