The striking image of Karen Fairchild fills the screen in vintage black and white.
From that initial scene in Little Big Town's cinematic "Shut Up Train," you immediately sense that this isn't your typical country music video.
Of course, Little Big Town isn't your ordinary country band, either. Nominated for multiple music awards over the course of their 12-year career, the group founded by Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman continues to show its staying power. With two men figuring into the unusual equation -- Fairchild's husband Jimi Westbrook and blue-eyed country soul singer Phillip Sweet -- the results add up to fabulous four-part harmonies that work as well in concert as they do in the studio.
Nominated last week for Vocal Group of the Year for the 45th CMA Awards show that will air November 9 on ABC, Little Big Town has just released the video for the tender ballad "Shut Up Train," their third from the album The Reason Why on Capitol Nashville. (See the video premiere at the end of this article.)
Not afraid to explore loss and loneliness, Fairchild (below, in a screen shot from the video) offers a portrayal of a shaken woman, dodging the camera lens for 14 awkward seconds until staring directly into it to sing the opening verse:
Shut up train
I'm trying to sleep
Can't you show me a little sympathy
This is the only time
I can get any peace
"We love the way it turned out," Fairchild said in an email interview last week. "It's lonely and uncomfortable, which is exactly what it needed to be."
The video was directed by Nashville's Becky Fluke, who has worked with the band on previous projects. Fluke, whose music video credits also include "Barton Hollow" by The Civil Wars and "Hell on Heels" by Miranda Lambert's Pistol Annies, brings a distinctive approach, Fairchild said, and the band knew it "would be perfect for this song."
The shoot went very quickly during an afternoon and evening at Rocketown and Union Station Hotel in Nashville about a month ago. But with its lavish look and skillful use of the light and the dark giving it a film noir feel, the video seems like it could have been made on a studio set in Hollywood.
From left, Little Big Town's Jimi Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman and Phillip Sweet
in a screen shot from the video for "Shut Up Train."
"The band always envisioned this video in black and white from the very beginning," Fairchild said. "The thing we are so pleased with is how timeless it looks. It could have been shot now, or it could have been shot in the '60s. There's nothing that distracts you visually from the band's performance."
All four band members get the extreme close-up treatment, but Fairchild, who beautifully handles lead vocals on "Shut Up Train," is featured most prominently. In a phone interview earlier this summer, she revealed her personal connection with the song written by Chris Tompkins, Hillary Lindsey and Luke Laird.
Asked what some of her proudest personal accomplishments have been as a member of the band, Fairchild said, "I think when I get a chance to get in the studio and sing a song like 'Shut Up Train' and I can get lost inside a lyric like that and I get that opportunity in the band to showcase what I love to do, which is to sing an emotional lyric like that and know that that's recorded forever and is there to always share with our fans.
"If I can walk away from something and go, 'Yeah, that really moves me,' something that I did, then I'm proud of myself for getting there," she added. "Because it doesn't come easily to let down walls and sing lyrics like that and to get to kind of a vulnerable place."
Completing the video added to the experience, despite the challenging aspects of tight shots that might reveal more than a performer usually is willing to show.
"The close-ups are never fun really but it's our job as performers to give the lyric a life," said Fairchild, who had previously mentioned the scar on her lip that resulted from an injury (requiring 20 stitches) while playing football in high school. "I just had to try and ignore the camera in any way."
Buoyed by the success of Fairchild's inspirational voice and performance in "Little White Church," their first hit single and video off The Reason Why, the quartet's fourth album became their first to reach No. 1 on Billboard's country charts. It remains in the top 100 more than a year after its August 24, 2010 release.
The hard-working band continues to tour in support of the album, with shows sponsored by Country Financial that will be held primarily in the Midwest and South through November 12.
Since April, they have been involved in the Drive 4 the Music campaign with Country Financial, raising money each night "to give underprivileged children music lessons in each city," where they play, Fairchild said. The band's part in the campaign continues through October.
While the video for "Shut Up Train" is a definite departure from the rip-roaring "Little White Church," in which the band played what Fairchild called "a pissed-off bridal party," she believes this new presentation -- and the song's message -- will leave a lasting impression.
"There really wasn't a plan to release 'Shut Up Train' to the fans originally," Fairchild said. "It was a song the four of us agreed needed to have a life before we moved on to a new record, so we took off to hire a director on our own. We really believe the fans are gonna relate to this song. Everyone has struggled with something that they need to let go of but can't."
See for yourself as The Huffington Post presents the video premiere of "Shut Up Train." And feel free to let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Images and video courtesy of Little Big Town. Special thanks to Kelly Russell of Sandbox Entertainment.
The video for Little Big Town's "Shut Up Train":
Follow Michael Bialas on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mjbialas