|Little Big Town arrives at the 2010 CMT Music Awards Blue Carpet at The BridgeStone Arena in Nashville, TN. on Wednesday, June 9, 2010. (Judy Eddy WENN.COM)
Switching things up really seemed to work for Nashville-based country vocal group Little Big Town.
After more than a decade in the business and 1.5 million in album sales, the harmony-heavy foursome of Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook and Karen Fairchild (a real-life couple) and Phillip Sweet, finally scored their first No. 1 country single, Pontoon, and No. 1 country album, Tornado.
The key ingredient was changing producers - from longtime collaborator Wayne Kirkpatrick to Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Patty Griffin) - and recording the album, the fifth of their career, in a mere week.
"I think it was just time," says Westbrook seated beside Schlapman.
"Pushing ourselves out of our own comfort zone. We've been a band for 13 years now and there just comes a time when you just need to push yourself and do something different."
The group had met Joyce, who had played guitar on their last record, 2010's The Reason Why, and liked his confidence.
Even if he's a bit of a character in the studio.
"We can be overthinkers and really get in there and dissect things, and when we would start doing that, he would be on his bullhorn going, 'Stop talking and start singing!'" said Westbrook with a laugh. "He had this bullhorn and this big tall fuzzy white hat and Chanel glasses."
Joyce pushed Little Big Town in a slightly different musical direction too.
"I just think it was probably a little bolder instrumentation wise," Westbrook says. "It's grittier. And pumped up. It felt great. And I think that lent itself to have much fun we were having and everything was that it just felt right and it felt natural. There was nothing forced about it."
Now, Little Big Town is up for three awards, including best single for Pontoon, on Thursday night's CMAs on ABC and will also be performing the song on the show.
"It's our first number one," says Westbrook. "It's really cool."
Adds Schlapman: "Jimi heard the song first and was like, 'Y'all gotta hear this.' It's wacky and fun. It was the first thing we cut on the whole tracking session. And it just had so much energy and that song just makes you feel good. Whether you have a boat or not, it's just about having a good time with your friends and your family. When we heard, we thought, "Yeah, this song has great potential.' But did we know what it would become? No way.'"
Little Big Town just announced six new Canadian 2013 tour dates - after opening for Rascal Flatts in London, Ont., and Hamilton, Ont., in mid-October - and are looking forward to becoming headliners.
"We're going to step off into that a little bit and see what happens," said Westbrook. "We are definitely ready. It's something that we've always been working towards. I'm just excited to play all this music on this record."
LITTLE BIG TOWN TOUR DATES:
March 26, Pantages Playhouse Theatre, Winnipeg
March 27, TCU Place, Saskatoon,
March 28, Conexus Arts Centre, Regina
March 30, Winspear Centre, Edmonton
April 1, Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, Calgary
April 3, Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver, BC