Little Big Town: ‘The Breaker’ Recording Sessions ‘Nearly Broke Us’
Little Big Town's seventh studio album, The Breaker, was a tough record to make. The country quartet admit that they had a wealth of songs to choose from, and having so many great songs can often make the selection process more difficult.
"Maybe that's why it should be called The Breaker, because it nearly broke us," Karen Fairchild told Taste of Country and other press outlets recently in Nashville. "Sometimes you get in the studio, and it feels like you're putting on someone else's clothes. No matter how big you think a song is, if it doesn't feel right when you're singing it, or if it doesn't feel completely honest, then you have to set it aside."
While the band nodded in agreement, Phillip Sweet further explained that they peeled back several layers of themselves to get to certain places in each song. Little Big Town didn't simply throw a vocal on each track in one take. Instead, they spent time and lived with each song while on the road and found deeper meaning within the lyrics.
Producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Zac Brown Band) helped Little Big Town get to where they needed to go, and the band raves about working with him, saying he listens with his heart. For Joyce, it's not how something sounds, but how it makes him feel. As a result, Little Big Town worked hard to give an honest performance on each song. Fairchild says the project's lead single, "Better Man," was an example of this process.
"We didn't get it the very first time we sang it. It just didn't happen, but we really believed in that song, and so we let it be for a little while, for maybe three weeks, and then we had an idea of what it was that was missing that we needed," she shared. "Sometimes you have to go there, to a different place, and I don't know what it is. One day it'll just click and I'll go, 'I've got it!' We all had those experiences on this record of singing something and then living with it, and it gets in under your skin, and you start living it, and it becomes a different thing."
Living with the Taylor Swift-penned song for several weeks worked out well for the band, as "Better Man" recently hit No. 1 on the country charts.
Sweet, meanwhile, stressed the importance the band places on being moved by the songs they select to record and include on the final track listing of each album.
"I think those pieces of the puzzle just fell into place where they were supposed to. We always want to be moved by the most inspired thing," he says.
One of the album's more inspiring songs is the first track featured on The Breaker. "Happy People" was written by Lori McKenna ("Humble and Kind," "Girl Crush") and Hailey Whitters, and the band says it sets the tone for the album.
"The nostalgic feeling of this record, and 'Happy People' setting off the record, to me, is the perfect sentiment for what's going on in the world right now, and the things that are important, for us, anyway," Fairchild shares. "I hope it brings some happiness to people right now in what feels like a very chaotic time. It's what we wish for people if we were going to write something. Luckily, Lori writes it."
The song closes with one of those wishes: "Life is short and love is rare and we all deserve to be happy while we're here."
One of the most memorable songs on the album is the heartbreaking title track, which was written by TJ Osborne of Brothers Osborne and Connie Harrington. As Sweet shared, "The Breaker" was a song the band was instantly moved by.
"The way it was approached from a different angle, the fact that the one who's singing the song feels remorseful, and they're the one who broke the other person's heart . . . We had never really heard it said in that way, and it was a cool take, and it sounded different," Sweet tells Taste of Country.
When it came time to choosing an album title, the band narrowed it down to two song titles. The Breaker seemed like a natural fit.
"As the record was developing, it was like, man, The Breaker says so much about the whole record," Fairchild states. "'Better Man,' you're the one that's broken, and then 'The Breaker,' you're the one breaking, and then all these things about life and a new day and being happy, and things that are a breakthrough in your life, and things that matter. There were so many layers to it as we were discussing it, and it just seemed like this is the thread that holds the whole record together."
Little Big Town's The Breaker is available Friday (Feb. 24).
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