Eight years have passed since Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush released their last album as the country duo Sugarland, but they’ve come back with a real treat — a collaboration with Taylor Swift. Together with Swift they released “Babe,” and all three appear in the music video, which has generated more than 14 million views on YouTube.
“It feels pretty fantastic,” Bush says. “I actually thought it was going to go longer than now," he says when speaking about the hiatus and the timing of their return. "It was no telling. We never said anything about it, and Jennifer was like, ‘Man, I want to put out a solo record, and I want to start a family and I’ve never been a mom,’ and I was like, 'Go for it, man!'”
During the break from the band, Nettles became a mom, as well as an actor and a stage performer.
“And I went into the world of, please teach me how to write songs more than I know," Bush says. "I went around the world. I went to like Sweden and all sorts of crazy places to learn and started producing records. So by the time we met up, we each had brand new things in our Swiss army knives that we never had before.
"We recorded the album in four days and wrote it in nine. So what that does for us and what that does for hopefully our listeners and our fans is it gives them very relevant songs. Most songs on the radio are 3 years old from when they were written. These are 4 months old. The picture you’re looking out of your window is the same one I’m looking at.”
Sugarland's new album, Bigger, was released June 8, but the duo didn't choose to work with Swift on the second single, Bush admits. Swift chose them.
"She got tipped off that we were starting again and there might be a Sugarland project," Bush says, "and she was a fan. Which I guess I knew, but I didn’t really know until this went down. She like owned our first EP before anybody got it, one of those kinds of fans. So she heard about it and pitched a song.
“I was afraid if we just sorta crowbarred the song in there, it would be wrong. And the more I saw the album come together, the more I started to understand how the song would fit, and then when we went in and recorded it. We recorded it in a way that would fit, and the topic fits really well."
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Swift wrote "Babe" intending to use it for her 2012 album, Red. This isn't the first time Swift has written a song recorded by another country artist. In 2016, Little Big Town released "Better Man," which Swift wrote but didn't record.
“I have just tons of respect for what she’s doing," Bush says of Swift. "And I love the thing that we have in common is just this unbridled, ‘Let’s make it whatever it is. Art first.'”
Sugarland is playing Friday at Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie.
“You’re gonna hear your favorite song. … You’re gonna hear some stuff off the new record,” Bush says. “[Openers] Lindsay Ell and Frankie Ballard are some of the most amazing entertainers you’ll meet, and if you’re not aware of who they are, I cannot wait for you to discover who they are. And these Sugarland shows, we’re halfway through the tour, and I can’t believe the response that we’re getting. It’s really special.”