JAM Magazine Main Features

Sugarland - Country Fever 2008 - Jun. 12-15

Trio Becomes a Duo

Sugarland began as a trio of singer/songwriters from the Atlanta, Georgia area, each of whom had achieved their individual levels of success as performers.

Kristian Bush was a member of the critically acclaimed duo, Billy Pilgrim (with Andrew Hyra), that had two albums on Atlantic Records in the mid-‘90s. Songwriter Kristen Hall released two solo discs on Windham Hill around the same time. And then there was the singer Jennifer Nettles. She had previously fronted Soul Miner’s Daughter, and her gospel background and deep soul approach to country music made her an ideal lead voice to channel the group’s songs.

The trio began working together in 2002. They recorded and released an EP of demos (available online or at Sugarland shows) called Premium Quality Tunes that same year. A series of well-received live shows began to build a buzz around the group, and Mercury Records signed the trio. Sugarland’s album, Twice the Speed of Life, was released October 26, 2004. Serving as its lead-off single was the song “Baby Girl.” The song peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs list, eventually spending a record 46 weeks on the country charts. Not only was “Baby Girl” the highest peaking debut for a group in thirteen years, it also had the longest run for any single on the chart since the inception of the Nielsen SoundScan at Billboard in 1990. Other singles from the double-platinum disc included “Something More”, “Just Might (Make Me Believe)” and “Down in Mississippi (Up to No Good)”, which peaked at #2, #7 and #17, respectively.

In late 2005, the band performed with Bon Jovi on Country Music Television’s musical fusion show, Crossroads. Nettles sang with Bon Jovi on their single, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.” The song later shot up to #1 on the country charts. Success however, came at a price. Kristen Hall decided to quit Sugarland and concentrate solely on her songwriting.

Hall’s sudden departure from the group at the end of 2005 took Bush and Nettles by surprise. Though they issued a statement supporting her decision to stay home and write songs, Sugarland’s foundation was clearly shaken. Hall, who wrote most of the melodic story lines that comprised the group’s hit songs, could not simply be replaced. Thus the decision was made to become a duo with the focus shifting from three-part harmonies to Nettles’ stellar voice. It would take the pair the better part of 2006 to write and record their sophomore album. Working with trusted friends on several songs, Enjoy the Ride was released in early November 2006. The album sold over 200,000 copies in its first week, garnering attention in both pop and country quarters.

Enjoy the Ride opened on the Billboard Top 200 chart at #4 and #2 on Country respectively. The first two singles from the disc, “Want To” and “Settlin’,” both reached Number One on the country music charts, while “Everyday America” and “Stay” were both Top Ten hits, peaking at #9 and #2, respectively. Sugarland also performed on the 41st C.M.A. Awards and won an award for Vocal Duo of the Year.

Sugarland will release their third studio album entitled, Love on the Inside, July 22. Nettles and Bush co-wrote all 13 tracks. The album’s debut single “All I Want to Do” was performed live on the Academy of Country Music awards, and shipped to radio afterwards.

Sugarland has been test-driving some of their new material out on the road. Nettles’ says the response to these songs has been so overwhelming she can’t wait to get the record out there so people can hear it.

“It has been interesting,” said Nettles, “to see fan reaction to the new songs when we play them during our shows. Our audience has been so responsive, I am more excited about these songs than any others I’ve recorded thus far, and that’s saying a lot. This music is special and has a whole lot of emotion, heart, laughter, tears and love on the inside.”

Living through one extraordinary career triumph after another, Jennifer and Kristian remain grateful for all the highlights that have come their way. Chief among them is the personal friendship and professional collaboration they have forged.

“Love on the Inside is just that – a recording full of love,” proclaimed Bush. “It’s in the strings and wood of the instruments, in the vocal chords, in the hearts that beat behind them and in the words that pour out into microphones. Our hope is that new Sugarland fans, and old ones alike, will hear this album and feel like this is the soundtrack to their life magically playing in front of them. I know it has been for us.”

-Record Label: Mercury

Band Members

Jennifer Nettles - lead vocalist

Kristian Bush - guitar, vocals