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Sugarland: The Promised Land

Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles talks about the duo’s current tour and next album.

In the Nov. 19 issue of Country Weekly you’ll find a behind-the-scenes article about Sugarland’s current stint headlining CMT on Tour with opening acts Little Big Town and Jake Owen. Here are a few exclusive web-only excerpts from our talk with lead singer Jennifer Nettles.

On Writing the New Hit “Stay”:
“It was written three years ago. It’s a special song. It tells a story. The inspiration for it was, I heard Reba McEntire’s ‘Whoever’s in New England,’ and I thought, ‘What a great song.’ I really liked the story of it. At the same time, it’s a story that you hear a lot—the jilted lover, the one who has been cheated on. I thought, ‘You know, in that situation, there are three people hurting. Ain’t nobody really happy. What if you were bold enough to tell the story of that other woman, and what she feels like in loving someone that is not fully hers either and knowing that there’s another woman that’s hurting because she’s in the picture?’ That’s complex, adult stuff. That’s the story. Ultimately, it’s about the redemption of loving oneself enough to realize, ‘I am worth more than this situation. We’re all worth more than this situation, really.’ Someone could look at a song like ‘Stay’ and think, especially if someone were really closed-minded and only thought about numbers and didn’t care about the human spirit, ‘Oh, it’s different, it doesn’t sound like anything on the radio.’ But that’s what makes it a success.”

On Sugarland’s Next Album:
“I know I want this album to be even more … let me choose my word properly … even more authentic than the last. Authentic to where we want to be artistically, and authentic to the human spirit. I want it to be the next step, grabbing a piece of someone’s heart and showing them themselves—‘Don’t you feel this way? Can you feel this way? Have you felt this way? I feel this way.’ Artistically I want it to be that. On another level, when that is true and the song rings true, then it’s going to be successful. People want to feel something. They want to feel good about it, they want to feel validated. Even if it’s a sad song, they want to feel validated that they themselves are understood, because someone says or sings what they feel. It is time to stretch, and we all know it. Fans know it. You don’t want to regurgitate the same thing over and over. This whole thing about, ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it?’ Well, yeah, but at the same time, nobody wants to hear the same thing over and over. People want something different. They’re so bored! They’re so bored with everything sounding the same.”

On Planning the Tour:
“We were excited about having the option to do something that felt different, that felt artistic and hip and dramatic and a bit theatrical and that was a visual statement of where we feel we are. We sat down early on with Mike Swinford, who helped us design it, and Nate Cromwell, who’s our lighting director, and said, ‘OK, let’s talk about this. We have some brainstorming creative vision ideas and we don’t even know if they’re possible.’ Consequently, we already have production concepts and visions for two or three tours in our brains. We get excited.”

On Deciding They Were Ready to Headline:
“You do as much logistic thinking as you can. You go, ‘All right, we’ve had two albums. That alone doesn’t make you headliner-ready. OK, we’ve had this many radio hits. That alone doesn’t make you ready. But when you put it in conjunction with the two albums, that’s more in our favor. And we had this many opening slots, and you could tell from that how you’re doing with ticket sales. We’ve had this many headlining gigs that we’ve done as one-offs and we could see that with those we sold this many tickets. OK, if we want to make this jump, what size venue should we jump into, that sounds and feels proper at the time?’ So that’s what we did. And when I say ‘jump,’ there is a jump to it—we’re gonna try it and see what happens. Luckily, the response has been really great.”