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Sugarland, the platinum-selling contemporary country act, began as a trio of songwriters from the Atlanta area, each of whom had enjoyed some level of renown as a solo country artist. Lead singer and songwriter Jennifer Nettles had previously fronted Soul Miner's Daughter, and her gospel background and deep soul approach to country music made her an ideal frontperson for the trio. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Kristian Bush had formed half (along with Andrew Hyra) of the critically acclaimed duo Billy Pilgrim, which had also released a pair of albums, while songwriter Kristen Hall had already released two solo albums on Windham Hill Records. The three musicians came together in 2002 and independently released Premium Quality Tunes, an EP of demo recordings (available online or at Sugarland shows), later that year.
After building a buzz with their live performances, Sugarland signed with Mercury Nashville and released a two-song single ("Baby Girl" b/w "Stand Back Up") in early 2004. Twice the Speed of Life, their multi-platinum debut album featuring production by Garth Fundis, was released the same year. At the end of 2005, Hall left the group. A second full-length record, Enjoy the Ride, appeared in 2006 and proved to be a huge success, garnering attention in both pop and country quarters. For 2008's Love on the Inside, the band's remaining members successfully lobbied Mercury Nashville to let them co-produce their own album and record in Georgia instead of Music City. The resulting album was the most organic of Sugarland's three records to date, and it spawned three chart-topping singles as a result.thumb|300px|right|Sugarland - Stuck Like Glue
Sugarland truly became superstars in 2009. The year yielded them platinum status for Love on the Inside; a prime-time network television special called Live on the Inside (which resulted in a live album of the same name); Grammy Awards for Best Country Song and Best Country Performance; and, finally, their first Christmas recording, Gold and Green, which featured new holiday-themed originals as well as more traditional fare. The duo's fourth studio album, The Incredible Machine, influenced by the so-called "steampunk movement" in science fiction circles, arrived in 2010. Propelled by the Top 20 pop hit "Stuck Like Glue," the album quickly went platinum.
Two more singles followed, which were "Little Miss" and "Tonight". thumb|300px|right|Sugarland - Something More
On August 13, 2011, an outdoor stage collapsed due to high winds at the duo's concert at the Indiana State Fair, killing seven people and injuring over forty-five. The concrete stage itself did not collapse; rather, it was the rigging, lighting trusses and speaker mounts which gave way due to the left canopy being torn suddenly by the gust. The torn canopy now acting as a wind sail greatly threw off the balance of weight which caused the rigging to fail and drag in the direction of the sail.Moments after the crash, Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush posted on their Twitter account: “We are all right. We are praying for our fans, and the people of Indianapolis. We hope you’ll join us. They need your strength.” Sugarland cancelled their concert scheduled for August 14, 2011, at the Iowa State Fair. The band also sent out a letter on their website explaining what they have gone through and a tribute for the families. They plan to thumb|300px|right|Sugarland - Already Goneresume their tour and use music "as a healer." The tour resumed August 18th with a stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where a moment of silence was held for the victims.
At the 2011 CMA Awards in November, Sugarland won Vocal Duo of the Year.
To hear Jennifer Nettles tell it, it’s a brand new day in Sugarland. Despite winning multiple Grammy, CMA andthumb|300px|right|Sugarland - Stay ACM awards—and selling more than 8 million records—the country-music duo of Nettles and Kristian Bush is embracing a creative rebirth, a musical awakening that permeates their adventurous fourth album, The Incredible Machine.
“We are in a place of discovery,” Jennifer says. “It is the essence of who we are as people in this band. There is never a moment where we think, ‘This is good enough.’ There’s always a place for growth.”
A growth that Kristian says has been encouraged by their fans, their record label, and, most importantly, by the genre-bending, all-are-welcome country-music industry. “It’s as if the industry and the culture have singled out the biggest risks we’ve taken on a record, a song like ‘Stay’ for example, and celebrated those,” he says gratefully. “They’ve embraced us at those times. We’ve tried to learn from that and this is what we’ve made.”thumb|300px|right|Sugarland - All I Want To Do
And what they’ve created is a dynamic masterwork. Co-written and co-produced in full by Jennifer and Kristian, The Incredible Machine is a soaring album elevated by sky-high choruses, ringing guitars, and pulsing drums that recall the beating of the album’s titular engine, the human heart.
Kristian describes it as a collection of anthems—and there may be no greater understatement. If the duo was searching for the grander side of country on their last record, the double platinum Love on the Inside, they’ve obviously found it on The Incredible Machine. From the fanfare of the album’s opener “All We Are” to Jennifer’s sublime piano-ballad closer “Shine the Light,” this is an album built for stadiums.
“This record is designed to play in very large places and to communicatethumb|300px|right|Sugarland - Tonight with a large group of people,” Kristian confirms. “When you have an instrument as powerful and as graceful as Jennifer’s voice, you don’t want to tip-toe in. You really go for it! And those types of songs are often where Jennifer and I intersect musically.”
In fact, the pair found shared inspiration in the iconic music and films of the 1980s, their growing-up years. “We allowed ourselves to play with our influences,” Jennifer admits. As such, the coming-of-age movies by director John Hughes and songs by Blondie, Peter Gabriel, The Pretenders and even The Clash all helped fire up the Machine. “When we were writing, we asked what if John Hughes were making movies now.... Who would be on the soundtrack?” Kristian says, going on to connect the dots between rebellious country and rebellious rock. “If you dig far enough you’re going to see that The Clash and Johnny Cash had a lot in common. I like to live right where those guys meet.”
In a song like the joyous “Find the Beat Again,” for instance, Jennifer remindsthumb|300px|right|Sugarland - Everyday America the heavy-hearted among us that nothing lasts forever, while Kristian’s siren-like guitar sound—a technique he adapted from The Clash, he says—pushes the song toward its climax.
Or the call-to-arms “Stand Up,” in which the band exhorts listeners to “use your voice.” A tale of personal empowerment, the track is almost heroic in its message. It’s also one of two songs on the album to showcase Kristian’s voice. “I don’t know how many people have really ever heard me sing before,” he says of his lead verse. “For fans of the band, it’s like a whole new layer is peeled back.”
“All We Are” is equally triumphant. A rallying cry of sorts, it culminates in a mass of melodies folding upon one another. The result is breathtaking, a musical equation so intricate that it solidifies the duo’s ability to write complex fare as well as breezy, winking tunes like first single “Stuck like Glue.” thumb|300px|right|Sugarland - Baby Girl
“We write songs for different reasons. There are some songs that we want to change your life and there are some that we just want to change your day. That’s what ‘Stuck like Glue’ is,” Jennifer laughs. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and that’s what fans love.”
They also flock to Jennifer’s knack for finding the voice of everywoman—or even everyman. One of Sugarland’s many gifts is their ability to write lyrics that transcend gender, like in their 2004 breakout hit “Baby Girl.” On The Incredible Machine, the proof is in the acoustic “Little Miss,” a profile of a woman who tries to handle everything, all by herself. “I saw my mom as that person. I see pieces of it in my own daughter. Jennifer is certainly one of those women,” Kristian says.
Aside from the powerhouse rocker “Wide Open,” written specifically for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, thumb|306px|right|Sugarland - Want To“Little Miss” is one of the record’s earliest penned tracks. “We were at a festival over a year ago and I was on the bus doing my makeup while Kristian was warming up,” recalls Jennifer. “I was wearing a checkered dress and he started playing this lick and singing, ‘Little Miss checkered dress.’ I popped my head out and sang, ‘Little Miss one big mess!’ The way that song was discovered was fun and really beautiful.”
And the band is confident that fans, old and new alike, will have a similar experience as they discover the gears and cogs of The Incredible Machine—a country record, a pop record, an anthem record, a ballad record, but above all, an authentic record.
“It’s just the two of us,” says Kristian. “In the story of who we are, this album is more us than we’ve ever been.”
Jennifer agrees and says the band’s rebirth is best summed up in the gentle, searching words of the album’s title track: Feels like I’m flying, wings made of light/brand new and shinin’, like a shot rung out through the night.
“That’s a wonderful metaphor and image for this newly emerging creature that Sugarland is right now, with these vulnerable but beautiful wings. The Incredible Machine is definitely us, but at the same time, there is something very precious and new,” she says. “And we want to show it to the world!”
|Twice The Speed Of Life||"Baby Girl"||"Something More"||"Just Might (Make Me Believe)"||"Down In Mississippi (Up To No Good)"|
|Enjoy The Ride||"Want To"||"Settlin'"||"Everyday America"||"Stay"|
|Love On The Inside||"All I Want To Do"||"Already Gone"||"It Happens"||"Joey"|
|The Incredible Machine||"Stuck Like Glue"||"Little Miss"||"Tonight"|
|Jennifer Nettles' solo achivements||"Who Says You Can't Go Home"||That Girl ("That Girl")|