Last month, Little Big Town released "Better Man," a regret-filled breakup ballad that contains a Ginsu-sharp takedown of the lover in question: "I just miss you / and I just wish you were a better man." The single – revealed this week to be written by Taylor Swift – is the first taste of Little Big Town's forthcoming album The Breaker, the follow-up to 2014's Pain Killer.
Like that record, the new album, due February 24th, was produced by Jay Joyce (Eric Church). The vocal group's Phillip Sweet says the project builds on the sound of Pain Killer and was recorded with their live touring band.
"We're always pushing to be progressive, so there's some cool sounds on there. It has that soul and spirit that we always try to find with Jay. Technical performances aren't what he's looking for – he's looking to capture a feeling," says Sweet. "We may spend a whole day or more on one song. Playing it not from your head, but from your heart. That's what Jay is so great at. He's a rare breed."
Sweet, who with his bandmates Jimi Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman and Karen Fairchild, will vie for their fifth Vocal Group of the Year award at tonight's CMA Awards, says the idea of a complete album remains very much important to Little Big Town.
"It's such a playlist society and it feels like no one gives a shit about making albums anymore," he says. "You have to sequence an album and make songs feel, and hand off one to another, just like someone makes a playlist. That's what they're doing … An album is a collection of music that works together. It gives you a story that the artist is trying to tell."
Along with the new album, Little Big Town will set up shop at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium in 2017 for the first-ever residency at the venue. Beginning February 24th, the band will play six dates: February 25th, May 19th, May 20th, September 15th and September 16th. Brent Cobb will open the first show, with Ashley Monroe on the bill for the second February date.