Life-Changing Recordings: Little Big Town's Kimberly Schlapman
(Every artist has a soundtrack that reveals their musical journey. But what is the one recording that proved to be a transformative moment? In this ongoing series, GRAMMY-winning and -nominated artists will reveal their answer to the deceptively difficult question: What recording changed your life?)
Roses In The Snow (1980)
"It was the first album I ever got as a kid. Growing up I remember I had several different 45 singles. But the first album I received was from a family friend, Emmylou Harris' Roses In The Snow. It was so incredible. This record, to this day, is the favorite album of my life. I've always listened to it. I've pulled it out at different times. It always stays in my car, it always stays on my iPad, I always have it near me. But there have been times [in] my life when I've pulled it out and just lived by it through certain circumstances.
"I remember as a kid when I first received it, I didn't yet know what it felt like to listen to a whole body of work, and so I listened to this on my little blue-and-white checkered record player in my room over and over and over, and I knew every word and I knew every harmony. I grew up singing harmony with my family, so the harmony on this record is so familylike, because it's bluegrass. I knew every word, every harmony. And then when I got older and I started realizing what it meant to make a record and have guests appear with you on that record, and I began to research who was on this record. It's just phenomenal. I mean, Dolly Parton is on this record, Linda Ronstadt, Willie Nelson, Ricky Skaggs. It's a phenomenal body of work.
"And then the songs have meant so much to me in my life at different times. When I was a kid I used to sing 'Wayfaring Stranger' with my daddy in church. And 'Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn,' I remember singing that, morbidly, at some family funerals. I remember when we became a band, Little Big Town, I said, 'We have to learn "Green Pastures" from this record; we have to do this song.' My dream is to do that song one day at the Opry.
"I think the most ironic part of my love of this record is the title track, 'Roses In The Snow.' It's about falling in love. The girl falls in love with her dream, and then he dies, and she has to bury him on a hillside. And I actually lived that in my own lifetime. I fell in love with my first husband, and he passed away, and I buried him on a hillside. [Ed: Schlapman's first husband, Steven Roads, died in 2005 at age 41.] So it was very ironic that I would really live the life of that song.
"And so this whole record has just become more and more precious to me throughout my life. And on one of my birthdays a few years ago — the band knows how much this record means to me — they got Emmylou to sign one for me. It says, 'Happy Birthday, Kimberly. Love, Emmylou.' It is one of my greatest treasures. It means the world to me because throughout my life I have lived this record. As a 9-year-old girl when I got this record, I never dreamed of living that kind of life, or that life would take me to that place. It is pretty ironic.
"I have never met Emmylou. But one of these days I just pray I get to meet her, so I can tell her how special that record has been for me."
(Little Big Town comprise Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet, and Jimi Westbrook. The country quartet won their first GRAMMY at the 55th GRAMMY Awards for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for "Pontoon." The track is featured on their 2012 album Tornado, which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200.)
(Paul Zollo is the senior editor of American Songwriter and the author of several books, including Songwriters On Songwriting, Conversations With Tom Petty and Hollywood Remembered. He's also a songwriter and Trough Records artist whose songs have been recorded by many artists, including Art Garfunkel, Severin Browne and Darryl Purpose.)