13 Weeks On Hot Country Songs
At a moment when feel-good party jams ruled the country airwaves, Little Big Town — Karen Fairchild, 46; Kimberly Schlapman, 46; Jimi Westbrook, 44; and Phillip Sweet, 41 — dared to release a spare, sensual ballad about woman-on-woman jealousy that became 2015’s most talked-about country single. “Girl Crush,” written by Liz Rose, Lori McKenna and Hillary Lindsey, even weathered a trumped-up controversy over its lyrics –misinterpreted as an expression of same-sex lust — to reach No. 1 on Hot Country Songs, where it stayed for 13 weeks, the longest reign by a group of at least three members in the chart’s history. “Girl Crush” went on to capture three Grammy nominations including for song of the year and best country song. (Meanwhile, Pain Killer is up for best country album.)
MCKENNA Hillary picked up a guitar and sang the first verse as it is. So she set the tone for the feel of the song. If she had started that song as an uptempo or something, it would have gone in a different direction.
LINDSEY There wasn’t any over-thinking, that’s for sure. Little Big Town was coming over to write an hour after we finished it. They asked what had we been writing, and Liz was ballsy enough to play the song for them.
ROSE I said, “God, we love this song, but there’s no way y’all would cut this, because it’s kind of a solo artist song.” And they looked at us like, “Why wouldn’t we cut this song?”
FAIRCHILD There are lots of songs about jealousy, but nothing that had been written in such a provocative way. We knew right off the bat. There was no discussion about whether or not we were cutting it, and even whether or not it would be a single. We just felt like it was that important a moment.
WESTBROOK We were willing to take the chance on it. We didn’t know how it would play out, especially when the so-called controversy started happening. Pretty quickly the tide started turning. All the people who loved it started speaking louder than the handful of people who didn’t.
This story originally appeared in the Dec. 19 issue of Billboard.