It’s been four years since the stage at the Indiana State Fair crashed to the ground minutes before a Sugarland show, killing seven people who’d shown up early for front-row seats. More than 100 others were injured. Bandmate Kristian Bush is still reeling from the disaster, which kicked off a string of tragedies that unfolded over the following 12 months, including a divorce from his wife, a lengthy lawsuit with families affected by the stage collapse and an ongoing break from one of the most successful country duos of the 21st century.
Those challenges — and the new songs they helped spawn — take center stage on Walk Tall: The Journey of Sugarland’s Kristian Bush, an upcoming documentary that makes its television debut next week. Broadcast in 80 different markets across the country, the hour-long project finds Bush talking candidly about the hardest period of his life, mixing interviews and concert footage with shocking clips from the Indiana concert.
“By the time I got to the Indiana State Fair,” Bush says during the film’s trailer, “I was already going through a divorce that was so private that even some of my closest friends didn’t even know about it. And then that day, the stage fell. . . Music’s not supposed to do that. Nothing about music is ever supposed to hurt anybody.”
For years, ongoing legal issues kept Bush from addressing the stage collapse in public. Looking for an outlet, he turned to music, whipping up a batch of songs that eventually formed the foundation of his solo debut, Southern Gravity. That album hit stores this spring, one year after Jennifer Nettles released her own solo record, That Girl.
“The amount of sad it took to get to the happy was gigantic. But I don’t want to make a sad record. All I could really do is write music, even if I couldn’t talk about what’s going on in my life. In collecting these [songs], I realize you kind of leave them for yourself along the way,” Bush told Rolling Stone Country in April. “Putting together a record of joy has been really hard, but I’m so proud of it. And if it’s helping me, maybe it’ll help someone else.
Taken as a whole, Southern Gravity and the documentary go hand-in-hand, with the film an inside look into the life of a musician who, for years, was often seen as the sideman, letting his big-voiced partner take most of the lead vocals. As it turns out, the guy has a lot to say.