After a five-year break, Sugarland reunited for their first full-band live concert earlier this month, a show in Dublin as part of the Country to Country Festival. They followed it up with two more shows at C2C – one in London, one in Glasgow – offering a preview of what will become the Sugarland Still the Same 2018 Tour, which starts its U.S. run on May 4th in Oklahoma with various support from Brandy Clark, Clare Bowen, Lindsay Ell and Frankie Ballard.
"The first show together in Dublin was awesome," Bush tells Rolling Stone Country. "It was fantastic. The crowd was awesome, and it was fun to watch fans – you could tell they were longtime fans – flipping out. It's the way you want them to flip out if it's your band you love."
Both artists have played the famed London O2 Arena separately during their solo careers, but it was the first time they've graced the iconic venue together. After years of waiting and wishing, fans got what they wanted: Sugarland back in the spotlight. Their set was packed with hits like "Want To," "Baby Girl" and "Stay," driven by the full force of Nettles' powerhouse vocals and Bush's own quirky charisma, as well as a bunch of new material ready for debut.
This time around, Nettles says she and Bush are making music for new and old fans alike.
"We are obviously excited to be playing all of the hits, and the music that people love, and that the fans haven't been able to see for the past five years," she says. "But we're also making new music, and we want to reach new fans, always."
Nettles and Bush have sold in excess of 15 million records worldwide, releasing their last album, The Incredible Machine, in 2010. Since deciding to reform, they were quick to jump back into the studio, and began writing again together in the fall. While they're still keeping details close to the vest, the LP is expected to be out late summer, with Bush co-producing.
"In four days, we made the record," he says. "We make records pretty fast. We put a lot of thought into cycling, into pre-production, so the album itself is a performance. If you figure these things out ahead of time, you take a lot of that burden off of the players and let them become players, and take the burden off of the singers, so they don't have to think about anything other than singing. It's not your job to go and fix something that's broken – it's your job to go and express something that you've just discovered, and that makes great records when you can do that."
Of the process, Nettles says she was "delighted" to discover an instant "muscle memory" as the two songwriters returned to a tried and tested rhythm. What came out during writing sessions was a sense of timing, and the need to create music that can heal – something at which Sugarland has always excelled.
"A lot of times, we will do things and not necessarily know where the calling is from, until we answer it," says Nettles. "So in coming back together, and the music that we have written, it's become really clear to me that we are making music that people need to hear right now. Not just as Sugarland, but in the world. I think the messages and the themes that are in this music will be healing.
"Fortunately, or unfortunately," she concludes, "the world is ripe right now for lots of healing and conversation."