I know I'm probably better off on my own I know the bravest thing I ever did was run Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I can feel you again But I just miss you, and I just wish you were a better man
The first single from Little Big Town's seventh album, "Better Man" finds Karen Fairchild addressing the sadness that follows a breakup. The relationship "was magic," and though she realizes she's better off on her own, letting go is still very difficult.
Little Big Town told iHeartRadio they were drawn to the song because the heartfelt lyrics were easily relatable.
"A lot of times in life, there are things that you have to walk away from that don't necessarily feel like the greatest decision to have to make in your life, but sometimes you just know that it's time to move on, and no matter how hard that is, you just know down in your heart that it's time to do that," the band said. "And those are very difficult decisions that we face sometimes in our lives, and I think this song talks about that beautifully."
The country quartet said the song was a natural selection as a lead single. "Every project has personality, every record has personality, and this one, we've [had] this stack of songs that we've been working on for a long time, and we've been fortunate enough to have a lot of great writers send us incredible songs, and also to write with them and collaborate," Little Big Town explained. "So getting back in the studio, it's always like, what do you lead the record with? What do you come out with as a first song? We had several songs in the running for that, but then as soon as we recorded 'Better Man,' we knew that it should be first. Storytelling, harmony, beautiful memorable melody and one that I think you can't get out of your head."
The song was released on October 20, 2016, and on November 1, the group revealed that the song was written by Taylor Swift. Little Big Town was one of the guests on Swift's 2015 tour.
"She sent us this song, and it was one that was really special to her, and she thought of us because of the harmonies, and she's never pitched a song to anyone before," Karen Fairchild revealed. "And the moment that we heard it, we were like, 'Man, that is the song that we're gonna cut!'"
It was the first time Taylor Swift pitched a song to another artist.
According to Phillip Sweet, all four members immediately had the same reaction upon first hearing the song and knew they had to record it.
"This one just felt special," he said. "We've known Taylor since she was in high school. She's a dear friend of ours. The song speaks for itself and that's what we thought when we heard it, no matter who wrote it. It feels like it was meant for us to go with this emotion. It felt like it belonged to us and we made it our own."
Sweet was the one who got the email from Swift - it was a while before he saw it, since he doesn't check his email very often.
The lyrics resonate with people for numerous different reasons. "Everybody has a better man," Karen Fairchild reflected. "It might have been a lover or a parent that disappointed you or a friend. The beauty of that storytelling is that we can all relate to being disappointed in someone but still loving them and saying, 'Hey, enough is enough. This would have been amazing if you had gotten your act together.'"
When Little Big Town first released the single they stated that it was penned by "a young girl from Nashville." Karen Fairchild explained why the quartet left it for ten days before revealing the songwriter's identity to be one Taylor Swift.
"We said, 'Hey, you know we're not just gonna blab this that you wrote this immediately,'" the LBT songstress revealed. "She said, 'You know what? That's the greatest honor as a songwriter you could ever give me is that you don't want anybody to know that I wrote this.'"
"The only reason why we didn't say is because we wanted you to hear the song for what it's worth," Fairchild continued, "and it's a beautiful song… And at her heart - she is the biggest pop star in the world, but she is a songwriter from Nashville, Tennessee, and she likes to tell a story, and we didn't want you to have any subtext there, other than to hear this song."
The song was Little Big Town's third Country #1 following "Pontoon" and "Girl Crush."
Taylor Swift performed the song for the first time during a pre-Super Bowl concert at Houston's Club Nomadic on February 4, 2017. She accompanied herself on acoustic guitar, while four backup singers helped fill out the harmonies.
"I never really knew what it would feel like to hear my song on the radio and have someone else singing it. Turns out, it feels awesome," Swift told the crowd before singing the tune. "I feel really grateful to the artists who have decided to record the things that I have written."
Little Big Town took their time to record this to ensure they gave an honest performance of the song. "We didn't get it the very first time we sang it. It just didn't happen, but we really believed in that song, and so we let it be for a little while, for maybe three weeks, and then we had an idea of what it was that was missing that we needed," Fairchild shared with Taste of Country. "Sometimes you have to go there, to a different place, and I don't know what it is. One day it'll just click and I'll go, 'I've got it!' We all had those experiences on this record of singing something and then living with it, and it gets in under your skin, and you start living it, and it becomes a different thing."
Country star Chase Bryant recorded a a new version of the song. It was Bryant's girlfriend who suggested the alternative interpretation. "I just loved the song, and my girlfriend had said… 'Hey, what do you think about singing it from a guy's perspective?'" he recalled. "I kinda laughed it off, and then all of the sudden, it was like, 'Well, wait a second. That's a really great idea!'"
Chase re-wrote the lyrics on a plane, and recruited all-female threesome Runaway June to add their vocals to the track. "I think it's cool... that it's from the man's perspective," the trio's Jennifer Wayne said. "I think that makes it even like more gut-wrenching because he's being so honest, you know. And then Chase's vocal on it is so good that it kind of tears your heart out."
This won Song of the Year at the 2017 Country Music Awards. The trophy marked Taylor Swift's 12th CMA.
LBT performed this at the Grammy Awards in 2018, where it won for Best Country Duo/Group Performance.