NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Every time country vocal group Little Big Town walked into the 125-year-old Ryman Auditorium to play one of their residency shows this year, the four singers breathed a little sigh of relief.
"When we go into the dressing room, you just take a breath and go, 'OK, I feel like I am at home,'" said Jimi Westbrook.
The Mother Church of country music in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, was one of the few places fans could have seen the quartet perform this year, but the five-time Country Music Association vocal group of the year will return to a major headlining tour starting in February.
After the release of their eighth album "The Breaker" in February, the Grammy-winning band took a break from heavy touring but their nine Ryman concerts between February and September gave fans a much more intimate and unique concert experience.
They took advantage of the theater's natural acoustics to show off their beautiful four-part harmonies and had surprise special guests including Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, Tori Kelly and Chris Stapleton. The last show in the residency will be on Nov. 27.
"It's magical and it's surreal every time," Phillip Sweet said of the Ryman shows. "And it's been such an enriching experience for us. We come away really emotional in a good way."
"The Breakers" tour will kick off in Oklahoma City on Feb. 8 and hit the Radio City Music Hall in New York, as well as Green Bay, Wisconsin, Minneapolis and Atlanta. Opening acts include Kacey Musgraves and Midland and tickets go on sale Friday.
The group is up for four nominations at this year's CMA Awards on Nov. 8, including single and video of the year for "Better Man," written by pop superstar Taylor Swift. Swift, who got her start in country, is also nominated for the first time in several years as the songwriter for "Better Man."
"When you can't get it out of your head, and when it becomes sing-able instantly, then there's always something special about it," Fairchild said. "And then when you get that extra tug of the heart and connection... then you really have just gone to a deeper level with the fans... Taylor wrote a beautiful song and we're just really grateful that the fans connected with it."
The group said they sent Swift messages of congratulations after learning of the nomination and Sweet said, "She was very thrilled, very excited."
But there's no word if Swift, whose new album "reputation" comes out two days after the CMA Awards, will show up to the awards show.
"She is one busy lady," Fairchild said, but added if she did come, "that would be awesome."
Follow Kristin M. Hall at https://twitter.com/kmhall .