Little Big Town giving fans early sample of new album

Every recording artist thinks the next album is going to be a big one, or else why bother? But Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town thinks she has real evidence.

The country vocal quartet’s next album, “Pain Killer,” doesn’t come out until Oct. 21. But the group is taking the rare step of performing six of the new songs in summer concerts such as Saturday’s Coyote CountryFest at Orleans Arena.

One is the advance hit single “Day Drinking.” But the other five?

“There’s a lot of hooky stuff on this record. I love the fact that (fans) are trying to sing along and they don’t know it yet,” Fairchild says. “I don’t know if they’re watching YouTube videos or just letting the first chorus go by and then they’ve got it.”

Little Big Town is one of those 15-year overnight success stories we might not see much of anymore. “You don’t get a chance to develop anymore. You’ve got to come out swingin’ with a hit or it’s over,” Fairchild says. “It might be true now that if you don’t, you just kind of disappear.”

But her group played Fremont Street as a National Finals Rodeo week attraction in 2002 — “forever ago,” she says with a laugh — and even got a second chance after hitting the wall with its first record label.

The quartet made up of two offstage couples (Fairchild and Jimi Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman and Phillip Sweet) stuck with their own songwriting and knack for trading lead vocals. Eventually, country radio caught up to their dense vocal sound with the likes of Lady Antebellum and The Band Perry.

After years of being an opening act, Little Big Town finally arrived at the top of the charts and concert billings with the platinum 2012 album “Tornado,” and hit singles in the title track, “Pontoon” and “Your Side of the Bed.”

“We had that goal in our minds the whole time,” Fairchild says. “There is part of you, though, the wonder and the mystery of ‘Will it happen?’ You’re chasing it, but oh gosh, is this the song? Or is this the year?

“We just kept believing that every year was going to be the year.”

Finally, it was. Producer Jay Joyce, fresh off Eric Church’s genre-bending “Chief,” gave “Tornado” a thump and vitality that previous albums polished out.

Joyce came along at a time when “we wanted to mess up our hair a little bit, to get out there and try something new,” Fairchild says. He again teamed with the group for “Pain Killer.”

“Jay’s a rocker, so that bigger, bolder sound is going to be in there if you work with him,” she says.

The group’s transition to country’s A-list includes hosting Tuesday’s ABC special “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock,” collecting performances from Nashville’s CMA Music Festival last June.

And the group finally gets to be on the NBC talent contest “The Voice” this fall, after years of ribbing friend Blake Shelton about “not being good enough” to serve as his advisers.

“I personally have given him a very hard time about it. What’s wrong with us? You don’t think we can do this?” Fairchild recalls with a laugh.

When Shelton’s phone call came, it came with two questions:

“Are y’all ready? And is this going to shut Karen up?”

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at or 702-383-0288.