By Kurt Wolff
Country group Little Big Town is on quite a roll these days. After releasing their album Tornado last year, the four bandmates (Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook, Phillip Sweet) topped the charts with their single “Pontoon”; went on to win GRAMMY and Academy of Country Music Awards; and then landed a spot on Keith Urban‘s Fuse Tour, which continues into next year.
On top of all this musical excitement, bandmember Kimberly Schlapman maintains another job — hosting her cooking show, Simply Southern, on Great American Country. The show was renewed for a third season.
“It’s very much who I am,” Schlapman told Radio.com about the show. “I love to cook, I love to eat, I love to learn about food [and] new ways to prepare it.”
For each show, Schlapman spends time in the field — serving grilled cheese sandwiches from a food truck in Manhattan, for instance, or cooking brisket in Houston. She then returns to the kitchen to create recipes related to wherever she’s been, often pulling bandmates, family members or musician friends in to help her. Past guests have included Martina McBride, Jerrod Niemann, Dustin Lynch and Kacey Musgraves.
Radio.com: Where did the idea for the show come from?
Kimberly Schlapman: When I was a kid, 5 or 6 years old, I pretended that I had a cooking show. I would stand on a stool in the kitchen with an empty bowl and spoon and talk.
Then years later, we were doing an interview with GAC [Great American Country], and they said, ‘If you weren’t in this band, what would you like to be doing?’ And I said I’d like to have my own cooking show. More years went by, and my manager called me and he said, ‘Are you sitting down? How’d you like to have your own cooking show?’ It totally came out of the blue.
Which cooking show was it that inspired you as a kid?
I’m gonna be honest — it was the Dinah Shore Show that got me wanting to cook. I used to watch it when I was a tiny little girl, and she had cooking segments on there.
Did you family cook a lot?
Absolutely. That’s why I felt free in the kitchen. Both my grandmothers and my mother are amazing cooks. I’d just watch them and then pitch in along the way. It’s just something I grew up knowing how to do, just because I always did it.
In the South especially, our lives revolve around food. Celebrations, grief, everything revolves around food. If you lose a job, or if you get a new job, or if you have a baby, or a death in the family, we’re going to show up with a pie or a casserole, because it’s our way of taking care of each other.
What are some of your earliest memories involving food?
I have great, great memories of Sunday afternoon dinners at my grandmother’s house. When we were done eating we’d all sit at the big table, and the adults would tell stories. I could just sit there for hours.
The subjects you choose aren’t necessarily Southern, but you turn around and give them a Southern spin? Your lobster episode, for instance.
I incorporated [the lobster] into into an old family casserole recipe. So that’s how I’m doing it. And I didn’t grow up on kale, but I recently went to a vegetable farm, and we picked a whole lot of kale and brussels sprouts. And this coming week we’re going to make a whole lot of kale and brussels sprouts recipes. And I’ll just [spin it] in a Southern way.
I’m also balanced. In my own life, I grew up with much heavier Southern foods. But as I’ve grown up and have my own family and try to keep everybody as healthy as possible, I try to have a balance. I like to have that good traditional Southern ‘grease’ but pair it with a healthier vegetable or salad.
Are you always at a new location in every episode?
In the first part I’m the field — outside of the kitchen somewhere, whether it’s a farm, a restaurant, or someone else’s kitchen. And I’m learning about something new. I get out there and get my hands dirty, and try to learn all I can.
Do you shoot your segments in the field while you’re on tour?
Yes, almost always. Just this past weekend I shot one on the road in Louisville, Kentucky – an ice cream shop.
I’ll get up really early on a show day and get ready, then go out to wherever we’re filming and spend five or six hours there. I’ll come back in time for sound check and then get ready for the show. So it works out great on show days.
I’ll also shoot two or three episodes a season in Nashville, just because that’s where I live. I recently shot at a biscuit truck — we have a biscuit truck in Nashville, and it’s out of this world.
How do you balance performing with Little Big Town and shooting Simply Southern?
I plan my schedule around [the band], that’s the way I want it to be. I film on the road in the mornings, when it doesn’t break into Little Big Town time. And I film on days off at home. Next week the band is off, so that’s when I’ll film my cooking stuff [in the kitchen].
Who are some of your guests in the upcoming season?
My friend Hillary Scott from Lady Antebellum cooked with me. But the one I had been most nervous about was Amy Grant, I’ve been a fan of hers for so long. She was so delightful, charming, down to earth, and sweet — just like a good friend hanging out in the kitchen. And then Chef Rusty, who is Zac Brown‘s chef — we had loads of fun together. Billy Currington came, and next week I’m excited that Jewel is coming.