Sugarland Thank Bro-Country for Broadening the Country Music Highway
Sugarland broke the country music mold with their 2010 hit "Stuck Like Glue," venturing into a rap-esque format that set them apart as musical daredevils at the time. Coming back after a five-year "pause," the award-winning duo of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush says that the style landscape in country music has expanded so much that they have a much broader playing field now -- and they're loving it.
"At the time, it was so scandalous [to have a rap in a country song], and now there's Sam Hunt ... The margins we used to play in, boy, have they widened. We are just having a ball," Nettles shared in an interview with The Boot and other media outlets.
"I love it because it's infectious." Bush says in an interview with Taste of Country. "The thing I always loved about our band is we got to at least ask the question, 'Do you like it?' It wasn't, 'Is it country enough?' it was, 'Do you like this?'"
"The progress that bro-country made was to inject groove into country music, and I loved that experience," he goes on to say. "I wasn't very good at writing those songs, but what I did love about it was there was a complete let-go of the importance, to some degree, of the lyric in service of the groove. And I thought that was a super cool thing, because I feel that in rock music, and I feel that in EDM and pop music. I was excited to see it, at least, that part of it."
During the duo's hiatus from music-making, the environment of genre-blending in country music grew exponentially, as did the political and social culture that shapes the music.
"I feel like we've always been leaders in the format, and I feel like we've always had so much fun playing in those margins of those different and varied influences," Nettles says. "I think in the time we have taken a pause, the highway has broadened to such an extent that now it's such a big superhighway."
Two election cycles, mass shootings and social equality and justice all emerged as themes in music that were no longer taboo in the country world, and while Sugarland maintain that they are a non-political band, they've never shied away from the issues or the styles that compelled them. Bush says that Nettles forges the way in that.
"She is a person who gives me courage on things that I don’t have courage on," he admits. "She will pick up something and go, ‘That’s emotional to you. I hear you. How ‘bout this?’ And it isn’t scary at all to her."
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