Little Big Town: Taking Sides
Video director Becky Fluke’s directions were simple. Climb in bed, look lovingly into each other’s eyes and stay quiet. It’s something Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild and Jimi Westbrook probably have done thousands of times in their seven-year marriage.
There was just one small problem: The two couldn’t stop laughing.
“The whole bed scene was just strange,” Jimi says of the video shoot for the band’s latest single, “Your Side of the Bed.” “There we were, lying there facing each other, trying to be all somber and everything, with 40 people staring at us. I mean, you have a camera hanging over the bed? It’s not natural, that’s for sure.”
Indeed, while the talented foursome of Karen, Jimi, Kimberly Schlapman and Phillip Sweet might have just recently won their first Daytime Emmy (for the theme song to ABC’s Good Afternoon America), they admit their acting skills could use a bit of help. Nevertheless, the reigning CMA and ACM Vocal Group of the Year remains high on life and career, and just might have written what could be the most revealing song of their time as a band with “Your Side of the Bed.” The follow-up to recent hits “Pontoon” and “Tornado,” the song serves as not only a voyeuristic view of life on the road and in the bedroom, but also tells the story of two people aching to find a way to connect again in this ever-crowded world.
“Karen had the melody in her head for a while and [co-writer] Lori McKenna was the one who threw out the title,” recalls Jimi of the song that was never meant to become a duet. “A couple weeks later, we were getting ready to play some songs for the label and Karen and I were at home digging through it and singing it in our kitchen, just the two of us. I guess there was this moment where we looked at each other and knew we had something magical. I especially love that it’s kind of a throwback to those classic sad-song duets that country music has been known for throughout the years.”
And while the song sounds as if it could have been written among a backdrop of candles and rose petals, it actually had its beginnings surrounded by a sea of corn dogs and fried butter. “Poor Lori came out on a couple of shows with us and wrote under not so ideal circumstances,” Jimi says, laughing. “We were at one of those little county fairs where they had us set up directly in the middle of everything, and there we were, next to the stage in a trailer trying to write.”
While the ambience wasn’t necessarily ideal, the song did start to come together thanks to lyrical input from the entire band. “I think the beauty of that song is that all of us were probably speaking out of experience,” says Kimberly. “Even if it’s only a fleeting moment, there are times when you just feel distant from the person you love the most. I also love the visceral images in the lyrics, like the Bible on the nightstand. All of that is very real. Everyone can identify with those images.”
Kimberly says she was also the one to throw in the parting line that has hit so many Little Big Town fans over the head with its simple, yet powerful emotion. “I love that line that asks, Are you still awake?” she says. “It’s like you are asking, ‘Do you care enough to say something or are you just going to go to sleep? Are you lying over there, wanting to roll over like I want to?’”
“The whole song keeps asking the question of what happened between us and how can we fix it,” adds Jimi. “I think it’s a part of life and being a human being. It’s so true that you can be in a crowded room and feel so lonely. People identify with that. It’s such a natural thing.”
And while the idea of Karen and Jimi singing these powerful lines to each other ended up as the perfect option, the entire band knew that the video treatment could take the purely lyrical experience of the song that much further. “Becky [Fluke] and I were talking one night about possible treatments for the video, and we kept on going back to our goal of putting together something unexpected,” says Jimi of the video, which quickly garnered more than 1 million YouTube views after its May release. “The idea of playing these parts in a video felt intriguing and felt like something that would grab people in a different way.”
Filmed in the historic Tennessee Theater and the Oliver Hotel in Knoxville, Tenn., the video takes viewers through a purely fictional night in the life of an award-winning country band. Or was there some reality shining through the video shoot? “I love the shot of us walking in after signing autographs and shaking hands,” explains Jimi. “The truth of the matter is that there are times when you have to put on this smile even when things aren’t going that great. There are times where you have to be kind to people when you might not feel like it.”
So while life out on the road might not always be perfect, the band says they cannot wait to get back on the pavement alongside Keith Urban during this summer’s highly anticipated Light the Fuse Tour. Still basking in the tremendous feedback from their recent collaboration with Keith on the Fleetwood Mac hit “The Chain” on the CMT Music Awards this past June, the band says they are looking forward not only to possible onstage collaborations, but also those crazy backstage summer parties the LBT family is known for.
“We ventured out to Walmart yesterday and got the kids new swimming pools for the summer,” says Kimberly, laughing as she refers to the LBT clan, which includes Jimi and Karen’s 3-year-old son, Elijah, Kimberly’s daughter, Daisy Pearl, and Phillip’s daughter, Penelopi. “You could tell we have had a good year because this year, we upgraded—this year our pools have slides.”
Life is good.