Country Music foursome, Little Big Town has a solidly-booked calendar for this Christmas season. Like the myriad of other performers making their way, along the road, singing classic Christmas songs, Little Big Town can have their choice of prime venues across the country, and every artist longs to be home for Christmas, regardless of how beloved they are to fans.

Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet, and Jimi Westbrook sat down for a talk with Jenna Bush Hager of "Today” on December 19, and each member of Little Big Town shared personal favorites about the sacred and festive season.

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When it came to naming the place that is home away from home for the hit-making group, however, there was no dissent. The East Tennessee haven, Blackberry Farm, is a place of welcome and rejuvenation to the musicians accustomed to racking up miles. As headliners for an annual holiday concert, Little Big Town has become part of the resort’s history and legacy of giving back.

Memories make it matter

The conversation was cheery when the questions began about the band's history and how they still have staying power after 20 years.

Little Big Town has deep love for their Christmas tradition at Blackberry Farm. [Image source: CMA-YouTube]
Little Big Town has deep love for their Christmas tradition at Blackberry Farm. [Image source: CMA-YouTube]

“We're just good friends, being friends,” both Sweet and Westbrook reiterated, almost simultaneously. It may seem like a rote response, but months on a tour bus can take a toll without a grounding in friendship.

All but Schlapman, who wore white, donned deep hues of blues and purple, perhaps to look good on camera. When he came to Christmas thoughts, though, traditions of red and green came forward. The ladies related their “deep sisterhood” as Karen Fairchild dubs it, that drew them together as “Georgia girls.” Kimberly Schlapman recalled dressing in matching pajamas and delighting in S’mores.

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Fairchild mentioned the southern cuisine dish of strawberry pretzel salad. Phillip Sweet sang, “ O Little Town of Bethlehem,” to Jenna Bush Hager's delight, before Fairchild added, “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

Thankfully, there were no mash-ups made of mistletoe and motor-boating, “Pontoon”-style.

The mood grew somber and deep with meaning when the topic turned to the late owner of Blackberry Farm, and the significance of the hideaway on many levels.

A stay in heaven on earth

A person could easily look up the rates for the resort and feel that a guest would need a billfold similar to that of the current owner, Mary Celeste Beall, to afford a weekend there. Her husband, Sam Beall, died suddenly in a devastating ski accident two years ago, leaving her with the couple’s five children. As with many families of means, Mary Celeste Beall determined to make her husband’s life legacy an expression of giving back.

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In the broadcast segment, Mrs. Beall explained how the Blackberry Farm Foundation supports several local agencies as part of its commitment to “children and foodways” (per its website) across East Tennessee.

Phillip Sweet was moved to tears, brushing them away, when the remembrance of Sam Beall became the subject during the visit. Little Big Town sang at the owner and heir to the Ruby Tuesday restaurant chain’s funeral service, and nothing about the Beall family slips from memory for the members.

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Sweet describes Sam as “such a dynamic human being,” and Karen Fairchild reflects on the “incredible memories” shared with Beall and his wife, sure that those memories will build for years to come.

Six years is certainly long enough to build a tradition, and the BlackBerry Farm concert is a favorite Christmas tradition for Little Big Town, for personal and philanthropic reasons. The family prayer at the Beall table feels just like home. The natural surroundings and the close relationships forged prompt every member to call the place “heaven” without hesitation. Families and band members have also become part of the larger Blackberry Farm extended family.

The venue has become a holiday refuge for Little Big Town, one that always reminds that “music can heal.”

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