In 2005, Little Big Town were on the verge of releasing “Boondocks,” which turned out to be their breakthrough single. Keith Urban was already arena-ready. And although they were on opposite ends of the fame spectrum, fate threw them together.
Little Big Town were in Chicago on Friday (Jan. 10), and I had the chance to ask them to compare touring with Urban, then and now.
“I remember the first show of that tour, and everything was running really late getting set up, and it was our first time in arena,” Jimi Westbrook recalled of their first show with Urban in 2005. “And it looked like we weren’t gonna get a soundcheck. And we were going, ‘Oh, God.”
“I thought I might vomit,” Westbrook’s wife and bandmate Karen Fairchild added. “He [Urban] held the doors for us. The doors were supposed to open at a certain time every night to let the fans in, but Keith held them for 10 minutes so we could get a soundcheck in, which was such a generous thing to do.”
Fairchild said that the band had run into Urban earlier that year in the catering trailer at a festival. He’d heard “Boondocks,” and the next thing Little Big Town knew, he invited them on tour.
Urban wasn’t quite as massively famous back then as he is now, but Phillip Sweet told me, “He was huge to us, and he still represents country music in such a powerful way now, and he brings a lot of respect to the genre.”
And other than the fact that Urban takes a private plane to and from tour stops, Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman says he’s still the very same guy he’s been in the decade that they’ve known him.
“He always has the crowd right here, in the palm of his hands,” she says. “And he always has. On that first tour, we’d always run out and watch his entire show. We learned so much from him. He’s an amazing entertainer.”
“Keith’s energy onstage is just this visceral thing that permeates the building,” she said. “That hasn’t changed at all. It’s the same tonight in this arena as if he was playing at a club 10 years ago.”