Jennifer Nettles says that, as cliché as it sounds, this is the record she’s always wanted to make. One that challenged the genre to reach a little. And since music is sacred to Nettles and Kristian Bush, they wanted to honor the record–making process and really be present this time around. The duo wondered what would be possible if they really gave themselves time on this, their third studio album. The resulting recordings of love have a heartbeat you can detect in the words, the strings, the drums and the vocals.
And this release delves into nearly every emotion, packing so many stories and music styles into one tune stack that Sugarland is calling it a weekend album. You can put this on on a Friday night, and it’s still gonna be going strong when you’re hanging out Sunday morning in your slippers. It may be an intoxicating rocker about green love that makes the most–played list, or a haunting ballad with the cadence of a waltz, but when played through this album can launch feelings to a new level.
Perhaps because of the sound that you hear in Nettles’ voice and Bush’s playing. It’s one of contentment. More so than on any other album. Why? Because this time, the duo spent the month of February ‘08 in their hometown of Atlanta, Georgia making this record. After touring, and then a month of what they called cleaning their palates, they brought session musicians and award–winning co–producer Byron Gallimore down to Atlanta’s legendary Southern Tracks Studio (Bruce Springsteen, Perl Jam) to finesse and record the songs they’d written while on the road supporting their last album Enjoy the Ride.
Atlanta is more than just home to Sugarland, though. It’s home to the music scene that shaped their sound. So it just felt right to go back there to make their third album. Asking players to uproot themselves and come to Atlanta wasn’t easy. But the band created some charm that you can hear from the first track to the last. “We are dedicated to continuing the art of making albums, collections where every song counts,” says Bush. They were after simplicity rather than complexity on these recordings. So instead of layers and overdubs, they just had one capture of each song. But while the resulting tracks were simple in their making, the range of tunes Sugarland has brought to the surface is anything but. “Emotions can feel overwhelming, and it’s hard to sift through them,” Nettles explained. Whether it’s about what it felt like when you unearthed love for the first time, or how painful it was to let it go, Sugarland was compelled to set those timeless feelings to music.
Since Sugarland’s popularity has been igniting the genre since their debut, Nettles and Bush feel blessed to be able to bring some fresher notes to country radio. Getting comfortable, and writing the same songs over and over, is just not what the duo is about. So here, you may find a ballad that has Nettles playing the part of a mature widow or a teenager who’s tragically lost her first love. This music literally builds characters around Bush’s landscapes and Nettles’ powerful vocals.
These songs and stories come from brainstorms with both Nashville veterans and rookies. ”Joey“ was co–written with the legendary Bill Anderson, while Bobby Pinson (“Want To”) helped pen four of the tunes including the first single “All I Want to Do.” And just like on Enjoy the Ride, Nettles and Bush wrote every song on this album.
Songwriting, as it turns out, is one of Sugarland’s callings. At the recent 2008 Academy of Country Music Awards, the duo was honored with the “Song and Single of the Year” for the touching and tender acoustic sensation “Stay.” Nettles made history that night by being the only female artist to have solo–written the ACM “Song Of The Year.” Their shelves are now full of countless awards and number one singles since 2004 when they leapt onto the country scene with Twice the Speed of Life and its debut single “Baby Girl.”
It has been a joyful four years for Nettles and Bush. Since they huddled over cups of coffee in an Atlanta Starbucks and scratched out career goals for themselves, they’ve evolved in every way musically possible. Now they’ve managed to seamlessly blend bits of the sounds they love, the sounds that inspired them to become fans of music, into their lastest album. A wail from R.E.M., a soulful vocal from Janis Joplin, and a throwback to Appalachian instrumentation gives every song momentum and increases the turn–it–up quotient of the entire 50 minutes of music. And will ultimately turn Sugarland’s third album into country’s latest tour de force.