Sugarland reunion tour a new musical road for powerhouse duo

SHARE Sugarland reunion tour a new musical road for powerhouse duo
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Singer/songwriters Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush of Sugarland perform during a stop of the duo’s Still the Same Tour at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 16, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. | Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In 2012, after selling millions of albums and receiving a handful of awards and releasing a slew of No. 1 hits, country music duo Sugarland quietly took a break.

Jennifer Nettles went to Broadway. Kristian Bush went into the studio. A baby was born and songs were written and they both pursued solo careers. But there was no doubt that the two people who made up one of country music’s most successful duos would eventually reunite to continue their journey as Sugarland, right?

SUGARLAND With: Frankie Ballard and Lindsey Ell When: 7 p.m. August 23 Where: Ravinia Festival, 418 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park Tickets: $54 – $150 Info: Ravinia.org

Well, not necessarily.

“There were times when I looked at Sugarland as a tribe I was once a part of,” Bush says candidly. “And that’s the truth. I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Luckily, the reunion of Sugarland did happen, and it happened rather quickly on a September day in 2017.

“[Jennifer and I] spoke over the phone for about an hour and yes, it was good to hear from my friend,” Bush recalls. “And it turned out being a magical process. You don’t always get those moments where you can just pick up right where you left off. We decided it was time to get together to write, just to see what was still there.”

Sugarland — Kristian Bush and Jennifer Nettles. | Shervin Lainez Photo

Sugarland — Kristian Bush and Jennifer Nettles. | Shervin Lainez Photo

And there was much that was still there, as that first writing session in New York gave birth to “Still the Same,” one of the tracks that make up Sugarland’s sixth studio album, “Bigger.” Their first album in eight years also includes their forward-sounding song “Babe,” which also features the talents of Taylor Swift.

“We wondered what our music was going to sound like now,” says Bush, who shocked the industry when he stepped out with Nettles at the 2017 CMA Awards to announce their return. “Was it going to sound like us? We realized it still sounded like Sugarland, but more current. This music sounds like Sugarland right now. It just felt right.”

The album was recorded in a small rehearsal room in a lightning speed of nine days. “We were doing vocals live on the floor,” recalls Bush. “We weren’t holding back. We were who we were at that very moment. We were no longer trying to control that in any way.”

The two are now enjoying getting that music out in front of their fans once again, including a stop at Ravinia on Aug. 23. “We didn’t even know how many people would come,” laughs Bush, about the current tour. “We wondered if they would come to remember what it was or discover what it now is. And there was both. There were people singing the whole album and there were people just curious to see who we had become. And that’s okay.”

And for Bush, going out on stage alongside Nettles again is something that is rounding out not only his professional life, but also his personal life. “Can you believe I’m a father of two teens now?” he chuckles. “They now can take a while different look at what I do for a living. So much as changed since the last time they saw Jennifer and I up on that stage together.“

Bush hopes to teach his kids something as a result of his life experiences the past several years.

“I want them to see that you can’t force a relationship in the same way you can’t force a band,” he says. “You just have to be who you are and always pray for wisdom, not direction. Life will come to you if you just let it.”

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