In Sugarland, a variety of music lives together


Who: Sugarland with Matt Nathanson and

Little Big Town

When: 7:30 p.m.

Friday (Blossom Music Center); and 7:30 p.m. Sunday (First Niagara Pavilion)

Tickets: $39.75 to $49.75 (Blossom Music Center); and $26.50 to $50.25 (First Niagara Pavilion) at Ticketmaster outlets

By John Benson

For Sugarland — singer Jennifer Nettles and singer- guitarist Kristian Bush — it seems like only yesterday the platinum-selling country act was just starting off.

“I actually remember in like 2005 playing the radio station in Cleveland and us being set up in front of a copy machine,” said Bush, calling from Evanston, Ind. “The fear was somebody was going to walk up and make a copy when we were playing. So we’ve built this from the beginning, and every step has worked the way it’s supposed to. People told their friends.”

Apparently, that scenario worked in an exponential fashion considering Sugarland’s first three albums — 2004’s “Twice the Speed of Life,” 2006’s “Enjoy the Ride” and 2008’s “Love on the Inside” — all went platinum based on the success of No. 1 hits “All I Want to Do,” “Already Gone,” “It Happens” and “Want To,” as well as top-10 singles “Baby Girl,” “Something More” and “Stay.”

Figuring out Sugarland’s success isn’t hard to do. The Atlanta duo is the bellwether in the current Music City scene that finds groups pushing the pop sensibility. Other similar groups that come to mind include Lady Antebellum and Little Big Town. Arguably, Sugarland is the most successful to date, which is why the group’s latest release, “Incredible Machine,” was one of 2010’s most highly anticipated albums.

However, what no one expected was for Sugarland, which never shied away from exploring other genres and sounds in its long list of creative covers (from Beyonc ’s “Irreplaceable” to Pearl Jam’s “Better Man”), to push the envelope so far outside of Nashville’s comfort zone. For instance, the new album’s lead single, “Stuck Like Glue,” featured not only auto-tune but a reggae break to boot. Talk about a sticky situation.

“The whole album started with the new song ‘Wide Open,’” Bush said. “We came up with something that sounded just different. We were like, ‘That’s a great song,’ except I’m not sure what it is, but it’s so much fun to play. So it became this kind of jumping-off point of permission for ourselves to just start writing and recording to see what comes out.

“What you hear is the development of a band. The heroes we have are people who have gone through that. So we’re looking up to U2 and R.E.M. and [The Rolling] Stones. Part of it is allowing yourself to go somewhere and then having enough people trust you. Isn’t that the way it was supposed to be when you were dreaming about being in a band?”

Though the group’s fans soon got onboard — making “Incredible Machine” the band’s fourth-straight release to sell more than a million copies, quite a feat in the dwindling music industry — critics didn’t follow. Still, Bush isn’t worried about Sugarland’s Music City integrity.

“Look, we play commercial music,” Bush said. “It’s not like we come out with a piece of art every four years. We love performing songs and writing songs that try to communicate to as many people as possible, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

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