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Interview:
Sugarland's machine keeps purring along
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

Even in what's considered to be relative "down time," Sugarland's world is going much like the title of its 2004 debut album -- "Twice the Speed of Life."

The country duo's last new album, the platinum "The Incredible Machine," came out in October of 2010, when it debuted at No. 1 on both the Billboard 200 and the Country charts. Since then, however, the machine has kept chugging, with just minimum, though significant, gear-grinding.

"My goal has always been to do what I need to do in order to continue to be a musician," says the group's Jennifer Nettles. "It was never to do what I need to do to be famous. It was always that I want to continue to do this for as long as I can, because I love it. And I know Kristian does as well."

Kristian Bush, who co-founded Sugarland during 2002 in Atlanta with former bandmate Kristen Hall, who quit in 2006, and subsequently added Nettles, agrees that he and Nettles "do more than sit around and dream about it. We actually talk about it...'We want this,' and then it'll happen. It just takes awhile to get there. But we keep looking forward to the things we want to do."

Sugarland has reached an interesting point in its career, however. Nettles, 37, is pregnant with her first child, due in November. That might lead to a bit of a break for she and Bush, 42, who have been working consistently from the start, racking up sales of 14 million records, scoring 11 Top 10 Country chart singles, winning 16 industry awards -- including a pair of Grammys -- and winning some pop notoriety thanks to Nettles' guest appearance on Bon Jovi's 2005 hit "Who Says You Can't Go Home."

They've accomplished a great deal more since "The Incredible Machine's" release, too:

* Sugarland has launched three singles from the album -- the double-platinum "Stuck Like Glue," "Little Miss" and "Tonight."

* Nettles and Bush won Top Vocal Duo of the year at the 2011 Academy of Country Music Awards, Best Vocal Duo at the Country Music Association Awards and Duo Video of the Year for "Stuck Like Glue at the CMT Music Awards.

* Nettled hosted the 2011 CMA Country Christmas Special in December.

* Sugarland performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert last Dec. 1l in Norway.

* The duo guested on the track "Run" from singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson's latest album, "Modern Love."

* Nettles appeared in a Super Bowl XLVI commercial for Pepsi Max, singing Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart."

* Sugarland recorded a new song, "Guide You Home," for the film "Act of Valor."

* Nettles appeared as a coach on ABC's "Duets," with her team member J Rome winning the first-season competition.

* Sugarland will be inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame on Oct. 14 in Atlanta.

The only breakdown in the "Machine" cycle came on Aug. 3, 2011 -- and it's a significant one. Seven people were killed and 45 injured when Sugarland's stage collapsed during a freak storm at the Indiana State Fair. With more than 40 lawsuits pending from the tragedy, both Nettles and Bush sat for dispositions, with Nettles claiming that she was never told about the weather circumstances or asked to delay or postpone the show. "I don't feel it's my responsibility or my management's responsibility to evacuate the fans in the case of danger," Nettles told examiners. "Do I care about their safety? Absolutely." The first trial stemming from the incident is scheduled to begin April 1, 2014.

By then, of course, a fifth Sugarland album is likely -- and/or possibly a Nettles solo album, which has been widely rumors. Bush, meanwhile, is helping actress Lucy Hale of ABC Family's "Pretty Little Liars" with her first country album. "I think as a duo they are kind of at a crossroads in their career," says Tim Roberts, program director of Detroit country station WYCD-FM. "Making the right music right now is going to be critical to them moving forward. Perhaps (Nettles) being a mom will make for some interesting material."

Roberts also says Nettles success with "Duets" could lead to more TV roles down the line.

"We'll have to see what happens," Nettles says. "My goal would be to continue to do this, and I think the way to do that is to continue to reach as many people as broadly as possible and continue to be able to speak to people, whether the music changes their lives or changes their days. Just hopefully they can relate to it."

Sugarland, Vonda Shepard and Canaan Smith perform at the WYCD Birthday Bash, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $63.50 and $43.50 pavilion, $39 lawn with a $99 lawn four pack. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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