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Sugarland's Kristian Bush recalls his reaction when fans first started to sing along to their songs in concert.
"I'd seek those people out and give them a guitar pick," he says with a laugh. "Now I don't have near enough picks."
That's what happens when the world falls in love with your music. It's already been a year of extraordinary firsts for Sugarland, the chart-topping singer-songwriter duo of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush. For starters, their Mercury Nashville debut, "Twice the Speed of Life", was certified Double Platinum. In addition, they received the award for Breakthrough Favorite New Artist at the American Music Awards (their competition included artists from all genres of music.) Plus, radio and fans alike have embraced all of their singles: "Baby Girl," "Something More," "Just Might (Make Me Believe)" and "Down in Mississippi (Up To No Good)."
As the accolades keep coming, Jennifer and Kristian are hard at work on what their fans want most.
It's a major understatement to say that Sugarland has come a long way fast. A mere year ago they were still a relatively unknown newbie act when they received a standing ovation after their performance of their debut single, "Baby Girl," at the Academy of Country Music Awards.
Fast forward to this year's Academy of Country Music Awards, Sugarland was back in a big way and this time there was no "unknown" about it. Piloted by Jennifer's powerhouse, country-soul vocals and Kristian's passionate harmonies and playing, the entertainers were nominated for a whopping five awards. Nettles upped that impressive tally to a total of six with her nomination in the Vocal Event of the Year category for "Who Says You Can't Go Home," her #1 duet with Bon Jovi.
Before the night was out, Sugarland took home the trophy for Top New Duo/ Vocal Group. "It feels like such a welcome and hopefully an open invitation to this community," says Jennifer.
A lot has happened since January, when original third member Kristen Hall left the group to concentrate on her songwriting. Nettles and Bush kicked off the New Year in style with an appearance on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, they were invited back for their second appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and also performed on the CMT Music Awards.
In a major career coup, Sugarland landed a highly-prized Best New Artist nomination at the Grammy Awards, a category that includes all genres of popular music. They also performed their hit "Something More" at the Grammy's. Backstage, Jennifer and Kristian rubbed elbows with living icon Paul McCartney, who complimented them on their sound check.
"I had to pinch myself," Kristian says, recalling the pat on the back he received from Sir Paul.
"A Beatle," concurs Jennifer with an awed laugh. "It makes me stutter to even talk about it."
Sugarland has quickly made a name for itself as one of the rockingest country acts on the road. Fans have been treated to a series of high-octane Sugarland appearances as they opened for Kenny Chesney on his record-shattering The Road and The Radio tour.
These high-profile support slots are giving audiences across the country the chance to witness performances firsthand by the fiery and dynamic duo. First there's Jennifer, the blond powerhouse who belted it out in Baptist church as a kid, then spent a decade ruling the Atlanta club circuit. Nettles grew up on Southern gospel while also connecting with the likes of Juice Newton, Rita Coolidge and Linda Ronstadt. Singing from the time she was seven, Nettles developed a commanding stage presence. With big, bluesy delivery, sly wit and infectious energy, she found herself fronting the band Soul Miner's Daughter and later drawing big crowds on the local circuit and at Lillith Fair with her own band.
Then there's the charismatic Kristian Bush, the former alternative folk-rocker who grew up listening to college radio favorites The Replacements and R.E.M. Bush was schooled on such acclaimed rock heroes as The Police and The Replacements. He joined fellow Georgian, Andrew Hyra, to form Billy Pilgrim, which ironically has been referred to as the "Indigo Boys," due to their smooth harmony and snappy take of folk music. The duo signed with Atlantic Records and put out two critically acclaimed albums.
Together, the two singular performers of Sugarland create an artistic partnership that is as unique as it is compelling.
"You have to believe in what you're saying," Jennifer says about Sugarland's songwriting philosophy.
Living through one extraordinary career triumph after the next, Jennifer and Kristian remain sincerely grateful for all the highlights that have come their way. Chief among them is the personal friendship and professional collaboration they have forged in Sugarland.
"It feels like a gift, and I'm just thankful for it every day," says Kristian about his artistic partnership with Jennifer. "Who else can you sit across from in a rocking chair when you're 70 and say, 'Hey, remember playing the Grammys? Do you remember when Paul McCartney came up and said, 'Hey, I really dig your sound-check'?"
Hits include: "All I Want To
Do", "Already Gone",
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