|For the past thirteen years, Kimberly Schlapman has brightened
stages worldwide with her broad smile, blonde curls, and soaring
soprano as a member of platinum-selling country foursome Little
Big Town. This September, she’ll fulfill a lifelong dream with the
debut of Kimberly’s Simply Southern, a half-hour cooking show
airing on GAC. “I love, love, love to cook,” Kimberly raves. “I’m not a
professional chef in any sense of the word, but when I was a little kid,
I would stand at the counter and pretend I was a cooking show host. I
never, ever thought it would be a reality.”
Given her journey from typical small-town girl to one of Nashville’s most recognizable personalities, this Georgia native should be used to dreams coming true by now. Kimberly grew up in that state’s northern foothills, and church was the musical center of town. She sang in the choir alongside her father and sister, even helping lead worship at the piano while her mother played the organ. By the time Kimberly hit high school, she was formally studying voice and entering talent contests far and wide. “My daddy would drive me all over the place for people to hear me sing,” she says. “Music was always a part of my life. I just grew up that way, and I never knew any different.”
Cooking was also an enormous part of Kimberly’s upbringing, and she credits the women of her family with showing her the ropes. She calls both of her grandmothers “incredible” cooks: one lived right next door, and the other lived on a nearby farm, raising chickens, cows, and pigs. But it was her mother who taught her not just how to cook, but how to take care of people with food. “I always watched my mama,” Kimberly says. “She was always cooking for people. When someone got married, when someone was sick or had passed away, when anyone had something to celebrate or grieve, she was at their door with supper or some kind of homemade goodie.” Her mother’s specialties were biscuits, homemade pies, and vegetables like fried okra and squash. Kimberly’s own cooking is now deeply influenced by how she was raised, and she specializes in Southern comfort food: pies, cakes, casseroles, fried chicken.
In 1987, Kimberly left home to attend Alabama’s Samford University, where she met fellow vocalist Karen Fairchild in the school’s prestigious a cappella choir. After graduation, Kimberly moved to Nashville and started waitressing (skills she recently revisited for a guest spot on the GAC series Day Jobs). Karen was in Music City, too, and as the women pursued solo careers, they maintained their close friendship. One day, they decided to try joining musical forces again, and the idea for Little Big Town was born. The addition of Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet filled out their signature harmonic sound, and the four members of Little Big Town sang together for the first time in Kimberly’s living room. Five albums later, they’re still going strong, with Kimberly taking lead on some of their most memorable performances, including their emotionally-charged cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You” during CMT’s 2011 Music Builds telethon.
Kimberly currently lives in Nashville with husband Stephen and daughter Daisy Pearl, with whom she carries on the family tradition: “She loves to cook,” Kimberly reports. “She’s hilarious when she does it, because her measurements are crazy. I like to keep things tidy, but she has so much fun, and makes a disaster, and I’m like, ‘Okay, we can make a disaster and clean it up later.’ That’s something I’ve definitely changed my tune on.”