Little Big Town Gears Up To Host Inaugural People’s Choice Country Awards, Promises A ‘Super Special’ Show

The show will bring together country music legends and rising stars in a celebration of the genre’s rich history and vibrant present.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

September 27, 2023


1:40 pm

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Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook, Karen Fairchild, Phillip Sweet ; Photo by: Miller Mobley/NBC

Little Big Town is gearing up to take the stage of the Grand Ole Opry as hosts of the inaugural People’s Choice Country Awards.

Taking place live from the iconic Nashville venue on Thursday, Sept. 28, the completely fan-voted award show will recognize some of the biggest names in country music and showcase their talents through a star-studded lineup of performances. Among the artists who have been tapped to make an appearance include Blake Shelton, Carly Pearce, Dan + Shay, HARDY, Jelly Roll, Kane Brown, Kelsea Ballerini, Little Big Town, Toby Keith and Wynonna Judd. 

Airing This Thursday

Before stepping into their roles as host for the night, members Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Philip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook of Little Big Town sat down with Country Now and other media outlets to discuss the opportunity to lead this coveted event.

Taking Place At The Grand Ole Opry

“What an honor for the first ever fan-voted People’s Choice…It’s about the fans. Our genre is about the fans,” Westbrook gushed. “They pack up to come see you and drive hours and hours and spend their hard-earned money on your music. To be a part of that and to bring it to the Grand Ole Opry, which we personally love, we’re members and love the history of that building, to bring a national audience into that place and celebrate the historical past that has happened in that building, but also the superstars that are just ruling all of music right now, it’s a special night and we’re just grateful to be a part of it.”

Expanding upon Westbrook’s statement, Fairchild chimed in to further stress the sentiment of getting to be a part of the first-time event in a place that holds so much history in country music. 

“I think it made a lot of sense to bring it to Nashville, to bring it to the Grand Ole Opry house,” she shared. “It can house a lot of people, but it feels very intimate. It’s like very forward to the stage, so I’m sure we’ll be able to feel the energy of the fans that are up in the balconies because it kind of pulls over and you feel close to the balcony in a way. So that that’s going to be super special.”

Do They Get Nervous When Hosting?

Even though this won’t be the first time Little Big Town leads a major award show, they admit there are still plenty of nerves to shake off before the cameras start rolling. 

“It’s the live television is just a different thing. Whether you’re on an award show performing or hosting, you never know what’s going to happen and things are always shifting and moving around,” Westbrook explained. “That’s crazy and nerve-wracking, but also super fun and exciting.”

Fairchild added, “Yeah, just getting in the rhythm of the show and setting the tone for the night to be a celebration of country music in an iconic building and bridging that gap of these younger new artists that are on fire with our icons is going to be really special.”

Also Nominated

Alongside their hosting duties, Little Big Town has also received their very first nomination for the People’s Choice Country Awards in the category of Group of the Year. Each of the four band members humbly demonstrated their excitement to be included in this category among their peers. 

“That’s an amazing thing to be in that category,” said Sweet. “If we so happen to get to take home some hardware, that’d be amazing too. That’d be a bonus. And especially knowing that it’s the fans that made that happen would be even more beautiful.”

Country Icon Award

While most of the winners will be revealed live, two have already been announced ahead of the show. First is the Grammy Award-nominated country legend Toby Keith who will be presented with the Country Icon Award by fellow Oklahoma native, Blake Shelton. This honor will be awarded to Keith as a result of his 30-year career as a musician, philanthropist and entrepreneur.

Photo Courtesy Toby Keith
Photo Courtesy Toby Keith

“He’s the consummate songwriter and our genre is built on songs and stories. That’s what Toby has always loved the most and has always been so passionate about the songwriting,” Fairchild said of the country music icon. “We got to be a part of a night last year where he was honored as the BMI Songwriter Icon Award and I think that’s what we’re gonna be celebrating, is not just him as an entertainer, but the way he’s fostered songwriting in this community.”

Country Champion Award

In addition to Keith, it has been revealed that Grammy Award-winning singer Wynonna Judd will also be celebrated as the recipient of this year’s Country Champion Award for her extensive career and impactful contributions to philanthropy and activism. Over the years Wynonna’s legendary storytelling skills and devotion to the genre has captured the hearts of both country music fans and fellow artists, including the members of Little Big Town.

Wynonna Judd; Photo By Jim Wright
Wynonna Judd; Photo By Jim Wright

“We wore out her records, Karen and I did. And I’m sure the boys did too, when we were growing up,” Schlapman said as she reflected on how Wynonna has personally inspired her throughout her own musical journey. “Just the harmony that she and her mama introduced us all to was familiar, but it was new and we wanted to sing just like them. So she had an incredible influence, she and her mom, on us as makers of music.”

She continued, “We were able to tour with her last year in some of the most memorable shows I think we will ever be a part of. So watching her receive an award that is just so well deserved, we will gather around her and love on her and celebrate with her.”

How To Watch

Many fans submitted their vote in hopes of seeing their favorite artist take home a win, and it will all unfold tomorrow night when the People’s Choice Country Awards airs live on Thursday, Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. ET/PT simultaneously on NBC and Peacock.

Throughout the evening, a mix of country music newcomers and inspiring icons will come together to celebrate each other.

Little Big Town; Photo by Blair Getz Mezibov
Little Big Town; Photo by Blair Getz Mezibov

“I think it’s going to be something special and unique that we probably haven’t seen on TV or any of these award shows before,” Sweet teased.

The show will extend across platforms with “Backstage Live: People’s Choice Country Awards.” The live stream will air on Peacock, PCA Twitter, NBC Twitter/Facebook/YouTube, TODAY All Day/Twitter, E! News Twitter/Facebook/YouTube/E! Online, Access Twitter/YouTube, and Circle social platforms, bringing red carpet arrivals, backstage chats, and everything behind-the-scenes to fans at home. 

The two-hour broadcast will be produced by Den of Thieves with Jesse Ignjatovic, Evan Prager and Barb Bialkowski serving as executive producers, along with RAC Clark as executive producer and showrunner.

Voting for the “People’s Choice Country Awards” is now closed, but a limited number of show tickets and VIP packages are available now at See the full list of categories and nominees HERE.

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.