Kristian Bush is one of the most dynamic artists in country music. He put himself on the map as one half of celebrated country duo Sugarland, proving his gift as a songwriter penning their biggest hits including “Baby Girl,” “All I Want to Do,” “Stuck Like Glue” and several more. But Bush’s dynamic talents shine just as much on his solo projects, with critics praising his debut solo album Southern Gravity for its positive spirit, a reflection of the one that lives within the singer. Never one to repeat himself, Bush continues in this vein on his upcoming second solo album that finds him exploring sounds outside of Nashville.
Bush gained inspiration for the new project after he was invited by his friend JFly to perform at Atlanta’s Fourth of July celebration in front of 50,000 people, bringing a horn section and troupe of background singers with him. The crowd’s lively reaction to his cinematic approach infused him with new energy and the inspiration to bring something fresh to the world of country music. “I have never felt a part of party and a community as much as I did in that moment,” Bush raves of the show. “I was joking to him [JFly] on the way off the stage, ‘One day, country music needs that party.’”
It is this passing thought that has now turned into a serious project, one that pushes Bush out of the Nashville comfort zone. Instead of writing song in Atlanta and bringing them to Music City to be recorded and produced, Bush does just the opposite, drawing from the pool of talent in Nashville and then allowing Atlanta dictate the sound, pulling in elements of R&B, gospel and southern rock to create the eclectic project.
“What I found out is that country music is this beautiful combination of story and rhythm,” Bush explains of his artistic process. “What’s beautiful is that the lyrical content of all this music that I wrote on this next record, it’s all Nashville, then rhythmically lives in the beauty of what Atlanta is. If you put country songs on top of that, you get the next evolution of what you’re used to from Chris Stapleton, except a little more commercial with a lot more horns.”
Though fans will have to wait until after the release of Bigger on June 8, Sugarland’s first album since 2010, he does offer insight into two of his favorite tracks. He hints that one piece titled “I’m Coming Around” will “challenge” listeners, while the “beautiful” “Everybody Got to Go Home” was written the day David Bowie passed away. “It’s interesting, beautiful reality when people get the chance to choose how they go, and when they go, and what they leave behind. They teach you,” Bush reflects, referring to Bowie’s final album Blackstar that he recorded while battling liver cancer, knowing the album would be his last and sharing it as a gift for fans just days before his death.
“It’s really hard to do that well. As an artist, I was so impacted. ‘He already knew all this? He made an album about it? I don’t know what to say. I’m scared,” Bush continues, chasing that sense of fear into “Everybody Got to Go Home.” “If it scares me, then I got to write a song about it.”
Bush hits the road with his Sugarland partner Jennifer Nettles on the 2018 Still the Same Tour that keeps them busy spring through fall.