Kristian Bush on Joyous New LP Born of Tragedy: It’s ‘Sunshine Into a Cave’
It took the actions of a seven-year-old to help Kristian Bush find peace — literally — after the deadly Indiana State Fair stage collapse of 2011.
Seven people were killed and nearly 100 injured at almost the exact minute the Sugarland guitarist and lead singer Jennifer Nettles were meant to start their set. The country duo were told at the last second to hold off and stay in an area beneath the stage, as a brutal storm was heading in — a storm whose 60 to 70 mph winds caused the stage roofing, rigging and lighting structure to crash down on fans waiting front-and-center to see the superstar twosome.
About five months later, a devastated Bush was home with his daughter, Camille, when a box of his broken mandolins was finally shipped to him. Most were irreplaceable, custom-made instruments that were now in little pieces.
“We laid it all on the floor, and I went downstairs to change the laundry,” Bush recalls. “I came back upstairs and she had arranged all of the pieces of the mandolins into a big peace sign on the floor of the living room. She was seven years old! I couldn’t do anything but just sit there and weep. In the face of a child, she was just, ‘It’s going to be OK, Dad.'”
Bush is finally opening up about the concert tragedy and the deafening silence that followed. He wasn’t allowed to speak about the stage collapse until just a few months ago, when a settlement was reached with victims and their families. He talked about it publicly for the first time with Rolling Stone, in a candid conversation about the most trying year of his life. The interview also marks the first time he has discussed his divorce from his wife of 12 years, Jill, which happened less than three months after the Indianapolis disaster. The couple vowed to keep their split under wraps, for the sake of Camille and her older brother, Tucker.
What prompted the Tennessee native to now make his private pain public was the music that came out of the fog. His first solo album, Southern Gravity, out April 7th, was partly borne of the mandated silence. While Bush couldn’t talk about his major life and career hurdles, he could write about it. But surprisingly, the new album isn’t likely to induce a single tear. In fact, it’s one of the most jubilant country LPs, from start to finish, in years.
“One of the reasons why I thought it was important to talk about this story for the first time, was so that people understand what this album is,” Bush reasons. “It’s one thing to listen to it and hear it as sunshine. It’s another thing to listen to it and hear it as sunshine into a cave. It’s been dark in there for a long time.”
Bush tells Rolling Stone about the lively new music, his lingering frustrations from the stage collapse and his eternal optimism about the future of Sugarland.