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 of the critically acclaimed duo Billy Pilgrim (along with Andrew Hyra), which had also released a pair of albums. 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 and resumed her solo career. 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.
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. Several tours followed, as did Nettles’ marriage and pregnancy in 2012. In 2013, with the band on hiatus, Bush released the solo single “Love or Money.” Nettles also released a single that same year, and followed up with her own solo album, That Girl, early in 2014. Nettles and Bush announced their reunion at the Country Music Association Awards in 2017, releasing the new single “Still the Same” in December of that year. ~ Steve Leggett
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