Little Big Town and Rascal Flatts are tied together in many ways, but when asked about the trio's recent news of a farewell tour, LBT thought first of how much they'll miss that music.

Karen Fairchild and company admit they are shocked by this week's announcement.

"I’m still surprised,” Jimi Westbrook tells Taste of Country. “Those kinds of decisions don’t come easily and there is, I’m sure, a lot of discussion and figuring it out that’s what they want to do."

Rascal Flatts announced the news on Tuesday (Jan. 7), but they say calling it the "Rascal Flatts Farewell — Life Is a Highway Tour" is intended to say thanks to fans, which leaves the door open for more music (or even shows) to come.

The trio debuted in 2000. Little Big Town formed in the late '90s, but didn't break until several years later, when "Boondocks" became a Top 10 hit in 2005. Since 2003 one group or the other has typically won the Vocal Group category at the ACMs and CMA Awards (six CMA wins each and seven ACM wins for Rascal Flatts to Little Big Town's four), and they've been in the same category 17 times. They competed to the extent that you can compete in country music, but ...

“It makes me sad," Fairchild says as her bandmates (including Phillip Sweet and Kimberly Schlapman nod in agreement). "We all came up together and we just love them so much and toured with them a bunch.”

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They did literally come up together. Early on, both Gary LeVox and Joe Don Rooney were part of Little Big Town. Jay DeMarcus played with Westbrook while both were in college. LBT chuckled at those old memories, but admit they hope the news isn't really final.

“Garth retired, too," Fairchild points out, earning laughter from the room. "Maybe it’s just a needed break for awhile and they’ll come back."

Little Big Town are preparing to release their new album Nightfall on Jan. 17. The Nightfall Tour with Caitlyn Smith begins on Jan. 16 at Carnegie Hall.

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