Jimi’s Journey

Little Big Town’s Jimi Westbrook reflects on success, marriage and family.

To commemorate the Nov. 6 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 Oct. 22 issue features our profile of Jimi Westbrook, and in the issues to come we’ll check in on Kimberly Roads Schlapman, Phillip Sweet and Jimi’s wife, Karen Fairchild. Here are a few exclusive online-only excerpts from our talk with Jimi.

ON THE GROUP’S APPROACH TO MAKING A PLACE TO LAND
We said, “Let’s not overthink this thing. Let’s just try to make music that moves us.” That’s what it comes down to. We have to make sure it moves us first. You’ve just got to do what you love and let the rest work itself out. Hopefully in your creative life you always continue to grow and step out and do some new things, and that’s what we’re trying to do. But you’ll know it’s us, hopefully.

ON LITTLE BIG TOWN’S SUCCESS
You’re so in your own vacuum of traveling day to day, you don’t really get a good perspective on how that really is. You’re just doing what you do every day. You notice that now when you’re going into grocery stores people are recognizing you. It’s cool for people to be finally discovering the music—and of course live, they’re singing a lot of the songs back to you. That’s the most fun part of it to me. That’s what my dream was made up of: doing something that somebody else liked and could identify with. I just feel very blessed to be given the opportunity to make music for a living. I really, really mean that. It’s all I ever wanted to do. I appreciate that, and I don’t take that for granted. It’s so much fun. I’m forever grateful that I get to do this.

ON THE GROUP’S BIGGEST FANS
There’s a big core group of people that have been with us for a long time. They’re so supportive, and we just don’t ever take that for granted. Through many lean years, they still followed us.

ON WHETHER HE CONSIDERED BEING A SOLO ARTIST
I don’t think I ever thought about it in those terms. I just knew I wanted to do something in music and be a part of something. I’ve always been drawn to the group thing. I just like being around groups of people anyway.

ON HOW THE GROUP DYNAMIC HAS CHANGED
I don’t think it’s changed a whole lot, really. We just keep getting closer and closer. It’s just a natural thing when you spend so much time together, and that’s still increasing. Just walking with each other through the different changes of life. Like any friend you have that you go through those things with, you just get closer and closer. It’s great. I just love that. That’s special. These are people I want to be in my life all the time, to always be interacting with each other’s lives, doing stuff together, hanging out. I’m very blessed, and just glad to be a part of it. We see each other more than we see anybody else, so thank goodness we’re friends.

ON FINDING “ALONE TIME” WITH KAREN
When you’re living on a bus, it’s hard to make yourself feel married sometimes, because there is no separation—everybody’s all together at the same time. So you really have to work to separate yourself and go do things together. We just try to keep some privacy, because you do live in front of people so much that sometimes you just want to save things for yourself. You want to enjoy it, and not have to talk about it all the time, and just keep it special. I’m just glad I’ve got her out on the road and we can be together, because separation when you’re on the road causes a lot of pain in relationships. We don’t have to deal with that.

ON WHETHER THE BAND WOULD CONTINUE IF HE AND KAREN DIVORCED
That’s not happening! [Laughs] That, I don’t ever want to face.

ON HIS FIRST PUBLIC PERFORMANCE
I was 12 or 13 years old, and sang a solo in the choir at church. I think we did a Christmas play. I stepped out for the first time and sang a solo, and immediately seeing how people could be moved by that was just [great]. I thought, “This is what I love, maybe I can do this.” Nothing’s ever for sure, but you feel like, “Well, it’s something I love, so I should definitely go for it and see what happens.”

ON GOING BACK HOME TO SUMITON, ALA.
I haven’t had time to as much this past year, which has been different. [In Nashville] I’m only two and a half, three hours from home, so I always made that a regular thing. But they come out on the road and see me. We actually do get to see a lot of our family a good bit because they’ll drive for four or five hours to see us. That’s the way they’ve always been—so supportive and loving. I wish I did get to go home more, but I still get to see them. I love my family, and that’s the most important thing to me. I’m glad they can enjoy it with me.

ON HOW SUMITON HAS CHANGED SINCE HIS CHILDHOOD
Small towns rarely change a whole lot, which is one aspect of it I love. You go back knowing what to expect. Like an old comfortable shoe, you just slide right back in. Most of the time I’m just buzzing in and buzzing out. When I go home, it’s mostly about family. I try to get in, we’ll all eat dinner together, go out together or something. I don’t get to get out and see a lot of other people. Most of the same people that I grew up knowing are still there. I wish I could get out and see a lot of the folks I don’t usually get to see when I go back. Maybe I’ll get to do that in the next couple of years.

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