2012 CMA Country Christmas feat. Lauren Alaina, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Faith Hill, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Scotty McCreery, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Darius Rucker, Brian Setzer, Sugarland & Keith Urban
Even if you’re still taking down your Halloween decorations or desperately searching for last year’s paper turkey, you have to face the fact that the year’s most commercial holiday is lurking around the corner. But before tons of ice and gangs of Rockettes invade Opryland, another star-studded tradition, the CMA Country Christmas, will set the mood for the season. The annual show, recorded in advance and televised on ABC closer to the holidays, features yet another glittery lineup of contemporary country stars. Hosted by Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, the evening will include performances from Lady Antebellum, Martina McBride, Little Big Town, Dierks Bentley, The Band Perry, and token pop acts John Legend and Colbie Caillat. If this is your kind of music, it’s pretty much the best show ever. If it’s not, just stuff some coal in your ears and take the family anyway.
Lauren Alaina’s debut album, Wildflower, is a vibrant bouquet of compelling stories, powerful emotions and soaring vocals that is as irresistible and delightful as Lauren herself.
Lauren captured America’s heart when she appeared on American Idol earlier this year and revealed her enthusiasm, humor and warmth, as well as a commanding voice with an impressive range that has been compared to the genre’s premier vocalists, including Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride. She helped make the show one of the most popular yet. A record-breaking 122.4 million votes were cast for the finale, which garnered 29.3 million viewers, as well as 38.6 million who tuned in to see the winner’s name announced. She signed her record deal shortly thereafter and began recording her debut album with producer Byron Gallimore.
The result is a fitting musical portrait of the 16 year old’s personality, optimism and life experiences. There’s sauce and sentimentality, as well as an unwavering hope for the future and a belief in true love. “Wildflower is the perfect name for my first album,” she says. “I would consider myself a wildflower because wildflowers are sweet, but then they have a little bit of spunk to them – they are ’wildflowers,’” she says. “I like to have a lot of fun and I’m really sassy.
“I tried to get songs that were all different so everyone would have a part that they liked because people are different,” she says. “I tried to make it so that it would please everyone. It’s just me; that is what the album is: it’s Lauren Alaina. That is the common thread.”
Lauren’s inimitable spirit is showcased in “Georgia Peaches,” a fun celebration of Southern girls that proclaims, “Love to dance and we love to flirt, ain’t afraid of a little dirt.” Lauren says, “I am a Georgia peach. Even if you aren’t from Georgia, you can appreciate it because it’s the type of song that will get you up off of your feet and dancing.”
Lauren co-wrote “Funny Thing About Love” with Brett James and Luke Laird after discussing her own romantic experiences with them. “I feel like it turned out really great and I’m excited to see how people will respond to my own style of writing, as well as my style of music, period. It’s about when you like someone and they don’t like you, and when you don’t like them anymore, they like you. Timing is everything. When you are young, it never really works out. You are always on a different page.”
“Growing Her Wings” explores the coming-of-age quest for independence through the tale of a teenage girl who reads Cosmopolitan magazine, against her mother’s wishes, after she’s grounded for kissing the boy next door. “She’s growing her wings behind closed doors and she’s ready to fly away,” Lauren says. “I felt like that is who I was six months ago and I’ve formed my wings and I’m flying.”
In “She’s a Wildflower,” she encourages girls to believe in themselves by recognizing the beauty they possess. “As a teenage girl, you are your own worst critic,” says Lauren, who admits that she hasn’t been immune to self-doubt. “When I first heard the song, it made me want to cry because I know what it was like to be the freckled-face girl with a gap in her teeth,” she says. “Girls always put themselves down when they are really wildflowers and need to go for it.”
While she’s always 100 percent pro-girl, she’s not afraid to put flashy and shallow boys in their place, as she does in “I’m Not One of Them.” But she describes the innocence of young love in “Tupelo” and sings the praises of nice guys in “One Of Those Boys,” in which she reveals a weakness for jeans-wearin’ country boys who mind her curfew and love their mamas. “I am singing about a boy who is perfect, but he has all of these flaws that make me love him.”
“The Locket” is a poignant song about the power of love, both between a man and a woman and a grandmother and her granddaughter. “The grandmother has Alzheimer’s and she is starting to forget things and the granddaughter is reading out of a diary what has happened in her life,” she says. “It tells this beautiful story about these two people who fell in love when they were young kids and they grow old together.”
Lauren was surrounded by love and music as she was raised in Rossville, Ga., by her father, J.J., a chemical technician, and mother, Kristy, a transcriptionist. Her mother and older brother, Tyler, sang and her father is a multi-instrumentalist. Her parents played country and rock music in the house and Lauren favored music to television, especially Shania Twain, Aerosmith and the Dixie Chicks.
When she was 3, her mother was listening to the Dixie Chicks’ “When You Were Mine” until she turned the car off, but Lauren kept singing, hitting every note and word perfectly. Her mother bought the karaoke version of the Dixie Chicks for Lauren to sing to as she sat on the bar where they ate breakfast at Lauren’s grandmother’s restaurant.
Her first public performances came with a kids’ choir as well as an annual vacation spot that offered karaoke. Word soon spread about her talent and she began receiving invitations to perform. Beginning in elementary school, she routinely landed the lead roles in school plays.
At age nine, she wrote her first song, “She’s a Miracle,” after her aunt was in a car wreck. She sang in church, restaurants, family holiday gatherings and anywhere else. Says Lauren, “I would grab up every opportunity I could,” Lauren says. “I would go karaoke at any place within a 30-mile radius of where I lived. I would drive an hour just to sing. Any competition I would hear about I would enter.”
At age 8, she entered the talent competition of the Southern Stars Pageant and won, and the next year was selected to perform on the Kids talent stage at Chattanooga’s Riverbend Festival. She continued to perform on that stage annually until age 12, when she won the competition that allowed her to perform on the festival’s big stage. At age 10, she won the American Model and Talent Competition in Orlando, beating out 1,500 kids. She later joined the Georgia Country Gospel Music Association’s children’s group that performed at places such as Six Flags.
“I started coming to Nashville when I was about 12,” says Lauren, who enjoyed a normal childhood of playing softball, cheerleading and working at a pizza parlor. “I would go into the bars on Broadway before 6 p.m. and walk up to the people on the stage and ask if I could sing and they would let me.” Offstage, she was continuing to develop as a songwriter. Little did she know that she would be returning to Nashville to sign a major label record deal.
It was during Idol that she first heard her debut single and first hit, “Like My Mother Does.” “When they started playing it for me, I started crying because I went through this whole crazy journey and the only person who was there for me every step of the way was my mom. She didn’t get any praises for it and I got all of the attention. I thought the song would be a great way to say thank you for her for all that she does for me. When she came in and heard it, she cried. It was a sign. Everybody was crying, even the piano player.”
This year has been one of the most incredible and emotional years of her life. "When you are 16, you change a lot from the time you are 16 to 17 to 18. I got to change on national television, so everybody watched me grow up over the past year.
"I feel like people are going to continue to get to watch me grow up. It's cool that I have been able to meet so many people that I otherwise would have never been able to meet. I have been able to accomplish so many goals, like being on American Idol and releasing a single and now my first album. I know there is more to come in the future and I can't wait to see how everything unfolds."
"Vince Gill is quite simply a living prism refracting all that is good in country music. He uses the crystal planes of his songwriting, his playing, and his singing to give us a musical rainbow that embraces all men and spans all seasons." - Kyle Young/Country Music Foundation on Vince's induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Read more at http://www.VinceGill.com
Amy GrantChristian & Gospel
Amy Lee Grant is an American singer-songwriter, musician, author, media personality and actress, best known for her Christian music. She has been referred to as "The Queen of Christian Pop"
Faith Hill (born Audrey Faith Perry; September 21, 1967) is an American country singer. She is known both for her commercial success and her marriage to fellow country star Tim McGraw. Hill has sold more than 40 million records worldwide and accumulated eight number-one singles and three number-one albums on the U.S. Country charts. Hill has been honored by the Grammy Awards, the Academy of Country Music, the Country Music Association, the American Music Awards and the People's Choice Awards. Her Soul2Soul II Tour 2006 with McGraw became the highest-grossing country tour of all time. In 2001, she was named one of the "30 Most Powerful Women in America" by Ladies Home Journal. In 2008, Hill released her first Christmas album, titled Joy to the World. In 2009 Billboard named her as the No. 1 Adult Contemporary artist of the decade 2000–2009. Hill was ranked the 39th best artist of the 2000–2010 decade by Billboard.
Little Big TownCountry
Little Big Town is an American country music vocal group. Founded in 1998, the group has comprised the same four members since its inception: Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook, and Phillip Sweet. The quartet's musical style relies heavily on four-part vocal harmonies, with all four members alternating as lead singers. Westbrook and Sweet also play rhythm guitar. After a recording deal with the Mercury Nashville Records label which produced no singles or albums, Little Big Town released their self-titled debut on Monument Records in 2002. It produced two minor country chart singles before the group left the label. By 2005, the group had been signed to Equity Music Group, an independent record label owned by Clint Black. Their second album, The Road to Here, was released that year. Certified platinum in the U.S., it produced consecutive Top Ten singles on the country charts in "Boondocks" and "Bring It On Home". A Place to Land is the title of their third album, released in 2007. This album's first single, "I'm with the Band", was a Top 40 hit on the country charts. Shortly after its release, the group was transferred to Capitol Records Nashville, which acquired the rights to A Place to Land and released "Fine Line" and "Good Lord Willing" as its second and third singles, respectively.
After two decades in the music business, Martina McBride is starting over. Now signed to Republic Nashville, with new management (Clint Higham of Morris Artists Management), a new co-producer (Byron Gallimore), newly-spotlighted songwriting skills (she penned over half the songs on Eleven, her new CD), and a brand new spirit of accomplishment, Martina is swinging into high gear. And she couldn't be more thrilled.
"It really feels like starting over for me - but with a track record and with the success and experience I've had over the years," she explains. "I feel more mature and more confident, which comes with knowing yourself better. And there are a lot of opportunities now that I haven't had in a long time."
When her longtime contract with RCA Records expired in 2010, Martina revved up for new challenges ahead. "There comes a time when you have to step back and say, I need something different," she says. "It was a risk, but you have to do what feels right." After weighing her options, Martina decided to join two year-old Republic Nashville, part of the Big Machine Records family of labels. "We had a couple of offers that were really great," she notes, "but what really drew me in the end was Scott Borchetta and his reputation. When I met with him and his staff, their enthusiasm and passion for music were so evident - not only for the business but for the music. I really got the feeling that they get up every day and say, 'Wow! We get to be in the music business!" They have an innovative approach and such positive energy. It's contagious and something I wanted to be a part of."
While Scotty McCreery is learning about American history, the 17-year-old country singer is also busy making some of his own. In May, he won Season Ten of American Idol, becoming the youngest male winner in the show's nine-year history. A record-breaking 122.4 million votes were cast for Scotty and runner-up Lauren Alaina. The final show garnered 29.3 million viewers and 38.6 million people tuned in to see the winner's name announced. A week later, he made country music history when his debut single, "I Love You This Big," earned the highest debut for a new artist's first single on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart since at least 1984. The song, which hit the Top 20 in seven weeks, is one of the fastest-rising debut singles for a new country artist in history. He's recording his debut album for Mercury Nashville/19 Recordings/Interscope. He recently made his Grand Ole Opry debut and performed with Josh Turner at Nashville's LP Field during CMA Music Fest. He's performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the Today show. He is currently performing through September with the American Idols Live tour. "I've always dreamed of having a career in country music," Scotty says. "I just never thought it could happen. I had never really given myself a chance. Idol gave me the chance and I ran with it. I'm having a good time with it. It's what I wanted to do and I'm making a career out of it."
A rock provides a major clue to the heartbeat of Brad Paisley's Wheelhouse.
The piece, a silhouette of Paisley's homestate West Virginia, is embedded in one of two stone walls of the drum room in his converted home studio. The state represents the place where he first acquired the skills that coalesced into one of contemporary country's most important careers. The studio itself is where he essentially started over, producing himself for the first time and figuratively rebooting a career that was already the envy of most of Paisley's peers.
The rock reminder of West Virginia definitely belongs on the Middle Tennessee property. Paisley can't escape his past – nor would he want to. The 21 #1s, the three awards from ASCAP as the Country Songwriter/Artist of the Year, the 14 Country Music Association awards (including a win as Entertainer of the Year) and the 14 Academy of Country Music awards provide evidence that he has figured out how to connect in a big way with both the public and the country music business.
But as much as his past informs who he is, Paisley was inspired in this album to take a flying leap off a creative cliff. The album is called Wheelhouse, in part, because of the first line in the first song, "Southern Comfort Zone." The studio is now christened the Wheelhouse because Paisley changed his own comfort zone while recording the album.
"Whatever we do here," Paisley says in the studio's piano room, "whatever ends up coming out of here on an album, must end up eventually being in my wheelhouse. Because I've done it."
Much of what ended up among the 17 tracks on Wheelhouse was a result of Paisley's dedication to challenge. He'd never been his own producer, never commissioned a studio, never recorded an album without falling back on some of Nashville's studio musicians and never tackled some of the difficult themes that are present in the album. Certainly not in the way that he approached them on Wheelhouse.
"Every song was meant to incorporate something new for me, and to take some sort of twist you don't expect," Paisley explains. "Whether that be the lyric or the loop or the guest, or a different format like rap, or getting a comedian like Eric Idle, it needed to spin your head around somewhere.
"It's like my dog when you say his name followed by a command he doesn't understand. He's like, "Huh?" And he turns his head a little sideways. That's what I wanted every song to do, in one way or another."
Paisley did that in a big way with the album's first song and lead single, "Southern Comfort Zone," which incorporated a bevy of unpredictable elements – the voice of his late friend, Andy Griffith; pieces of the Southern folk standard "Dixieland"; and the Brentwood Baptist Church Choir. All of that was paired with Paisley's familiar voice and stunning guitar shredding while he challenged listeners to get out of their own comfort zones by seeing as much of the world as possible.
Embracing the song was not a challenge. "Southern Comfort Zone" became just his latest #1 single even while Paisley continued an 11-month sojourn with the album, which he wrapped in January 2013, just weeks before it was due to ship.
"I wrote a bunch of songs that aren't comfortable," he says. "And that was the point, really – for them to be vocally, musically, lyrically, thematically uncomfortable – or at least new enough to me that I think I had to stretch."
He did that in the songwriting process, writing to a pre-existing loop for the first time when he penned "Beat That Summer," the album's second single, with frequent collaborator Chris DuBois ("Welcome To The Future," "Old Alabama") and in-demand songwriter Luke Laird ("Pontoon," "Undo It"). Paisley took another fresh approach in sampling a classic country song, incorporating Roger Miller's "Dang Me" in "Outstanding In Our Field." And Paisley challenged himself yet again by threading Monty Python icon Eric Idle into the tongue-in-cheek marital commentary of "Harvey Bodine," the story of a henpecked husband who finds new life by dying.
You want more challenges? How about incorporating rap for the first time with the recitations of AAA singer/songwriter Mat Kearney, Grand Ole Opry member Charlie Daniels and iconic rapper LL Cool J?
But the biggest challenges might have come in Paisley's songwriting. The wit and thoughtfulness that have always been part of his work continue in Wheelhouse, but he pushes them to new extremes. The humor is particularly evident in "Death Of A Single Man" and the twisted "Karate," which manages to lighten two very heavy topics: domestic violence and karma. Even more challenging is Paisley's willingness to explore religious contradiction in "Those Crazy Christians" and the tragedy of discrimination in "Accidental Racist."
That song went through several incarnations before it finally found its properly sensitive voice. Paisley enlisted LL Cool J to write and deliver the song's counterpoint, sealing the deal as both of them stood on the stage of Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium, gazing at the balcony, ironically named the Confederate Gallery.
"'Accidental Racist' needed to be collaborative because I have no authority in terms of the other perspective," Paisley says. "I can only speak as a white Southerner. One of the greatest moments of my songwriting life was taking him for a ride around town after touring the Ryman. I'm playing the song, and he's banging on the dashboard and saying, 'This is important. I'm in.' Then he wrote his entire part himself. And I told him, 'You can say whatever you want. You want to tell me I'm crazy? Tell me I'm crazy. There's nothing off limits for you. Whatever you want to say in this song, you say it.' And he did."
It is the single most uncomfortable topic on the album. And it's exactly why Paisley was adamant that it belonged on Wheelhouse.
"What kind of an artist am I if I let the fear of consequences for art be take away my willingness to speak about what I believe in?" he asks rhetorically. "I couldn't look myself in the eye in the mirror if I was willing to just say, 'I think it's important and people need to hear it, but that scares me because I don't know what that'll do to my career, so I just won't put it on there.' I couldn't do that."
The Wheelhouse, the site for all of Paisley's self-challenge, was borne of his personal past. The studio was built in the home he and his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, occupied for several years at the beginning of their marriage. Once they built a new place, it became a guest house, but Paisley began to envision it as more of a creative space. His old bedroom had odd angles in its ceiling and closets that created perfect acoustics for a studio environment. He turned the living room into an expansive location for the piano, and used a tiled downstairs bathroom as an echo chamber. He built the drum room – with its rock walls and dynamic sound – in just a couple weeks before recording commenced in the spring of 2012.
Paisley employed his road band as his studio ensemble, a rare move in mainstream country, and they typically worked after dark on the project, sometimes finishing a session at 4:30 or 5 a.m., just in time to catch the tour bus for a ride to a concert date.
Part of the challenge of Wheelhouse was to embrace the humanity of the musicians. Technology was embraced for capturing sound or enhancing it. But it was limited if the intent was to slice every imperfection out of the recordings.
"We didn't fix much on this whole album," Paisley notes. "When you hear the band, it's essentially them playing the best they can, it's not an engineer fixing anything. That was my rule. We could fix something if there was something glaringly bad, but as far as fixes for the sake of perfection or whatever, they are not there. We didn't do any of that."
Nor did Paisley do that with his vocals. Recording on his own property gave him the freedom to write and re-write new lyrics to his songs at the last minute, and to do his vocal tracks on days when he was particularly inspired. Some of the songs represent him singing a line for the very first time.
Because he took a leap in producing, he was forced to take even greater command as a singer. Over time, the process increased his confidence and his strength as a vocalist, evident in the elongated notes in "I Can't Change The World" and "Officially Alive," and in the expressiveness of "Tin Can On A String," sung in a vocal booth that was formerly his closet.
"It was a different feeling," Paisley says of the process. "When I hadn't produced my records, I always really leaned on Frank Rogers to get things out of me. It's almost like he would have to crack a whip and make me sing. But when you're doing it yourself, for me, I had so much to prove and say, it was really up to me to step up to the plate."
Paisley challenged himself in one other important way. The sampled sound of a human heartbeat is introduced in "Tin Can," the 11th of the 17 tracks, and it continues pulsing underneath the remainder of Wheelhouse through the end of the finale, "Officially Alive," which Paisley wrote on his own as a summation.
As he experienced a creative rebirth on Wheelhouse, he began to ponder: When does one truly start living? He realized one experiences life most in the midst of personal challenge.
"You're alive when that girl you thought you'd marry is driving away in the limousine with someone else," he says. "And you're alive when you're standing in Paris looking at the Eiffel Tower, and you know when you go back to Nashville, you'll never be the same. And you're alive when you stand up for something you believe in and aren't afraid to do that. And you're alive when your first child is born, and that love you feel is so much larger than you ever imagined possible. That's why I wrote that. That song was meant to be the exclamation point."
It's the final piece of his transition as Paisley moves into the next phase of his career. He cannot – and will not – let go of his past. But he's also excited about the uncertainty of the future. The West Virginia stone is a reminder of where he's been. The Wheelhouse and its namesake album are the starting point for the rest of Brad Paisley's creative journey.
Even in a career as filled with music and milestones as that of Rascal Flatts, there are times when capturing the moment isn't difficult. Sometimes, it only takes a word. The release of Changed, the trio's eighth studio album, is a great case in point.
"Given what we've been through the past two years," says Jay DeMarcus, "I don't think there could be any better title. This feels like the next step in Rascal Flatts' evolution."
What the trio has been through amounts to an almost complete metamorphosis of the business aspects of their career. Jay, who handles bass and vocals, along with guitarist/vocalist Joe Don Rooney and lead vocalist extraordinaire Gary LeVox, have established themselves at Big Machine Records following the 2010 demise of their longtime label, and have joined forces with Spalding Entertainment after parting with their longtime management team. The fact that their first CD for Big Machine, Nothing Like This, hit #1 on the charts and produced three singles of the caliber of "Why Wait," "I Won't Let Go" and "Easy," would seem to indicate they've handled the process smoothly, but they are quick to point out that any transition this big holds its challenges.
"Change isn't always easy to go through," says Joe Don, "and some of this was hard for us. But fortunately there's another side to change. We're all family men now, husbands and fathers, and there is so much stability to draw on there. Put it all together, and it's life-changing stuff that can be scary, but beautiful at the same time."
Its a voice that needs no introduction. Darius Ruckers soulful, rich baritone instantly resonates as a comforting companion in this journey we call life. On LEARN TO LIVE, his first project for Capitol Records Nashville, Rucker has created a work that is steeped in the country traditions of meaningful lyrics and resonant melodies, yet sounds completely modern.
Brian Setzer (born April 10, 1959) is an American guitarist, singer and songwriter. He first found widespread success in the early 1980s with the 1950s-style rockabilly revival group Stray Cats, and revitalized his career in the late 1990s with his Swing revival band, The Brian Setzer Orchestra.
To hear Jennifer Nettles tell it, it’s a brand new day in Sugarland. Despite winning multiple Grammy, CMA and ACM awards—and selling more than 8 million records—the country-music duo of Nettles and Kristian Bush is embracing a creative rebirth, a musical awakening that permeates their adventurous fourth album, The Incredible Machine.
“We are in a place of discovery,” Jennifer says. “It is the essence of who we are as people in this band. There is never a moment where we think, ’This is good enough.’ There’s always a place for growth.”
A growth that Kristian says has been encouraged by their fans, their record label, and, most importantly, by the genre-bending, all-are-welcome country-music industry. “It’s as if the industry and the culture have singled out the biggest risks we’ve taken on a record, a song like ’Stay’ for example, and celebrated those,” he says gratefully. “They’ve embraced us at those times. We’ve tried to learn from that and this is what we’ve made.”
And what they’ve created is a dynamic masterwork. Co-written and co-produced in full by Jennifer and Kristian, The Incredible Machine is a soaring album elevated by sky-high choruses, ringing guitars, and pulsing drums that recall the beating of the album’s titular engine, the human heart.
Kristian describes it as a collection of anthems—and there may be no greater understatement. If the duo was searching for the grander side of country on their last record, the double platinum Love on the Inside, they’ve obviously found it on The Incredible Machine. From the fanfare of the album’s opener “All We Are” to Jennifer’s sublime piano-ballad closer “Shine the Light,” this is an album built for stadiums.
“This record is designed to play in very large places and to communicate with a large group of people,” Kristian confirms. “When you have an instrument as powerful and as graceful as Jennifer’s voice, you don’t want to tip-toe in. You really go for it! And those types of songs are often where Jennifer and I intersect musically.”
In fact, the pair found shared inspiration in the iconic music and films of the 1980s, their growing-up years. “We allowed ourselves to play with our influences,” Jennifer admits. As such, the coming-of-age movies by director John Hughes and songs by Blondie, Peter Gabriel, The Pretenders and even The Clash all helped fire up the Machine. “When we were writing, we asked what if John Hughes were making movies now.... Who would be on the soundtrack?” Kristian says, going on to connect the dots between rebellious country and rebellious rock. “If you dig far enough you’re going to see that The Clash and Johnny Cash had a lot in common. I like to live right where those guys meet.”
In a song like the joyous “Find the Beat Again,” for instance, Jennifer reminds the heavy-hearted among us that nothing lasts forever, while Kristian’s siren-like guitar sound—a technique he adapted from The Clash, he says—pushes the song toward its climax.
Or the call-to-arms “Stand Up,” in which the band exhorts listeners to “use your voice.” A tale of personal empowerment, the track is almost heroic in its message. It’s also one of two songs on the album to showcase Kristian’s voice. “I don’t know how many people have really ever heard me sing before,” he says of his lead verse. “For fans of the band, it’s like a whole new layer is peeled back.”
“All We Are” is equally triumphant. A rallying cry of sorts, it culminates in a mass of melodies folding upon one another. The result is breathtaking, a musical equation so intricate that it solidifies the duo’s ability to write complex fare as well as breezy, winking tunes like first single “Stuck like Glue.”
“We write songs for different reasons. There are some songs that we want to change your life and there are some that we just want to change your day. That’s what ’Stuck like Glue’ is,” Jennifer laughs. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and that’s what fans love.”
They also flock to Jennifer’s knack for finding the voice of everywoman—or even everyman. One of Sugarland’s many gifts is their ability to write lyrics that transcend gender, like in their 2004 breakout hit “Baby Girl.” On The Incredible Machine, the proof is in the acoustic “Little Miss,” a profile of a woman who tries to handle everything, all by herself. “I saw my mom as that person. I see pieces of it in my own daughter. Jennifer is certainly one of those women,” Kristian says.
Aside from the powerhouse rocker “Wide Open,” written specifically for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, “Little Miss” is one of the record’s earliest penned tracks. “We were at a festival over a year ago and I was on the bus doing my makeup while Kristian was warming up,” recalls Jennifer. “I was wearing a checkered dress and he started playing this lick and singing, ’Little Miss checkered dress.’ I popped my head out and sang, ’Little Miss one big mess!’ The way that song was discovered was fun and really beautiful.”
And the band is confident that fans, old and new alike, will have a similar experience as they discover the gears and cogs of The Incredible Machine—a country record, a pop record, an anthem record, a ballad record, but above all, an authentic record.
“It’s just the two of us,” says Kristian. “In the story of who we are, this album is more us than we’ve ever been.”
Jennifer agrees and says the band’s rebirth is best summed up in the gentle, searching words of the album’s title track: Feels like I’m flying, wings made of light/brand new and shinin’, like a shot rung out through the night.
“That’s a wonderful metaphor and image for this newly emerging creature that Sugarland is right now, with these vulnerable but beautiful wings. The Incredible Machine is definitely us, but at the same time, there is something very precious and new,” she says. “And we want to show it to the world!”
On Defying Gravity, the openhearted and uplifting new album by Keith Urban, there is a deeply felt musical statement, a life-affirming song cycle marked by a clearheaded sense of passion and hope. From the opening romantic yearning of “Kiss A Girl”, to the heartfelt gratitude of the closing “Thank You”, Defying Gravity offers listeners the inspiring and stirring sound of a great musical artist coming of age and creating his most personal and effecting music yet.