Imagine if a game-changing email from Taylor Swift went to spam. Little Big Town can, because the pop princess wrote one such message and sent it to Phillip Sweet, the quartet’s least reliable member when it comes to timely internet replies. “He’s a horrible responder,” says Karen Fairchild, 47, glancing fondly at Sweet, at 42 the baby of the band: “I love you, but you are.”
Fortunately, Sweet eventually did check his mail and saw the offer to record the Swift-penned break-up ballad “Better Man”; the song went on to become the group’s third chart-topping single. “It opened up a brand-new audience for us,” says 47-year-old Kimberly Schlapman. Over very potent fruity cocktails at Catch LA in West Hollywood, we asked the longtime friends and musical soul mates—who also include Jimi Westbrook, 46, Fairchild’s husband for more than a decade—to talk about their new album, The Breaker, their recent Grammys appearance, and being totally, ahem, synced up.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Which song do you think will be the crowd-pleaser?
SWEET: There’s one called “Happy People” that kicks off the record, about how you can’t [rely on] someone else to make you feel happy. It’s a hopeful song, and it’s really perfect for where the world is right now. It seems like we’re in a gigantic swirl of chaos.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Sounds like you just got a little political there.
FAIRCHILD: It depends on what you mean by political. If tolerance and kindness and acceptance and love are political, then I guess we’re political.
SCHLAPMAN: “Better Man” is a crowd-pleaser. The audience has expanded for that because it’s from Taylor Swift—all of her fans want to know, “What? She wrote a song and a country band cut it?”
SWEET: [When we got her email] I was thinking, “Please let it be good. Please let it be good.” [Everyone laughs.] We all fell in love with the melody.
SCHLAPMAN: It’s the first time she’s pitched a song to another artist.
WESTBROOK: We’ve known her since she was knee-high to a grasshopper.
FAIRCHILD: We used to hang out in the dressing room with her at the CMA Awards and play videogames.
SCHLAPMAN: She wrote her high school paper about us!
FAIRCHILD: It was a paper about perseverance, how to keep going. It was pretty cool.