Little Big Town Reveal Why They Opted For Smaller Venues On Current Tour
Why Little Big Town pivoted to more intimate theater shows — and space geekery — after mastering the arena tour.
In 2017, Little Big Town played 10 shows at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, its first residency at the famed venue. The country quartet would soon be playing arenas much bigger than the 2,300-capacity Ryman on its 2018 tour, but the Ryman run gave Leslie Cohea, GM at Little Big Town’s management company, Sandbox Entertainment, an idea. “She was like, ‘This is what people want to see: They want to come to theaters and experience an intimate evening with y’all,’ ” recalls Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild. “She was convinced that should be the next phase of what we do [for] touring.”
So, on Jan. 16, Little Big Town kicked off the Nightfall tour at New York’s Carnegie Hall. The jaunt will take it to 20 U.S. theaters through May 2 in promotion of its ninth album, Nightfall, which arrived Jan. 17. In cities where it has proven to have bigger followings (like Chicago and Boston), the band will play multiple nights with a rotating setlist.
Fairchild first felt motivated to play around with the setlist after recently seeing John Mayer perform in Nashville. “I went by myself and sat with all the drunk girls in the 14th row,” she says. “It was really fun to go, ‘I wonder what song he’s going to play [next].’ ” Fairchild says that kind of spontaneity will be more challenging to execute, but fellow bandmate Kimberly Schlapman assures the group has rehearsed more than ever.
Little Big Town agreed that theaters were the best setting for its cinematic-sounding new album; plus the ornate spaces inspired it to be more creative with stage design. The tour features the band’s most visually stimulating production yet and brings the theme of nighttime coming to life. Several shots of the moon, inspired by NASA astrophysicist Scott Bolton (a friend of the band), are displayed on a backdrop during the show. “We’re space nerds,” admits Fairchild.
Little Big Town isn’t sure just yet whether its next leg of the Nightfall tour will move back to larger venues — but for now, it is confident in delivering a show that will stand out, while peers like Jason Aldean and Lady Antebellum are scheduled to tour arenas and amphitheaters this year.
“Country is a very oversaturated marketplace, so you’ve got to come up with things that draw [fans] in,” says Fairchild. Adds Cohea: “Sometimes the bigger option is not always the best. It’s not all about the amount of tickets you sell. It’s about your audience — giving different experiences and levels of connection is important.”
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 1, 2020 issue of Billboard.