Lit­tle Big Town’s mo­men­tum grows with Ry­man res­i­dency

Cape Breton Post - - ARTS/ENTERTAINMENT - BY KRISTIN M. HALL THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Please ex­cuse singer Phillip Sweet if he gets a lit­tle emo­tional when Lit­tle Big Town per­forms Fri­day night dur­ing the first-ever res­i­dency in the 125-year his­tory of the Ry­man Au­di­to­rium, a venue that helped pop­u­lar­ize coun­try music.

“I know I am go­ing to get so choked up that it’s go­ing to be hard to sing,” Sweet said in an in­ter­view this week. “It’s a re­ally emo­tional time for the band. It’s a lot to cel­e­brate.”

Lit­tle Big Town marks a re­turn to their roots with the al­bum “The Breaker,” that was re­leased Fri­day, with the No. 1 sin­gle “Bet­ter Man,” writ­ten by Tay­lor Swift. It’s the first sin­gle off their new record.

The four-piece Grammy-win­ning coun­try group is also cel­e­brat­ing an ad­di­tion to the fam­ily - singer Kim­berly Sch­lap­man re­cently an­nounced that she has adopted a daugh­ter, Dolly Grace.

Sweet said the tim­ing of these mile­stone events has given him pause. “It’s al­most like this mo­ment is marked by this beau­ti­ful lit­tle life that has come into our world,” he said. Sweet and Sch­lap­man, along with hus­ban­dand-wife Jimi West­brook and Karen Fairchild, make up the vo­cal band that hit a ca­reer high in 2015 with the mul­ti­plat­inum hit “Girl Crush,” which earned ac­co­lades at the 2016 Gram­mys. They also ex­per­i­mented out­side the genre with a pop record “Wan­der­lust” pro­duced by Phar­rell Wil­liams in 2016.

And the band didn’t let that mo­men­tum fade.

“We didn’t want peo­ple to know who wrote it for a lit­tle while be­cause we wanted ev­ery­one to hear the song with no sub­text,” Sweet said of “Bet­ter Man.” ”I feel like peo­ple lis­tened with dif­fer­ent ears be­cause of that.“

The group has a tra­di­tion on re­lease week to play their en­tire al­bum be­gin­ning to end. Fri­day’s show was the first of at least nine dates they have booked at the Ry­man through­out the year, with more dates likely to be added. Built in 1892 as the Union Gospel Taber­na­cle, the build­ing has be­come syn­ony­mous with coun­try and blue­grass and served as the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. Mu­si­cal icons from Elvis Pres­ley, Merle Hag­gard, Johnny Cash, The Carter Fam­ily, Patsy Cline, Earl Scruggs and Bill Mon­roe have all graced its stage.

Sally Wil­liams, gen­eral man­ager of the Ry­man Au­di­to­rium and vice-pres­i­dent of con­certs and en­ter­tain­ment at Opry En­ter­tain­ment Group, said the Ry­man wanted the first res­i­dency to re­flect the di­ver­sity of the mu­si­cians who have per­formed there.

“We wanted to be work­ing with some­one who was genre bend­ing, who was very firmly rooted in coun­try music, which is Nashville, but also very open and creative and in­clu­sive of other gen­res,” Wil­liams said. “And Lit­tle Big Town is so much that.”

AP PHOTO

Philip Sweet, from left, Kim­berly Sch­lap­man, Karen Fairchild, and Jimi West­brook of the mu­si­cal group Lit­tle Big Town at the 59th an­nual Grammy Awards in Los An­ge­les. The four-piece coun­try group are re­turn­ing to their roots with their lat­est record, ‘The Breaker’, out on Fri­day.

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