While Little Big Town was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry a year ago this month and took home three Country Music Awards, including Vocal Group of the Year, their overnight success was 17 years in the making. And just like a good country song, singer Kimberly Schlapman says there have been ups and downs and lessons learned. Meet her, and it’s instantly obvious all of the ups and downs have been met with Southern humility, charm and humor. Her warmth is as authentic as her mama’s famous biscuit recipe, which thankfully can be found in her new cookbook, Oh Gussie! Cooking and Visiting in Kimberly’s Southern Kitchen.
When did you start cooking? When I was just a tiny little girl—my mother and both grandmothers were incredible cooks. We always had a homemade meal around the table and Sunday feasts at my grandmothers’ houses. If someone was sick, or had a baby, and whether they were celebrating or grieving, my mother would show up with a yummy goody, casserole, pie or cake. I learned that’s how you take care of people at a young age. One of my first memories is her letting me add the milk to biscuits while she kneaded the dough.
Now that you have an 8-year-old daughter yourself, does she help you cook? If it were up to her, we would be cooking all the time! She loves to measure out the sugar and flour and crack the eggs. She never lets a shell in! She’s been making up recipes since she was 3 years old. Back then they would be hardly edible—my husband would always try them, and I acted like I did. But over the years, she’s gotten really good.
How does music compare to food for you? Music is healing, and food can be healing, too, because you’re taking care of people. When you’ve done well at a show, people clap and holler, and around the table when you’re feeding people things they are enjoying, you’ll hear “mmm” sounds—it’s like an ovation around the table.
What’s your favorite recipe in the book? The almond poundcake and the fresh glazed apple cake, because they came from my grandmother. She’s passed on in heaven…but each time I went back to college, she would send me back with a fresh apple cake. Also, the creamy smoked mac and cheese. I love this dish because you can make the kids happy, but it’s sophisticated enough for an adult palate because of the smoked gouda.
What does “Oh Gussie” refer to? That’s a very Southern saying, and I’ve said it all my life. It’s our exclamatory word. It means ‘I’m very excited’ or ‘that’s incredibly delicious.’ If I drop the biscuits on the floor, I might say ‘Oh Gussie!’ When we were titling this book, my manager and people around me said, ‘You have to call it Oh Gussie! since that’s what you say!’
Do you cook for your Little Big Town band mates? Yes, I try to take something homemade on the road every time I leave. Sometimes it’s something leftover, like cake or cookies or mac and cheese. I always cook them each a birthday cake on their birthday. They are always so appreciative and gracious and flattering. I call them my skinny guinea pigs because I try out new recipes on them.
What’s your absolute favorite restaurant in Nashville, where you live? One that stands out is Biscuit Love (biscuitlovebrunch.com), which used to be a food truck. Their whole menu is based on their incredible biscuits. The “Gertie” is sweet, named after the owner’s girl. Her daddy, Carl, wanted to make a biscuit with everything she loved. It has chocolate gravy made with Nutella, caramelized banana jam and pretzels. It is amazing. That might be a last meal for me if I ever need a last meal!
What has been the best part about being on tour again? The fans for sure. It feels so good when people appreciate what you’re putting out and when they’re singing every word back because they’ve made the songs and album their own.
When did you realize you had “made it?” When we won group of the year at the CMA awards for the first time in 2012. It was after “Pontoon” had come out, and we had a huge resurgence. We had been a band for 17 years, and Nashville had really stood behind us. I’ll always have a physical reaction when I think of that moment. Also, when we were asked to be members of the Grand Ole Opry. If we had “made it” really fast, I don’t think we would be the people or writers that we are. It was important to our journey.
Get some of Kimberly’s favorite recipes here.
Buy your own copy of ‘Oh Gussie’ at your local bookstore or click here.