Home Town is HGTV’s newest entry in the Fixer Upper-style of impossibly cute & talented couples and / or relations (and we mean that as a compliment) dedicated to fixing up their cities through the power of home renovation. But, where Fixer Upper has been a boon for Waco and its 200,000 residents, Listed Sisters is the latest to highlight the 650,000 folks who call Nashville home, and Good Bones does Indianapolis’ 800,000 citizens proud, Home Town heads in the other direction. Its hosts, Erin abd Ben Napier, live in Laurel MS, population 18,548: the very definition of a small Southern town.
So who are Erin and Ben Napier? Though Erin grew up in Laurel, she settled there with her new husband Ben in 2008, after the two “finished college at Ole Miss [and] got married.” For six years, they lived a comparatively quiet life, one hardly filled with thoughts of HGTV stardom: Erin ran Lucky Luxe, her stationary shop and dry goods company; Ben was in the middle of a 10-year-career in student ministry, and woodworking on the side.
Then, according to Hooked On Houses, an HGTV producer contacted the Napiers, and asked if they’d ever thought about being on TV. It turns out that the producer (Lindsey Weidhorn, who made her name working on Fixer Upper), saw a 2012 magazine feature on Erin and Ben’s house, and fell in love with their style after following Erin on Instagram.
That was in July of 2014. By December, HGTV execs had fallen in love with the Napiers’ test footage, and ordered a pilot of what would become Home Town. When she got the news, Erin and Ben were “stunned,” Erin wrote on her blog. “We had fallen in the pudding and had no idea how it had happened.”
But happened it had–and, in the summer of 2015, Erin and Ben filmed the very first episode of Home Town. It aired in January of 2016, and HGTV ordered a full season shortly thereafter.
And, yes, in case you were wondering, Chip and Joanna Gaines were indeed early mentors of the Napiers; the two couples met up in Waco shortly after Fixer Upper finished filming its second season. “They have been like big brothers and sisters and mentors to guide us along this really weird journey into TV renovation,” Erin told Hooked on Houses. “It’s like Chip told Ben–this work creates a kind of fraternity that your family and friends can’t understand if they’re not in the middle of it.”
“Chip and Jo,” Erin continued, “have definitely been a great support system for us ‘kids,’ [who are] green in matters of TV and life in general, always calling and texting them with questions.”
But, as Erin would explain on her blog, she doesn’t see herself and Ben as your standard fix-it-and-forget-it flippers–their goals are much larger than that. “Ben and I aren’t home flippers,” she said, shortly after she and Ben finished the pilot. “We’re just a woodworker and an artist who love our town and want to see it brought back to life the way it was in Laurel’s hey-day, and with the help of our friends, we’ll do just that.”
It’s a sentiment that Erin and Ben both share, and one that comes through very clearly indeed in Home Town‘s initial episodes. They’re there for Laurel–and they want the families whose homes they’re renovating to fall in love with the town, too.
“When you live in a small town,” Ben told the University of Mississippi alumni magaizine (he graduated with a BA in history), “you can make a difference. It’s affordable. You can travel if you want to see the world, but the small towns are important. That’s where most people’s lives begin.”
Erin, whose BFA in print design also comes from the University, put it even more simply: “We’re just two people who want others to see the magic of small-town living and everything it has to offer.”
On that note, here’s the song that Erin says served as the official Home Town anthem while she and Ben were filming the pilot. The title alone makes clear why–but a listen reveals more and deeper meanings:
You can follow Erin on Instagram here, and on Twitter here. Ben’s Instagram account is over here, and his Twitter handle is right here. Furthermore, you can keep up with their activities over at the Laurel Mercantile–and feast your eyes on more glorious Missisippian photography to boot–by clicking here.
And, after all that, don’t forget to tune in to the show! Home Town airs Tuesday nights at 10 on HGTV.
(Photo credits: Who are Erin and Ben Napier via Instagram)