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Little Big Town Profile: Phillip Sweet (2007)

Little Big Town’s Phillip Sweet talks music, mileage and Mellencamp.

To commemorate the Nov. 6 [2007] release of Little Big Town’s new A Place to Land album, Country Weekly is focusing on one member of the platinum group in each of four consecutive issues. The Nov. 19, 2007 issue features our profile of Phillip Sweet. Here are a few exclusive online-only excerpts from our talk with Phillip.

On A Place to Land

“I’m really proud of it. I think we dug a little deeper and pulled some things out of ourselves that I’m really happy about. We made a record that’s truly us, and I think we took a step forward.

“Sonically, it has that quality that we wanted to establish with [2005’s] The Road to Here—recording on analog tape, it has that warmer sonic quality. The songs take it lyrically into some different places. There’s more progressive stuff, we pushed the envelope a little bit. We wanted to stretch ourselves.

“It definitely has a retro vibe going on too, that kind of country, Southern-rock era of the ’70s. It’s very real sounding. You hear the acoustics and the warmth of the instruments and real vocals. We wanted to stick with that and stay true to that. It’s real people playing real instruments and really singing.”

On Little Big Town’s Current Single, “I’m With the Band”

“In 2006 I think we were on the road for 230 dates. That’s just actual shows—there’s also travel. ‘I’m With the Band’ came from that, watching the fans pile up in cars and drive four and five hours or more to watch the shows.

“We were inspired by that, and wanted to talk about that parallel, and what we go through. We do the same thing—we pile up on a bus at the end of the day and drive 12 or 15 hours to get to another town and do it all again, to have that hour onstage to share music. There’s a real parallel in the journey.”

On Staying Healthy While Touring

“I think we’re all healthy minded. We try to take care of our bodies, and when we’re out on the road we’re very focused. We don’t stay out too late at night and wreck our voices.

“But once you get to the fourth or fifth show in a row, just like any other athlete, you start feeling fatigue. You need to take a day or two so you can get your instrument back at its fullest strength.”

On Recording With John Mellencamp for His Freedom’s Road Album

“It was fun and fast-paced. For him, everything’s got to feel right. You may be technically singing it right, but if the energy or the heart behind it’s not there, you push yourself to a new place.

“I definitely felt like I came away a better musician. It was a little like boot camp, but it was fun, and we came through it and found a good friend underneath a rough exterior, a guy with a big heart.

“He’s very active about what he believes in. He doesn’t just sit around. He’s a hard shell to crack, but once you do you see inside the guy. And he’s a fantastic painter. He’s a deep soul. He just hides it behind a tough-guy thing.”

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