If for some strange reason Sugarland can't make albums or hit singles anymore, they can always rest on their incredible live shows. The country duo has been rocking stadiums for years, but they've just mounted perhaps their biggest tour yet, The Incredible Machine Tour (get dates at http://www.sugarlandmusic.com/events). Us' Debbie Appel caught up with the Grammy-winning pair (singer Jennifer Nettles and axeman Kristian Bush) to get an update about life on the road.
US: How do you keep up the energy and chemistry performance after performance?
JN: One, we love the music
KB: Two, we love each other!
JN: And three, even though we play a similar set every night, the audience is different and they’re hearing it for the first time. Our experience with them is unique.
US: What's different about the tour you're doing now?
KB: In the past, we toured a record before it was released. Now we're playing it after fans know it! We are watching the Machine come alive.
US: How personal is this album for you?
JN: The stories aren't necessarily ours but the emotions within them are personal. This is the album we were destined to write. It feels authentic. It allows us to celebrate our heritage and history. There is a lot of courage and bravery from an artistic standpoint.
US: Because of the personal nature of the songs, is there ever one that gets you choked up or one that makes you laugh and smile every time you sing it?
JN: Incredible Machine is a beautiful mystery, and I love performing it every night. It didn't have to be massaged or beaten or crafted in a certain way. We weren't thinking, 'What is going to work for the listener?' It was just, 'What are we feeling?' We were in a place musically that I hope to be able to visit again. This song makes me feel so much more than I think of myself as an artist and as a writer.
KB: It told us what it wanted to sound like. In a weird way, it teaches me every day. There are just parts of it I don't understand.
US: Do you have a song that you feel has become an anthem for a lot of single women?
JN: I would say the song we did with Matt Nathanson called "Run." I loved writing with him and we respect him as an artist. The song was fun and I felt connected to it. I don't really listen to our own stuff but when I hear that I think 'Oh yeah - that's really good!'
KB: When we first started playing "Little Miss," I was like, 'Man, I love playing the song'.' I can imagine it moves the fans.
US: What is your favorite part of your concert?
JN: I love when the crowd screams along. We knew these songs were going to be played live in large venues. We wanted something that became a communal experience and something that the audience could have fun participating in, rather than just sing along to. There are parts where the audience plays their part too.
KB: I like the tension at the beginning of the show and the encore. As a fan, I am aware of the 'I don't know what is going to happen next' moments.
US: What was the last concert you both went to?
JN: U2 in Nashville. I look at concerts differently now. Before I would go to concerts and dream about being in them. Now I understand the logistics of it. I also ask myself, 'how do I measure up, and how does this person measure up?'
KB: Mine was Bonnaroo. It was a long day and I was tired enough to be beaten into submission of being just a fan instead of constantly having on the 'I'm watching you to learn from you' eyes.' I also took a pile of notes!
US: Who are some of your more interesting celebrity fans that have come to your shows?
KB: I flipped out last night because Katee Sackhoff from Battlestar Galactica tweeted, 'I can't wait to go to the Sugarland show.' I wrote back asking her if she needed a parking space for her space ship! When we spoke she said 'I jumped off the couch I was so excited.' People don't like to admit that they are country fans because traditionally people will say, 'I love all kinds of music, except country music.' Once a celebrity has disclosed that they are a country music fan and they show up to a concert, they are really coming out of the closet! We are the gateway drug in country music.
JN: When we were in Canada, Vince Vaughn came with his wife and a number of friends. We are the quirky, cool band nerds of country music. We are accessible and welcoming in a different way.
US: Is it hard to be away from your family?
KB: It is hard and I miss them. I talk to them once a day, which is not often enough. My kids are six and nine so now we have real conversations. I don't have a lot of complaints. My wife and I have just decided that Aunt Jennifer is going to have to teach her how to not smoke!
JN: I will hand her back with clean lungs and a full sleeve!
US: How many tattoos do you have?
JN: I have one my arm, one on my wrist and a flower on my hip that I got when I was 18. I look at each tattoo as a chosen scar. They are a way to celebrate different things and remember where you were at that point in your life when you got that tattoo. My most recent tattoo is the one on my arm – the red heart with the blue wings. I got it five years ago. It is an iconic tattoo, at least in the world of American tattoos.
US: How hard is it for you to have a social life while on the road?
JN: I have a wonderful community and a tribe of friends and family. I like to entertain and have people over for dinner. I have a pretty comfortable and free life that I lead outside of this. I am lucky in that I able to have all of this and yet still have anonymity and privacy. I live a pretty normal life.
US: What is something that you absolutely have to have with you on your tour bus?
JN: I have a green tea that I call 'the end of the world' tea that I get at the Pearl River Market in New York in Soho. It has a rich, beautiful nuttiness and it is THE way to start my day, because I can't really do coffee. It's not good for your voice, and it is very acidic in your tummy.
KB: I buy two of every pillow and two of every comforter so everything is the same, besides the bouncing or the bed being on wheels.
US: How do you both stay in shape when you're on the road?
JN: We bring yoga teachers and a trainer.
US: How would you describe your personal style?
JN: I tend to play the edges. I like playing around with something masculine like a blazer over something really feminine like a silk top. I like the extremes. I also love animal prints and a nice little bootie sandal.
US: Would ever consider doing reality television?
KB: There is a rule in my house that my kids are not allowed to be on reality TV until they are 18 no matter what!
JN: No but I like that people are celebrating music. I love that most watched television shows all deal with music.
US: What do you think of country singer Blake Shelton starring on 'The Voice?'
JN: He is so smart. He is so quick and funny and he is perfect for that show. He represents country music in a wonderful way. Blake and Miranda are the iconic country couple royalty, which there hasn't been since Tim and Faith.