Fresh off their own controversy over their song “Girl Crush,” the members of Little Big Town are sending out their support to friend Tim McGraw in the wake of his recent media firestorm. The “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” singer is being criticized by gun rights advocates for agreeing to play a benefit show for Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit organization founded in the wake of the worst elementary school shooting in U.S. history.
“We love you, Tim. You do the right thing, and that’s what you’re doing because it’s about a child and about a family. I just wish people would put the agenda and the hate down,” Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild told Rolling Stone Country after ACM Awards rehearsals. (The quartet snagged the award for Vocal Group of the Year at Sunday’s show in Arlington, Texas.)
Last week, it was announced that McGraw will headline a July 17th benefit at the XFinity Theater in Hartford, Connecticut, raising money to support the protection of children against gun violence. Hartford is less than an hour away from Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 26 people, including 20 children, were murdered in a mass shooting on December 14th, 2012.
Sandy Hook Promise is a non-profit founded by family members of the victims. Money raised will go toward prevention programs including those geared toward mental health and firearm safety. McGraw’s fiddle player is friends with a family who lost their son in the tragedy.
After right-wing website breitbart.com branded the benefit a “gun control fundraiser” that will make it “harder for law-abiding citizens. . . to carry the guns they need for self-defense,” the pile-on started with the NRA and Travis Tritt expressing their ire at McGraw, who has stood firm. However, Billy Currington, who is on McGraw’s tour and was slated to play the fundraiser, pulled out of the show late last week.
“It is depressing that people have that much time and energy to invest, when they could be doing better things, like educating their child and loving people in the world instead of attacking someone who’s trying to do something good, like Tim McGraw,” adds Little Big Town’s Phillip Sweet. “Why would you want to attack that?”
LBT’s stirring performance of “Girl Crush” on the ACMs made it the most-searched song on Shazam all night. Throughout the weekend, the band continued to field questions from the press about the media-fueled (and largely fabricated) controversy over the song’s provocative lyrics. Some listeners at a small handful of radio stations reportedly complained about “Girl Crush” after misinterpreting the lyrics to be about a lesbian crush instead of about a woman jealous of the other woman in her man’s life.
The confusion has opened up a conversation about whether country radio is ready for a song about a same-sex relationship. “I don’t know if they are,” Sweet says. “I think this whole thing might have brought some light to the fact that maybe they’re not so ready and maybe we should try to get there.”
Fairchild thinks many individual listeners are accepting of same-sex relationships, even if country radio as a whole isn’t collectively there. For example, Kacey Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow,” which refers to a same-sex kiss, peaked at Number 43 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. “Girl Crush” is Number 19 on the same chart this week.
“I think most of the people are there. I really do,” Fairchild says. ” And, of course, we are. We have tons of people in our life that are gay, very important people in our life, so for us it’s not an issue. But I think there is a conservative part of the demographic of country music, and they can have their opinion. That’s what this country is all about. Maybe they aren’t ready, I don’t know. It makes me sad that people have the time on their hands to hate.”