In the lyric video for his debut solo single, "Trailer Hitch," Kristian Bush is paying it forward… literally. The Sugarland guitarist took to the streets of downtown Chicago to put the message of the song to work, which is to stop obsessing about material things and instead experience the immense joy of giving gifts. ("Never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch," he sings.) So, armed with a video camera, a guitar and 300 one-dollar bills, the singer-songwriter became a street performer of a very different sorts.
"I thought how cool it would be if we tried to give away money from a guitar case instead of ask for money," Bush tells Rolling Stone Country. "People were looking at me funny; they got suspicious. I mean, here I am giving strangers money on the street. People would say no, and then I'd say, 'Go give it to someone who needs it.' Then they caught on. It turns out, people are much more comfortable giving than they are taking."
Bush reports it took him about an hour and a half to give away $300. "And that's what I did on my way to Wrigley Field," he says with a laugh, explaining that the video was shot just before he threw the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game later that day.
Co-written with his brother, Brandon Bush, and Tim Owens, "Trailer Hitch" is the first single from the country star's upcoming solo album, which is a long time in the making. Bush, now 44, signed his first record deal just out of college, forming the band Billy Pilgrim and later co-founding the Grammy-winning group Sugarland. But with Sugarland partner Jennifer Nettles on lead vocals, Bush — despite platinum-selling success — is a familiar face with an unfamiliar voice... even among his close peers.
"When I turned the album in to the record company and management company, they were like, 'My gosh, you can sing!' And I was like, 'What did you think I do?'" he recalls, laughing. "And then the guys at the radio (L.A.'s Go Country 105, the first station to play "Trailer Hitch") said they keep hearing, 'Wait a minute… what? He can sing?' I guess they had low expectations."
Though he wrote an estimated 300 songs for the long-awaited LP and had a tough time narrowing them down to the dozen that will make the track list, "Trailer Hitch" was an easy choice for the first single. Bush says he set out to make his musical introduction as a solo artist mood-lightening, uptempo and infectious.
"Whenever I play it live, I see people start to dance, just like they did when [Sugarland] started playing 'Stuck Like Glue,'" he relates. "People at sound check who are putting out the chairs at shows start dancing along to the song, and they don't even know it! That's what music is supposed to be."