The members of country quartet Little Big Town, who perform Friday at Fitzgerald's Casino's Great Hall, recently got a jump on their Memorial Day relaxation.
On Friday, the group debuted the video for their current single, "Pontoon" on People.com. The video for the swampy summer song finds the band members and a bunch of their friends lounging on the titular watercraft on Nashville's Percy Priest Lake.
"It was so much fun to shoot," says Jimi Westbrook, who with his fellow singer and guitarist Phillip Sweet makes up the male half of Little Big Town. "We were out there on the lake all day having fun, and I just kept thinking, 'Wow, this is supposed to be work. My kind of work!'"
Little Big Town, which also includes vocalists Kimberly Schlapman and Karen Fairchild, Westbrook's wife, will next step in front of the cameras on June 6 at the fan-voted CMT Awards, where they are up for Performance of the Year for their rendition of "Fix You" at last year's "Music Builds: The CMT Disaster Relief Concert." The group will also perform "Pontoon" live for the first time at the awards show.
Westbrook says the song, written by the hit-making trio of Natalie Hemby, Luke Laird and Barry Dean, was just one of dozens being considered for the album and had actually fallen by the wayside when he woke up one morning with the title in his head.
"It just struck me that morning for whatever reason," says Westbrook, who then campaigned for his bandmates to reconsider the song, which was released last week. "It's just got such a fun spirit about it."
A native of Alabama, Westbrook is one of the founding members of Little Big Town. He started the band with Georgia-born college roommates Schlapman and Fairchild in 1998. With the addition of Arkansan Sweet a year later, the group began to get attention for a unique, harmony-rich sound that featured all four members swapping lead vocals.
A 2002 self-titled debut album fizzled, but after a label change, Little Big Town's follow-up, 2005's The Road To Here, announced them as one of a new breed of Nashville acts that drew as much from The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac as the Grand Ole Opry. The Road To Here and the two records after it, 2007's A Place to Land and 2010's No. 1, The Reason Why, have since established the band as a regular chart presence with such hits as "Boondocks," "Bring It On Home," and "Little White Church."
With its down-home instrumentation and big sing-along chorus, "Pontoon" will remind many of "Boondocks." Besides expanding their songwriting circle, the band swapped out longtime producer Wayne Kirkpatrick for Jay Joyce (Eric Church), who had the group recording at breakneck speed, cutting much of the album in just seven days.
"Like showing up for a gig and playing a show is kind of how we approached it," Westbrook says of the album, which he describes as more "in your face" with sparse but big-sounding production. "Pontoon" is "one of the lighter, more fun-hearted parts of the record. There's a lot of diversity on this record. You'll hear moments like that, but you'll hear some real serious, sad songs, too. We kind of run the gamut on emotions."
711 Lucky Lane, Tunica Resorts, Miss. Show time is 8 p.m. Tickets: $35 and $45, available at the casino gift shop and through Ticketmaster. For more information, call (800) 766-5825, or visit fitzgeraldstunica.com.
He's got the jokes
Former MTV VJ Bill Bellamy headlines the Funny Bone comedy club at Harrah's Tunica Casino (13615 Old Highway 61, Tunica Resorts, Miss.) this weekend.
A cousin of former NBA all-star Shaquille O'Neal, Bellamy got his start in the early '90s on HBO's "Def Comedy Jam." Most recently, he has been seen on the TV One program "Bill Bellamy's Who's Got the Jokes?," which he also produces.
On Saturday, the comic's latest stand-up special, "Crazy, Sexy, Dirty," debuts on the Showtime cable network. He was also recently announced as one of the stars of this fall's syndicated TV comedy "Mr. Box Office," also featuring Vivica A. Fox, Jon Lovitz and Gary Busey.
Show times: 8 and 10:30 tonight; 7, 9:30 p.m., and midnight Saturday; 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $25 in advance, $30 day of show. Advance tickets and more information available at (662) 357-4242 and online at funnybonetunica.com.