Sugarland - Biography
BY J Poet
Sugarland is the kind of dream band that performers fantasize about. All three band members were already successful on the Atlanta music scene, and had released albums for major labels, but within a month of their first gig as Sugarland, they were signed by Mercury and their first album as a trio Twice the Speed of Life (2004 Mercury Nashville) went double platinum and won them a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.
Jennifer Nettles had been singing since she was seven and writing songs since high school. She became famous for her searing vocals fronting Soul Miner’s Daughter. She quit the group to start The Jennifer Nettles Band and release Story of Your Bones (2000 Blue Dot) a pop, soul and country outing that got raves in the Atlanta area.
Kristen Hall was a folk singing roadie for The Indigo Girls before becoming their frequent opening act. Real Live Stuff (1990 Sky) her debut album was a stripped down affair full of heartbroken love songs. It got her a publishing deal with BMG Music. Fact & Fiction (1992 Daemon) was self-released, then picked up by Amy Ray’s alt.rock label Daemon. Be Careful What You Wish For (1994 High Street/ Windham Hill) was a simmering collection of torch songs for disillusioned moderns of all stripes and hot her more rave reviews.
Kristian Bush had been working with Andrew Hyra (Meg Ryan’s brother), first in The Hyras, and then as part of Billy Pilgrim, whose folk/pop tunes landed them a deal with Atlantic records. They made two albums for the label, the folky Billy Pilgrim (1994) and Bloom (1995) where rock influences predominated. They made one more indie album In the Time Machine (2001 Honest Harry) and several internet only releases before calling it quits in 2002.
During a creative lull in 2001, Hall called Bush and asked if he’d like to write a few tunes with her. The writing sessions became singing sessions, but neither felt confident as a lead vocalist, so the asked Nettles if she’d front their still unnamed band. She agreed and the trio plotted out their business plan, aiming to become a major act as soon as possible. They made an EP, Premium Quality Tunes (2002 Sugarland), and were probably as surprised as anyone else by how fast the band took off. By their forth gig they were selling out 1,000 seat venues, and less than five months after the started singing together they were signed by Mercury Nashville).
Twice the Speed of Life (2004 Mercury Nashville), their first album, went double platinum and won them a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. It spawned four hit singles “Baby Girl,” “Something More,” “Just Might (Make Me Believe),” and “Down in Mississippi (and Up to No Good.)” Their big bright country/pop made them the overnight sensations they’d planned to be.
Hall, who wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on Twice the Speed of Life, dropped out of the band just as they started recording Enjoy the Ride (2006 Mercury Nashville.) She said she wanted to pursue her songwriting, rather than a performing career, but later sued the band for royalties claiming that they’d agreed to a three way split to all proceeds before they started Sugarland. Without her, Nettles and Bush wrote Enjoy the Ride (2006 Mercury Nashville) and it’s big rock radio ready sound made it another major success. Nettles’ powerful voice, at home with rockers like “Mean Girls” and simmering ballads like “These Are the Days” should make her a pop diva in the future. The album had four hit singles – “Want To” and “Settlin’” hit #1 and “Everyday America” and “Stay” were Top 10. The album followed Speed into multi-platinum territory.
Love on the Inside (2008 Mercury Nashville) featured the #1 hit “All I Want to Do” and touches all the bases from simple acoustic tearjerkers to big, anthemic stadium rockers. Nettles impresses throughout, both with her larger than life vocals and her songwriting with Bush. The set topped the Pop and Country album charts. The Country Music Association named them Dou of The Year in 2007 and “Stay” won Single of the Year award from Academy of Country Music in 2008. In 2010 they released The Incredible Machine.