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Country roads take her home
Cornelia native now enjoys spotlight at Gwinnett Center on Friday
Little Big Town takes the stage Friday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. - photo by For The Times
She grew up in Cornelia and sang in the choir at Demorest Baptist Church.

She still sings the same sweet soprano, but now Kimberly Roads Schlapman performs for much larger crowds as a member of Little Big Town, the group that will share the stage with George Strait on Friday at The Arena at Gwinnett Center.

"I'm with the Band," a song from Little Big Town's most recent album, "A Place to Land," aptly describes Schlapman:

"Sweet gypsy highway/Won't you let me chase my dream"

Joined by her husband, Stephen Schlapman, and 5-month-old daughter, Daisy, Schlapman spends a lot of her time rolling down the highway on a tour bus.

Three weeks before her baby was due - before Schlapman had a chance to make it back home to Nashville, Tenn. - little Daisy decided she'd rather be born in Phoenix.

"It was my first baby, so everybody figured it would be late," Schlapman said.

Daisy was born at a local hospital a day after the band had performed with Martina McBride.

"She's a little trooper," said Schlapman. "She's just a great little baby, and she has her own bunk on the bus that her daddy built her. It's awesome to have her out there."

Schlapman began singing at a young age, performing in local talent shows and Rotary Club competitions.

"I always had a dream of being a singer, and I always wanted to do it for a living," Schlapman said.

She met Karen Fairchild while at Stamford University in Birmingham, Ala.

The two moved to Nashville and kept in touch, trying to find a way to perform together.

"We knew that there had never been a two-guy, two-girl group in country music, so we thought that that would be fun to try to come up with," Schlapman said.

It took a year and a half for Schlapman and Fairchild to add Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook to the group, and Little Big Town began.

The group recently celebrated nine years of performing together. They have garnered several award nominations, charted eight hits on the Billboard Hot Country charts and won the 2007 Academy of Country Music award for Top New Duo or Vocal Group along the way.

Hearing Little Big Town is like listening in on a country jam session - the strong harmonies, the bluegrass growing wild in the background and the nod to Southern rock give the band its down-home yet distinctive sound.

Every voice in Little Big Town gets a chance to be heard. The group members take turns taking the lead, depending on what vocal range the song calls for, which sets them apart from many bands that are centered around a single lead singer.

Last November brought the latest album for the group, "A Place to Land."

"That CD is really a reflection of our story and our lives," said Schlapman.

"When we make an album, we like to make a full body of music, instead of just putting songs on there that we think will get played on the radio."

Little Big Town will perform hits like "Boondocks," "A Little More You" and "Bring it on Home to Me," along with songs from the new album, including "I'm With the Band," at their Friday show.

"We are so blessed to be able to do what we have dreamed our whole lives of doing, so that's what makes it all pay off," Schlapman said. "What makes the whole journey pay off, to me, is the hour and a half that we spend on stage with the fans. That just gives us a shot in the arm every night, and we live for those moments together."