The Nine Lives of Sugarland

Sugarland (Courtesy of the band)

You have to give credit to bands that make us feel like kids again. Many have tried, but not all of them pull it off. Then, there’s Sugarland. They’re a Country band that’s been turning heads for a while now, and they’re coming to town. For whatever reason, we don’t always associate Country music with the OC music scene. For those who live for everything that’s Offspring, Blink, Metallica and the Foo’s, be advised that the OC has a great Country music following. It just might be time we started paying a little more attention to some of the mainstays of today’s Country music.

The band has a loyal following; they come from all walks of life and all corners of SoCal. Their fans will stand in any line, and they’ll wait until the midnight sun comes up before they will lose their place. What is it about this band, and what is it about Country music that draws the masses to them? The Man in Black, Johnny Cash, once said that Country music is filled with emotions of love, of breakup, of love and hate, of death and dying, mama and apple pie. It covers a lot of territory. Our reality is such that you don’t have to come from Birmingham, Atlanta or the LBC to understand its themes. Country music is like a good ‘ole Social Distortion song, just to a different beat. In the end, we can relate to all the things Sugarland stands for and sings about.

The band’s from Atlanta, they formed in 2002 as a duo. It initially consisted of Kristian Bush and Kristen Hall. They later added Jennifer Nettles, turning the band into a trio. In those early days, they were regulars in Atlanta’s folk-rock scene. They signed with Mercury Nashville Records in 2004 and hit it big with the release of their debut single “Baby Girl”.  That was the first single from their multi-platinum debut album, Twice the Speed of Life. Not long after, Hall left the band and Sugarland was a duo again. It was speculated that she left to focus on her own projects and pursue a solo career. This took place before the band’s second release, Enjoy the Ride. That album became a juggernaut; it produced their first two No. 1 singles in the U.S., with “Want To” and “Settlin’”. The gravy train continued as the band was also nominated for the Best New Artist at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards.

In 2008, they released their third album, Love on the Inside. This album produced three more No. 1’s with                                     “All I Want to Do”, “Already Gone”, and “It Happens”. It gets even better, they received three Grammy nods and they performed on the 51st Annual Grammy Awards in February 2008.  It was surreal for them as they played alongside the likes of Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Adele, Radiohead, Coldplay and U2. It was their coming out party as they won awards for Best Country Song for “Stay” as well as Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.  Their fourth album, The Incredible Machine, came out in October 2010.   Their success continued over the years. Part of that success included them touring with the biggest names in Country music, while maintaining a constant presence on music charts from coast-to-coast and around the world. They’ve made regular appearances at the CMT Music Awards; they’ve also stopped by the American Music Awards, they’ve appeared on the Today Show and made the late night run with Kimmel and Fallon. They’ve even appeared on American Idol. They’ve had so much going on; Nettles even made a commercial that aired on the Super Bowl. Needless to say, the band has put out great music and done it all… but, the truth is it’s their resiliency that stands out and has captured the hearts and souls of their fans and all facets of those in the music industry.

Despite the accolades, people that don’t follow Country music may not be completely familiar with Sugarland. Although, many are familiar with what happened at the Indiana State Fair back in 2011. On that tragic day, the band was about to go onstage when the outdoor stage collapsed. It fell due to very high winds and it killed seven people and injured many others. The duo posted messages and various tributes for all affected. Their messages were heartfelt and helped those who were having problems coping with what happened. It was a dark time for everyone, but we all got through it. This is a lot for any human being to deal with, but they helped countless people cope with this. Being part of the human experience is a big reason why this band has become one of the most successful and beloved bands in the music industry, and deservedly so.

In 2012, after recording a series of tours, they took a well-deserved break. Mostly due, in part, to Nettles taking maternity leave. During the hiatus, both of the duo worked on a few high-profile solo projects. They officially reunited in 2017, and announced that they were working on new music for Big Machine Records.  Bottom line, since the band’s inception, they are a Country music gem.They’ve sold nearly 10 million albums domestically, they’ve earned seven No. 1’s and hit over 260 million on-demand streams. In December 2017, they released Still The Same, their first single in seven years. It should come as no surprise that it reached number 1 on the Country iTunes charts.  They’ve done all this while dealing with all the challenges life has thrown at them. That’s the theme a great Country Western song has, and that would’ve made Johnny Cash and Hank Williams smile. People say Sugarland can cover topics that make us think, smile and make us uncomfortable and then inspire us. When it’s tied to a great tune, it helps us cope with whatever we have going on in life.  They’re definitely a throwback to the titans of the genre, and that’s the best compliment any band can ever hope for.

It’s 2018, and their hiatus is over, Sugarland is back, and in a big way. They’re ready to begin their next journey with the release of Bigger, it’s their sixth studio album. It’s set for release June 8th. Bigger will feature 11 songs, most of which were co-written by Nettles and Bush. The self-entitled song, “Still the Same”, has already gained traction. What many in the industry are curious about is the response to highly-anticipated song, Babe; it was written by Train’s, Pat Monahan, and Taylor Swift. In the end, their sound is simply electric, and Nettles big brassy voice engulfs you. Ask anyone in the know, and they’ll tell you that their music infuses their own brand of energy into Nashville pop giving our musical taste buds a sound as sweet as Cash’s apple pie.

What their fans love most about Sugarland is they sing about everyday problems, you know…. jobs that stink, being broke, and passions of the heart. Sugarland’s solutions offer a little more than just consolation, their lyrics give us hope that something better is right around the corner. From L.A. to Tokyo, we can all relate to those sentiments. Despite all the challenges that life has thrown their way, these cats have 9 lives, and they still have several left in them.  They’re coming back to the Southland with the Still the Same Tour. They’ll make a stop at Honda Center on June 1st along with opening acts Brandy Clark and Clare Bowen. If you want to see for yourself what all the fuss is about, come out to the Honda Center June 1st or the Greek June 14th. You just might leave with a big smile and a craving for pie!

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