Sweet Georgia Music: Country-based Sugarland launch CMT's Change for Change tour

Sugarland Sugarland
w/ Little Big Town, Jake Owen
Thurs. Sept. 27
7:30 p.m.
N. Charleston Coliseum
5001 Coliseum Dr.
(843) 529-5050

Country/pop band Sugarland — a multi-platinum, melodic act led by guitarist Kristian Bush and vocalist Jennifer Nettles — are superstars. But they didn't mean to be. Their sophomore album, Enjoy the Ride, shot to the top of the charts in late 2006 with a sparkly sound, a muscular production style, and an uplifting tone that grabbed the hearts of their impressive fanbase.

Their commercial success came in large part from their unusually independent position as songwriters, free from much of the marketing, maneuvering, and bottom-line antics of the Nashville machinery. Somehow, they've maintained a positive attitude and stayed focused on living and performing with great balance.

"The first thing you do is surround yourself with really good people," laughs Bush. "We've been extremely lucky."

Bush, Nettles, and their sizeable backing band headline the current Change for Change tour (sponsored by the CMT network) with support from Little Big Town and Jake Owen. They hit the road for a 32-city tour this week. The performance in North Charleston is the kick-off concert.

"One of the wonderful things that CMT offered has to do with the way we want to tour," says Bush. "We're supporting the Shalom Foundation, which helps fund school houses and infrastructure development in rural Guatemala." The name of the tour was originally going to be "Change Your Mind, Change the World" — a play on a lyrical line from their new song "Settlin'."

"We whittled it down because we wanted people to understand that in doing a very small thing, like pulling some change out of your pocket, you can actually change someone else's life," says Bush. "We want to encourage charity. We write and sing songs that have a depth to them about social awareness. That's what Change For Change is all about."

Sugarland started out in 2002 as a folksy, Atlanta-based country-styled act led by Bush (formerly of folk-rock duo Billy Pilgrim) and singer/guitarist Kristen Hall, who had a strong following as a solo performer. Vocalist and songwriter Jennifer Nettles came on board shortly after spending a number of years co-fronting the melodic, gospel-tinged folk-rock band Soul Miner's Daughter and her own Athens/Atlanta-based rock group, simply named the Jennifer Nettles Band.

In 2003, they signed to the Mercury/Nashville label and released their full-length debut, Twice the Speed of Life, in 2004. The chart-topping smash Enjoy the Ride, released last fall, followed with chart-climbers "Everyday America" "Want To," and "County Line." Hall announced her exit from the group shorty after the album's release.

"The challenge of trying to stay out of the commercial fray comes in large part from our label head, Luke Lewis," says Bush.

"I think most of that 'pop-country' tag comes from an attempt to classify what's happening to pop culture in general in respect to country music," he adds. "The people who decide what country music actually is are the listeners. It's not the five or six taste-makers in Nashville. Jennifer and I have been fortunate enough to be a good situation where we're not controlled, so we can act on our natural inclinations to write pop songs, or folk songs, or rock songs, or whatever."


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