Little Big Town delivers a refreshing sense of warmth and new beginnings in their latest album, Mr. Sun.
Band members Karen Fairchild, Jimi Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman and Phillip Sweet found themselves struggling to work while having to be at a distance during the pandemic. For the first time ever, they were not able to write in the same room or record together in the studio. On the bright side, they were able to use this time to muster up new depths of their creativity, which they then poured into this new project.
At a time when life was “scary” and “insulated,” the members of Little Big Town found themselves looking for “stability,” along with the rest of the world.
“We’re always wanting to think about the good that’s gonna come down the pipe, so I think you see a little bit of that thread through the whole record,” Fairchild told Country Now and other outlets.
As their self-produced project progresses, the track list evolves into a new outlook on life, while still drawing from the lessons of the past. With the help of 33 songwriters from 3 different countries and 20 different states, Little Big Town dives into heartbreak, love, joy and hopefulness for the future ahead.
Mr. Sun features their latest single, “Hell Yeah,” as well as “Better Love,” “All Summer” and “Rich Man,” and among 13 of the 16 tracks, at least one member of the band served as the writer or co-writer.
“There’s nothing more magical to me than seeing a song that you wrote in a writer’s room or wherever you were, and then bringing it into the studio and watching it come to life and actually become something,” Westbrook shared. “It’s the closest thing there is to magic.”
The track list takes listeners on an enlightening journey with its lightheartedness in songs like “All Summer” and it’s tear-jerkers like “Rich Man.”
As the sole writer on “Rich Man,” Westbrook stressed the important representation that the song holds for his “heart” and his “family.” After keeping it on the back burner for almost a decade, he’s finally able to share it with their fans.
“I didn’t know it was gonna make it on this record. it just kind of made its way and I’m grateful. I think it took on a definite…I started writing that over 10 years ago and I think now, the relevance of it is even more impactful with everything that we’ve all been through over the past few years and how the things that didn’t matter quickly fell away. I think that’s what that song is about, just back to the things that mean the most in your life,” he explained.
This collection has an undeniable level of passion and sentiment as the band envisions the brighter, better days on the horizon. Mr. Sun follows their last album, Nightfall, which debuted atop Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart upon its 2020 release. These records go hand-in-hand as the music effortlessly flows from one project to the next, each breaking down their own definitive emotive state.
“Some of those songs were things that we held onto, just a few of them from the Nightfall era of music, that didn’t feel like they fit on that record, but we are very much song keepers,” Fairchild explained. “So we will hold onto songs for a long time and not forget them. I think that’s one thing about Nashville that’s so interesting is there’s this vast land of songs that people have never heard and we didn’t want that to happen to these few songs that we carried on over to Mr. Sun.”
Upon first glance, the title track is perceived to be a cheerful, uplifting song, but the reality is that it contains “something dark and stormy” within the devoted lyrics. Then there’s the leading song, “All Summer,” which is the guiding force of all the 16 tracks. It plays an especially memorable role as it was one of the first songs Little Big Town recorded together after being cleared to return to the studio.
“It definitely set a tone sonically, and Karen had come away from a beach trip writing this with her bunch of amazing writers and girlfriends. So when she played it for us, it felt perfect and it felt like a perfect way to start the record too,” Sweet shared.
“When we wrote it, we were happy to be out of the house and to be on a girl’s trip,” Fairchild said in response. “I don’t know, we were just having so much fun and we were drinking a little.”
She added, “You go back and look at records and that you love, that you wanna put on when you’re at the beach or on the porch…something that makes you feel better, something that makes you feel good, nostalgic feeling songs. So we were trying to touch on that and then we really felt as we were building the whole record that that was the way to say, ‘we are here to shine some light on better days ahead.’”
The band celebrates the album release with a performance on NBC’s TODAY as part of the Citi Concert series.
“For us to play Mr. Sun in that kind of setting, I think it’s just perfect,” Sweet said ahead of the performance. “Hopefully that’s what they feel. It’s refreshing and makes everybody feel good.
Schlapman added, “We used to go buy our records the day they came out at the store, back when CDs were the only thing we had, but we’ve always wanted to do the TODAY Show Plaza. We’ve never done that before.”
The highly-anticipated performances will continue this fall when Little Big Town joins Wynonna Judd on select dates of The Judds: The Final Tour, which will kick off one Sept. 30 in Grand Rapids, MI.
Speaking for her bandmates, Fairchild said, “that’s gonna be pretty epic and daunting and humbling. We’re so grateful. I know for us as a band, when we’ve had these kind of collaborations before, they end up being these defining moments in our career and I know just from seeing Wy a few times recently that, you know, the nights that we get to spend with her honoring her mom and their legacy of music that has had such an impact on us, I know it will creep into the things that we do in the future.”