Little Big Town singers Kimberly Schlapman and Karen Fairchild have racked up some big radio hits, but they also acknowledge the existence of systemic sexism in country music.
During a recent appearance on Apple Music Country’s “Guest List Radio with Ashley Eicher”, they shared their experiences in the music business.
“I remember, especially very early in our career, where we had opinions but sometimes we were scared to express them because this was all brand new to us,” Schlapman said, via a report from CMT. “When we did speak up we were kind of quieted, you know, ‘You hush and you sing and we’ll take care of all the rest.’”
“I remember one time an engineer told me, we were mixing a record and I said, ‘Yeah, I think the kick drum sound could be different and just not really feeling right in the track,’ and he goes. ‘Hey, why don’t you do what you do and I’ll do what I do.’ So, they’re just really things like that that are so deep in the culture, the patriarchal culture of us being under their thumb. And it goes, I think, deeper than we know it goes, but it’s changing and I don’t let those kinds of things happen anymore. There are definitely times where I’ve wanted to say, ‘Hmm, whose cover’s on the record?,'” added Fairchild.
To counter this built-in discrimination, both singers urged women to support other women.
“If we as women, just us women, could stop putting each other down or judging each other and throwing out opinions, negative opinions, negative judgment on each other, we could change the world,” Schlapman said.
The women, both of whom became mothers later in life, also discussed how hurtful fans’ seemingly innocent questions about when they were going to start families actually were.
“God, I remember all those questions in meet and greets and things, especially after Jimi and I got married,” saud Fairchild. “‘Don’t y’all know how to have a baby? Don’t y’all know how to do that?’ not knowing that we’d had miscarriages and you just think, ‘God, could you be any ruder?’ I mean, literally come to the show and listen to music and don’t ask me questions like that.”
Given some of their own experiences, they saw the need to call out the lack of support—the lack of champions—surrounding women. They found that message in their song “The Daughters,” which Fairchild penned with Sean McConnell and Ashley Ray.
In addition, the pair are also looking for the return of using country music to convey social messages, such as Loretta Lynn’s once-controversial, now-iconic hit “The Pill”.
“Let’s get back to saying something in country music,” Fairchild said. “Country music used to be about saying real stories. So we’ve watered it down a bit so that it fits people’s advertising budgets, and the fans don’t understand that. And we need to get back to really saying stuff, because I believe with all my heart that that’s when we all win. It’s when ‘Humble and Kind,’ it’s those moments where something’s really being said and it tugs on people’s heart strings, that we take it to the next level.”