Little Big Town's Kimberly Schlapman talks Elton John, Taylor Swift and Reba McEntire as Colonel Sanders 

click to enlarge Little Big Town (Photo Sandbox Mgmt / provided)
  • Photo Sandbox Mgmt / provided
  • Little Big Town

The first month of 2018 was a busy one for Little Big Town.

The popular country vocal quartet based in Nashville is preparing to embark on The Breakers tour, which might be its biggest trek yet. The tour, assisted by Texas stars Kacey Musgraves and Midland, is in support of the band’s eighth studio LP The Breaker released in February 2017.

Oklahoma City has the honor of kicking off the run. The first show of The Breakers tour begins 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8 at Chesapeake Arena, 100 W. Reno Ave.

Little Big Town also made its return to performing on the Grammy stage recently. Vocalist Kimberly Schlapman made a call to Oklahoma Gazette between Grammy practice sessions. The band not only performed during the awards ceremony’s main show, but was featured in the following I’m Still Standing tribute to legendary Elton John.

The Breaker received a lot of Grammy attention from voters. The release was a finalist for Best Country Album. Its lead single “Better Man” was a winner for Best Country Duo/Group Performance. The song was actually written and offered to Little Big Town by pop superstar Taylor Swift, who received a Best Country Song nomination for her songwriting efforts.

Aside from the tour and Grammy work, Schlapman spoke with Gazette about Little Big Town’s relationship with Swift, its salute to John and her admiration for McAlester-born Reba McEntire.

Oklahoma Gazette: What’s it like making your return to the Grammy stage? Two years ago, you all had that great performance of “Girl Crush” there.

Kimberly Schlapman: It’s one of the greatest honors in our career, to be asked to sing on the Grammy stage. My goodness, we all grew up watching that show in our living rooms and had dreams of being on that stage one day. Of course, none of us back then had any idea that it could ever happen or that it would ever happen. Even last night, as we were up on the stage rehearsing, we just looked at each other and it’s like a pinch-me moment. Like, how did we get here?

OKG: Does it feel any different performing on that stage as opposed to what you all would typically do?

Schlapman: Definitely. People like Kendrick Lamar and U2 don’t usually go to our concerts, so that’s different. But it’s incredibly exciting. It’s a chance to show the world a little bit about country music. It’s nice to be chosen as an ambassador in that regard. We count it as such a privilege and honor.

OKG: Another interesting thing you all are involved with is the I’m Still Standing Grammy tribute to Elton John.

Schlapman: Oh my word, yes. That is another pinch-me, breathtaking moment for me. When we were invited to sing on that show, I was like, “Holy cow!” We’re going to be playing with Elton’s band, and that band is one of the best in the music business. Hanging out with them last night and working through what we were going to do is so much fun. Those Elton songs are such a soundtrack to all of our lives. Everyone knows every word to all of those songs. This is the chance to perform one of those and make it our own. We’re so excited because we’re going to be able to meet Elton and we’re actually going to be able to sing that song while we’re looking at him in the audience.

OKG: He recently announced that his next tour is going to be his last.

Schlapman: I know. I really, really want to see that tour. I’ve always wanted to be able to see him in concert, and I’ve never been able to catch one of those shows.

OKG: Your show in Oklahoma City is actually the kickoff to The Breakers tour, and I know a lot of people are looking forward to it.

Schlapman: That’s the very first show of the tour that we’ve been planning for, really, our whole career. We’ve always been wanting to go on a tour like this, and we’ve been waiting for the right time. This is the year. This is really the biggest tour we’ve ever done. It’s just going to be an incredible year, and to kick it off in Oklahoma City is really special.

OKG: A lot of people talk about “Better Man” and how Taylor Swift contributed to this album. When did you first hear or see that song, and what were your feelings about it?

Schlapman: We’ve been friends with Taylor since she was a wee pup. We’ve known her since she was really young and just got started in the music business. She’s always been very encouraging of us, and we’ve always been such big fans of hers. She’s such an incredible songwriter and performer. She has [Little Big Town member] Phillip Sweet’s email address, so she sent Phillip the song “Better Man” — a demo she had done. He listened and loved it and immediately sent it to us. She just sent it very casually and said, ‘You know, I’ve always heard your voices on this song. I know you’re making a record; give it a listen. If you want to cut it, it’s yours. If not, no big deal.’

OKG: No big deal. It might just win a Grammy, but no big deal.

Schlapman: Exactly. We all listened and immediately loved it. We could hear the potential for the harmonies on the chorus immediately. We cut it in the studio and invited her to hear what we had done and hoped that she would approve. She came and loved it and immediately said, ‘Play it again!’ It’s been really fun to have that success with her, and we’re just happy it didn’t go in Phillip’s spam folder or something. It’s been such a gift of a song, and it has opened us up to a new audience also. It took us to another level.

OKG: Did you hear the recent news about Reba McEntire being cast to play Colonel Sanders in a coming KFC commercial?

Schlapman: I just saw that this morning. I adore Reba McEntire. She is a goddess. We have become friends over the years, and there is no more down-to-Earth superstar you will ever meet. She so has my heart. She’s just warm and so friendly and encouraging and loving. One of the most special moments in our whole career was with her, when she surprised us on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry and asked us to become members. Reba can do no wrong no matter what she does or who she is. We are her biggest fans.

OKG: Do you think this opens the door for you to take a Colonel Sanders role at some point in the future?

Schlapman: Well, if KFC comes knocking, I’ll certainly answer. I love their chicken legs; they’re my favorite. I could live off Colonel Sanders’ chicken legs.

OKG: That original recipe is hard to beat.

Schlapman: It is the best. You can’t beat it.

Print headliner: Big break; Little Big Town launches The Breakers tour in Oklahoma City.

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