Kristian Bush and Jennifer Nettles had made names for themselves in the Atlanta, Georgia music scene before fatefully being brought together. Live On the Inside is a DVD/CD combo premiering August 4 featuring Sugarland blissfully in their element: performing live.
Kristian Bush lets SheKnows into the world of Sugarland exclusively to discuss how the Georgia band first connected and made musical magic. After their debut single Baby Girl sent their debut CD Twice the Speed of Life into multi-platinum orbit, Bush and Nettles had established themselves as a country band who found success by staying true to their Georgia roots and never going "Hollywood" in country music -- moving to Nashville.
Sugarland is Atlanta-born and raised and success has only cemented their Georgia peach legacy.
SheKnows: When you two first started playing together, what first struck you about the sound that you guys were making?
Kristian Bush: I think the interesting part is that we all came up in the same scene. The things you absorb – writing and performing – from a music scene, they're all different angles of the same idea. For instance, when Jennifer ingested REM, she took it a little bit different than REM than I did, but it was still definitely REM. Any other band playing at that time in Atlanta, whether B-52s, Driving and Crying…any of these bands that were there, we were late teens, early 20s listening to these bands and being moved by them. We learned what it means to be in a band. Because we came from similar backgrounds, from that point forward in our lives, that's the common ground. What wasn't the same was really interesting, you know?
SheKnows: Like what? Tastes in music...
Kristian Bush: I might be rocking with a little extra Clash and bluegrass...right?
Kristian Bush: Those are two crazy combinations. Jennifer might have swampy gospel background. She is a whole lot more dramatic, bringing a whole lot of performance drama to what we were doing. So when we got together, we were fans of each other as writers. When we came together to write, the common ground automatically felt like we are related. And the difference was that we found each other interesting, I want to be around you.
Kristian Bush: The combination of those two things really pulled us together.
SheKnows: How is the process of writing a song with someone versus doing it solo?
Kristian Bush: It's a learned process, but it's learned with that person. I know people who write professionally who can sit in a room and write with anybody. I think have become that person. It's a trust. You come in saying, "I feel it should be this way." There's a difference when there's multiple people in the room. When Jennifer and I write and we talk about what we're writing, we may be talking about our personal stuff, but we are talking about it in the context of a character and the character of the person who's singing.
SheKnows: Well, when you hear Sugarland, your music seems…easy.
Kristian Bush: It depends...some things come really easy. I think some things that come easy – we think, "That's good. But how can we make it great?" It's been a learning of craft.
SheKnows: You guys are a match made in heaven…
Kristian Bush: It really is, creatively, I don't know. It's something I've always wanted.
SheKnows: It also strikes me that your history as a band has been one steady flow of success. Ever building, it seems this DVD/CD was required long before most collaborators produce a live recording? What has it been like for you to play for such a passionate group of people that bring their friends along with each successive record?
Kristian Bush: Country music fans are different. Traditionally, they have been different because country music, when we walked in the door which was 2002...2003, had been through a long stint in the '90s of rising popularity. It had gotten into the world of the arena bands becoming stadium acts. There was a lot of expansion of what country music was, and it was traditionally the music of the people. So, there's a certain amount of interactiveness that goes along with being a country music performer. It's a lot like NASCAR. It's an interactive sport.
Kristian Bush: It's different. You generate a passionate relationship between your listener and the artist. And it goes both directions. Country performers want to go play. It's not like pulling teeth.
We both laugh.
Kristian Bush: It's like, "let's go!" As a result -- that kind of passion when looked at from the outside -- looks like a counterculture or a subculture. What's happened in the last 10 years with country music is as a radio format, it's expanded. What's happening now is it's the home of the singer-songwriter, where traditional country music has come from, so more fans are feeling welcomed through the door. Jennifer and I are the doormen for country music.
SheKnows: Very true...you must expand listener's horizons…
Kristian Bush: They come through us…they don't go right to George Strait. They got to come through Sugarland to get there. People who come in from George Strait, eventually might end up at Sugarland, you never know. We certainly have a side to us that's accessible to those folks. Primarily we get people coming up to us that say, "you know what? I'm not really that big of a fan of country music, but I'm a really big fan of what ya'll do. It's across the board. When we put the live DVD, we thought this is going to be really great because we've always had a good time picking cover songs, we think people like to shuffle their iPod a little. You know they have that Beyonce song on there and you also have Sugarland. But, I bet you never thought they'd squish together on one playlist.
SheKnows: And they do...
Kristian Bush: When that happens, your brain changes (laughs). No one uses the genre part of their iPod.
Kristian Bush: They always use playlists. I think that's the way people hear music now.
SheKnows: Now, Jennifer and I were supposed to chat, but she is on vocal rest right now. It's been fab talking to you, Kristian, but, we wondered -- is Jennifer going to be OK?
Kristian Bush: Our physical bodies take a toll. The vocal chords are a muscle. Just like any other athlete, when something goes down, you got to take the time to heal it. We have to keep ourselves very aware of that and we love to play. We love our fans. It gets awkward when we push too hard. Sometimes you don't know. We're learning that we're human (laughs). It's just going to takes time. She's fine.
SheKnows: Lastly, you have shared the stage with many musical icons, who most inspired you?
Kristian Bush: We've shared the stage with a lot of people (laughs) -- some unlikely people at that. I'd say there were a few times where I said "Oh, wow. I can't believe this is happening." One was recently. We got B-52s to come play the Country Music Awards with us.
SheKnows: Yes! I was hoping you'd say that.
Kristian Bush: I've been a B-52s fan for a long time. They're a band that in many ways is very heroic for us. For me, they started out in the new wave scene in the late '70s and early '80s. People didn't know what to do with them. But they loved them. You couldn't go to their show and not have a good time. As time went on, they bent their genre and became a top 40 act. Without ever making anybody mad, or abandoning anybody…it was all done based on music. They had a basic tenant that we are here to have fun. This is supposed to be fun (laughs). Asking them to come play and them saying yes and then being able to play their song…it was fantastic!
SheKnows: Fellow Georgians…
Kristian Bush: Fellow Georgians, it does have some reference. We're trying to have people understand that we are not from Nashville.
SheKnows: I know many people from Atlanta, and they take great pride in their individualistic Georgia-ness.
Kristian Bush: (Laughs) Yes! Not as big as Texas, but it does matter.
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