Sugarland’s Nashville Stop Reveals Full Narrative Of Nettles/Bush Writing

Sugarland. Photo: Shearer Photography

With seven No. 1 singles together, Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush have officially reunited as Sugarland after more than half a decade apart.

“Some people think Jennifer and I took a vacation for the last five years. No, we did not. These next two songs are from our solo albums,” said Bush before performing his “Trailer Hitch” during the Still The Same Tour stop in Nashville on Thursday (Aug. 2).

Having launched earlier this year, Sugarland’s outing is approaching the halfway mark of its second leg, in support of the 11-track album Bigger, a first in a collaboration between Big Machine Label Group and the duo’s original home, Mercury Nashville. With each ticket sale, audience members received a complimentary album from the ticket provider.

The time spent apart yielded substantial solo efforts from both Bush and Nettles, though. Bush introduced Southern Gravity with the now-defunct Streamsound Records. Meanwhile, Nettles joined Big Machine for the majority of her three notable solo releases, in addition to starring in Dolly Parton’s NBC made-for-television movies. She also moved to New York for a period to star in the Broadway musical Chicago.

While theatrics have always been detected in Nettles’ work, Sugarland’s return experiments with bolder stagecraft and bravado. The Nashville outing served not only to solidify her confidence in such performance, but the duo’s reprisal welcomes audiences from those extracurricular endeavors with open arms.

During a cover of Patty Griffin’s “Tony,” Nettles stood boldly before video walls, in solidarity with LGBT youth. The duo’s message was aimed at saving lives, as well as challenging churches and families with suicide rate statistics among that marginalized community, which are more than double. Sugarland reached out, displaying resources of support, including the Trevor Project. The band displayed branding SUGARL&, which explained: “&=Everyone Belongs Here.”

 

The Sugarland 2.0 return has shown revitalized energy, primed for today’s social climate—not just on stage but on record. Perhaps though, it’s only taken time to unfold the full complexities of the Bush/Nettles collective writing narrative. Hits like, “It Happens,” give a nod of confidence to handling life’s hardships while “Something More” empowers listeners to pursue ambitions beyond their current circumstances. Sugarland’s 2003 debut hit, “Baby Girl” shares a successful attempt at achieving aspirations, and was tearfully delivered by Nettles’ during the Nashville show, following the introduction of her parents in the audience. Collectively, those lyrics of Sugarland validate those seeking distraction or relief from the present, and befriend those country music fans with a voice of kindness.

This fresh confidence was again on full display for Sugarland’s delivery of additional stellar hits “Want To,” “Settlin’,” “Stay” and with climactic energy, Nettles incorporated her own “Unlove You.” Although Taylor Swift did not make an appearance at the Sugarland Nashville tour stop, her presence was felt with the lyrics and video display on the single she wrote and cameo’d on for the duo, titled “Babe.”

A variety of special guests, many with personal connections, were welcomed to the tour. Brandy Clark—who appeared in earlier dates—co-wrote a significant portion of Nettle’s solo project, including the remarkable “Salvation Works.” Nashville openers Lindsay Ell’s debut The Project was produced by Bush, and Frankie Ballard co-wrote a rocking groovy track from his opening set with Bush, called “Try Try Try.”

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Eric T. Parker oversees operations and contributes editorial for MusicRow's print magazine, MusicRow.com, the RowFax tip sheet and the MusicRow CountryBreakout chart. He also facilitates annual events for the enterprise, including MusicRow Awards, CountryBreakout Awards and the Rising Women on the Row. [email protected] | @EricTParker

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