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Your Country’s Right Here: Ashton Shepherd Ready To Debut ‘Where Country Grows’

Fasten your seat belt—All indications are that Ashton Shepherd‘s sophomore album Where Country Grows is going to skyrocket when it’s released July 12.

Just consider that “Look It Up,” the first single from the album, entered the Top 20 soon after it was released. That was followed by tremendous buzz about her EP of the same name. Critics reviewing her new album can’t sing their praises loudly enough.

None other than Rolling Stone lauded Shepherd for having the “the biggest, brassiest singing [voice] on either side of the Mason-Dixon.” The critic went on to praise the album’s “ten smart, soulful songs” and compare her to Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn.

That praise might go to the heads of many but not this native of the small town of Coffeesville, Ala. (population 340). Shepherd recently took time out of her jam-packed schedule to talk a bit about her career, her family, the new baby she has on the way and just where she’s headed from here.

OS: This album marks the first time you co-wrote songs. What is your favorite memory about writing with Dean Dillon, Dale Dodson, Bobby Pinson and Troy Jones? Did you dread it?

AS: Me and Bobby wrote a couple of songs with Troy. One of my favorite memories, and this is me telling on myself, is that before going in my husband and I were parked outside [my publishing company]. I was saying I had just found out I had to write with two people and I got so aggravated. I felt so intimidated and I was kind of fussing. I walked in there, though and had the best time! We wrote a ballad that almost went on this record. We’re holding that for another time. And we wrote “Tryin’ To Go To Church” and laughed and laughed. I am a God fearing person and didn’t want to sound like I was preaching or being disrespectful to the Good Lord, but I wanted to say “Lord I’m really trying. I am going to get to you! My goal is to get to you.”

OS: How are you going to celebrate your new album’s release?

AS: Oh, my, I’m going to be really busy that week. Wow, I need to think about that. I’m sure we’ll have a little celebration. To be honest, I’d rather celebrate after this baby is born and I can have some [champagne].

OS: It’s funny to think about your daughter and know she will always know you as famous.

AS: You know, my husband and I have talked about that a lot. We talk about what if we really do someday have a lot of money, wouldn’t it be weird if our little girl or [our son] James never have to eat potted meat sandwiches or something? Part of the grit that builds who you are comes from living that way. We try to keep things realistic around our son. We just try to raise him old school. He knows he’s not going to have a cell phone or Facebook page at age six.

OS: What’s your favorite pre-show ritual?

AS: I really don’t have any. I guess the one I have is to put on some really good old country music and listen to it in the bus. One I like to play is “Jukebox Junkie.” That one is so great for driving down the road! We just try to pick kicking cool songs.

OS: So what has been your craziest fan request?

AS: Oh I had this [teenage] boy come up. I heard him ask security something and I heard them say “She won’t do that,” and I thought, “Oh dear.” He came up and asked if I would kiss him on the cheek. I said “No, my husband might get mad!” I turned it into a bit of a joke but it was pretty gutsy of him to come up and ask!

OS: I hear your son James likes Lynyrd Skynyrd. Who turned him onto them?

AS: Me and my husband! When we got iTunes that was one of the first things we did, download all the Skynyrd classics. My son is a huge Skynyrd fan. He is to the point of randomy asking questions [about the band] when we’re in the car. That’s the music he plays drums to, too. He loves [the song] “Gimme Back My Bullets.”

He knows Conway Twitty and a lot of country, too. He likes country music and he always wants to know who I’m on stage with. When he met Josh Turner he said “I know who you are. I’ve seen you on TV.” He wanted to sound like he knew everything!

OS: What did your son say when he learned you were expecting?

AS: “We are going to have a new little one!” I kept it hidden from the media until we had two or three appointments, but I let him call my parents and some of my family. He is so excited. He can’t wait until [September 15, my due date].”

OS: When you were a kid, what was the first  record you bought?

AS: The first groups of records I ordered ordered were Confederate Railroad and BlackHawk. I like my women on the trashy side!

OS: So many great things are happening for you this year. What do you think is next?

AS: We are really excited about this year. These are all God’s special gifts and…the rest is in his hands.

Find out more about Shepherd’s music, her upcoming concerts and more on her Web site and check out the video for “Look It Up” below.

Q&A With Randy Houser

Professional songwriters don’t always make the leap to the big stage, but for Randy Houser the transition was natural.  After gaining recognition for co-writing chart-topping country hits for Trace Adkins and Justin Moore, Houser recorded his debut album Anything Goes for Universal South Records.  Several CMA award nominations, television appearances and national tours later, he is a major player on the country music scene.  This summer, he’s on the road with Willie Nelson for the Country Throwdown Tour and preparing new songs for his third studio album.  OurStage caught up with Houser to talk about the inspiration for his most recent single, his experience breaking into the Nashville scene, and his method for achieving a unique sound in the studio.

OS:  You recently released a new single called “In God’s Time,” which has a pretty powerful spiritual message.  Could you tell us more about the inspiration for the song?

RH: “In God’s Time” came at a time when I really needed to hear from God.  He more or less kind of popped me upside the head and said, “Hey, you need to think about things a little bit,” and I think that’s what I did.  This song had been in my heart for a while.  It’s really about slowing down and letting things happen instead of trying to make things happen.  It’s not like you’ve got to quit working, but a lot of times we expect things to be the way we want them, and we expect to have things happen when we want them and how we want them.  Sometimes that’s just not the case.  Sometimes God has a different plan for us.  So in that song I was learning to chill out and handle a lot of things that I had originally called problems.

OS: As the first single from your next album, does “In God’s Time” give a preview of what to expect from the sound and themes of the rest of the tracks?

RH: I’m not sure yet, really.  At this point I’m just writing and I’m not sure what the next album is going to be.  I’m just writing a lot of songs and then I’ll put them together after that.

OS: You grew up in Mississippi and played in a few bands there before moving to Nashville to pursue music as a career.  What was it like when you were musician trying to break out in Nashville?

RH: It was tough, but I had already spent so many years playing and recording music down in Mississippi.  I was twenty-five or twenty-six years old when I moved to Nashville, so I had been doing music for a pretty good while before that.  When I moved there, I had a pocketful of songs and I got a publishing deal pretty soon after.  I was able to make a living writing songs for other people, which really helped.  There was never a big transition from songwriter to performing artist because I had already played music for so many years that it was just natural.

OS: Speaking of the transition from writer to performer, do you find there’s a difference between writing songs for others behind the scenes and performing your own songs onstage?

RH: Yeah there is a difference.  As a songwriter for hire, you’re just writing songs and predicting what other people want to sing about.  When I’m writing songs for myself and when I’m going to record a song, it has to be something that directly relates to my life or I won’t record it.  I’m not up there trying to act like somebody else or trying to play a part.  What you see is just my songs and myself.

OS: You’ve mentioned that in Nashville, everybody uses the same production techniques, and that you want to break from this standard sound in your recordings.  How have you done that?

RH: You hire different musicians and you hire different engineers that have different visions.  Like with our last album, we used Charlie Brocco to engineer the record.  He knew a little bit about what the Nashville sound was, but he comes from a more rock and roll background.  We made a country record with a guy that does rock and roll, and it’s not a big, loud, slamming guitar record.  “Whistlin’ Dixie” is probably the closest thing to that on my last album, but [Brocco] didn’t actually engineer that song.  He did the rest of the record, though.  We’re really just making a little departure from the same sound that everybody expects.

OS: You’ve recently been playing alongside Willie Nelson on the Country Throwdown Tour.  What has that experience been like?

RH: It’s been the most awesome experience ever.  I can’t think of a better way to spend my summer than touring with my biggest musical hero.  Simply put!

Check out Randy Houser’s upcoming tour dates on the Country Throwdown Tour here, and take a listen to his new single “In God’s Time” below!

Your Country’s Right Here: Sunny Sweeney Talks Brad Paisley, Real Tears And Treadmills

Sunny Sweeney is poised to be the next big break out star in country music. Just consider that her debut single “From a Table Away,” zoomed into the Top 10 almost as soon as it was released. That makes Sunny the first new female artist to hit the Top 10 since 2007 when Taylor Swift did so.

Now Sweeney’s single “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving,” is on the charts. Plus, she  has signed on to tour in support of Brad Paisley H2O II: Wetter and Wilder Tour, that begins July 22.  As many recall, it wasn’t long after Carrie Underwood came to national prominence that an opening gig on a Paisley tour helped skyrocket her into the major musical leagues. As if Paisley’s star power isn’t enough, Blake Shelton is also on this latest tour.

Sweeney took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to tell us a bit about upcoming album, her thoughts about performing on the same stage as Brad Paisley and just how she stays healthy as she adjusts to life on the road:

OS: Your debut album will be released in August. Who were your main influences for the songs?

SS: Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, all the artists I loved growing up. There are ten songs on the album and I wrote or co-wrote seven. There are three covers I heard that I was just so excited about I had to do.

OS: What were some of the personal inspirations behind the songs?

SS: I have just been through a lot in the last couple years in my personal live. As I was writing, I would add stuff in my personal drama that was going on.

OS: That has to be difficult, to put your personal turmoil out there and share it with audiences over and over again.

SS: You have to put it out there. When you do, people respond to it. Those are the best songs that you can write. When we chose the songs for the album, I was saying “may the best song win.” I’m really excited because [this album has] a really good collection of songs. I am really, really proud of them.

OS: But how do you deal with the myriad of emotions that must swell each time you play such a personal song?

SS: The most emotion I experienced in the “song” process was the actual writing of the songs. Each time I sing them, it reminds me of the lessons I’ve learned in my life. For me, it’s easier to sing songs of a personal nature. In my video for “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving,” my tears were real tears because I was asked to draw upon emotions from my past.

OS: So many of your influences are traditional country yet the trend for many artists seems to be toward country rock or country pop. Where do you fit in?

SS: Just probably right in the middle. I definitely have a lot of old country influences, but some of my songs are more rocking. They are all mixed into my shows. The record is very reminiscent of the shows.

OS: It’s got to be tough to adjust to life on the road. How do you stay in shape?

SS: I do work out every day, usually on a treadmill. I also drink tons of water and sleep as much as I can, which typically isn’t that much.

OS: You say you are very close to your parents and whole family. What do you do when you go home to visit them?

SS: I see them as much as I can and try to get as much family time as possible. We just hang out, and eat, and talk. I have three sisters and a brother. We are probably weird, but we just like to get beer and sit on the back porch and listen to music.

OS: What was your first thought when you had the opportunity to tour with Brad Paisley?

SS: HELL YEAH! Let me check my schedule. OK, I checked. I’m free, just tell me what time I need to be there.

OS: When you perform on the H2O tour, what are the two or three things you want audiences to take away from the show?

SS: I want them to walk away with the sense that they were told a story set to music and I want them to realize that traditional country music is cool and entertaining.

OS: You were around for a while and then we didn’t hear from you for a bit. What were you doing?

SS: It’s only been a year since we finished recording my CD, and for the last twelve months, I have been on a radio tour, which was grueling but very rewarding and it’s starting to pay off. This Brad Paisley tour is an awesome opportunity and it’s only the beginning of bigger things to come hopefully. I couldn’t be luckier … somebody pinch me.

Find out more about Sunny Sweeney, including upcoming concert dates, on her Web site.

Kickstart OurHeart: In The Hands Of A Lesser God

If patience is a virtue, Lenny Cochrun is basically the Dalai Lama of country music. He’s been building towards his debut album since 1989, and he’s finally ready to hit the studio and turn his dream into reality. Although based in Austin, Cochrun learned the ins and outs of the music biz over the years on the road with his family. An avid guitar player for over three decades, and a singer for longer than that, this guy is ready solidify his passion in the form of a record titled In The Hands of a Lesser God. With a little help from a lot of people, the last piece of the puzzle will fall into place within a month —$23,500 of help, to be exact, for his Kickstarter project.

Sure, that’s a lot of lettuce, but Cochrun isn’t planning on half-assing a project that he’s been working towards for over twenty yeras. For instance, he’s got the GRAMMY winning Fletch Wiley in his corner as producer, a professional recording space and top-notch players in Austin to work with. Everyone is getting paid, of course, except Lenny. Even Kickstarter gets a cut. In lieu of getting paid, though, he’ll have something much more valuable: an album to tour with, share with the world and make a living off of. We’re sure you’re curious what the album will actually sound like, so check out this live solo performance by Cochrun and you can extrapolate from there:

We’d love to give Lenny Cochrun a chance to realize his lifelong dream. We’re also really excited to hear what he’s been working on for so long, especially recorded in a professional setting with other local Austin talent. Do you feel same? Let’s make it happen! And if country isn’t your cup of tea, feel free to share this with some of your friends who might be interested.

Your Country’s Right Here: Rascal Flatts Offers Fans Music, Stars And A Wedding Chapel, Too!

Rascal Flatts are used to fans asking for autographs on unique items.

That’s happened even more since the recent release of the band’s sixth studio album Nothing Like This, which debuted at No. 1 on the country music charts. That makes this album, the trio’s first on the Big Machine label, it’s sixth consecutive studio album to debut at No. 1 on the country album sales charts. As much as the trio wants to satisfy fan requests, though, one at the CMA Music Festival earlier this month in Nashville, gave them pause.

“Country music fans are the best, truly,” said Joe Don Rooney just before the band launched its Flatts Fest tour last Saturday, June 18, in Bristow, VA. “The fans always want something signed and we’ve seen some very unique articles of clothing and other items. One fan, though, wanted us to sign her [eight-month-old] baby’s forehead. We just can’t sign a baby’s forehead! We aren’t sure what the ink would do! Sometimes I wonder if fans are sorry they had us sign things. Maybe they get home and think ‘That was my favorite shirt. Why did I have them sign it?’”

Such regrets aren’t very likely, though, as evidenced by the sold out concerts, multi-million selling records and demands for the group to appear and perform at high-profile gigs ranging from the GRAMMY Awards to Oprah’s final television show. Rooney talked about how the fans are the reason the band has continued to thrive and grow even after ten years.

That’s one reason the band has turned Flatts Fest into a full extravaganza featuring everything from a real wedding chapel (complete with preacher), karaoke, memorabilia (think of Rooney’s first golf club) and horseshoe competitions. All of that will take place the afternoons preceding the shows that include Easton Corbin, Justin Moore, Sara Evans and, of course, Rascal Flatts.

“This is going to be very different for the fans and for us,” said Rooney. “As we’ve toured the last six years, we’ve tried to develop different ideas for Flatt Fest. Now we are finally able to bring it out for the world to see!”

That includes the concert, of course, with fan favorites and plenty of new songs. Although he made no promises about what was in store at each city—”I can’t give away all of our secrets”—the band will play the Lionel Richie tune “Dancing on the Ceiling.”

They recently recorded the song with the R&B legend and it will released later this year. Richie fans will be in for a treat at all of the shows, too, Rooney hinted.

“We just want to give back to our fans,” said Rooney. “That what this is all about.”

Rooney knows what that means to fans. When he was ten years old, long before he thought of a career in music, he met Vince Gill.

“I remember him shaking my hand and signing an autograph for me. I still have it,” said Rooney, who now counts Gill among his personal friends. “It says ‘Keep on pickin”. I told him he was quite the fortune teller. I hadn’t even started playing music then!”

Find out more about Rascal Flatts, including concert dates, on the band’s  Web site.

Your Country’s Right Here: Craig Campbell Talks “Throwdown” With Willie Nelson

Watching the joy Craig Campbell‘s music brings to audiences when he performs songs from his debut album as part of a current major country tour, it’s difficult to reconcile that he almost gave up music before he got his break.

Not that anyone can be blamed for throwing in the towel in the ultra-competitive music business. But thanks to the faith of his now deceased sister, who started him on his musical career, and some prodding from his mother after he landed in Nashville, Campbell kept going. The payoff? Besides his self-titled debut album, he is now on Willie Nelson‘s Country Throwdown Tour with the Red Headed Stranger himself, plus Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser and Lee Brice.

“I had moved to Nashville with a friend of mine…He talked me into moving up there and then he decided to move back home,” said Campbell, a Georgia native. “There were about two weeks I was there by myself. I got homesick for a very short period of time and thought I’d go home.”

He changed his mind after his mom told him to stay in Nashville “just a little bit longer” before he returned. After they spoke, he found himself walking down Nashville’s famous Broadway andhearing the country music pouring out onto the streets. That’s when he knew he had to stay.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the music lured him in when you consider Campbell was first exposed to country music when he was only about five. That’s when his older brother would play country songs as he drove the young Campbell to school. From there, he was hooked.

“I went to my first concert when I was in high school,” said Campbell. “It was Bryan White, Vince Gill and Patty Loveless. I just loved it.”

What he found especially compelling was the control the artists had over their voices. Today Campbell is lauded by critics for his pitch and control, too. That comes from just listening to solid country music as a way to develop his style.

“I have never had a lesson,” said Campbell of singing. “It’s just something I do and I realized I could do pretty early on, standing beside my mama in church, singing.”

His family realized it too, which is why his sister acted as his in-home cheerleader, prompting him to try out for a singing contest when he was fifteen. He won $200, a guitar that he still has and the confidence to continue.

Just before the Country Throwdown Tour began, Campbell reflected a bit on how he’s prepared to play in front of thousands of people so early in his career.

“I don’t think you can [prepare],” he said. “I think I will just go out and do it. Lee Brice has a song on my new record. Randy House is a pretty good buddy. And as for Willie and Jamey, well, I [can't be intimidated. I] just have to go out and play and stand up on stage and sing my songs.”

Find out more about Campbell, including concert dates, on his Web site.

Your Country’s Right Here: Lindi Ortega’s ‘Little Red Boots’ Jump On Roots Charts

For Lindi Ortega, the Little Red Boots tell it all.

Not only is this the title of Ortega’s debut album, released June 7 on Last Gang Records, but the term is a reminder of this phase of her career. The former Interscope artist, whose well-known for her work with The Killers’ Brandon Flowers and the UK band Keane, took a look at her art not long ago and realized her heart belongs to country.

“It was a metamorphosis,” Ortega said of the direction in which her songwriting traveled. “I was writing songs and they had [the flavor of] Nora Jones and k.d. lang, that vibe. And my favorite record [of late] is Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. I love that warm, old school vibe and tried to capture that essence in this recording.”

The Toronto resident’s commitment to the sound was underscored on a trip to Nashville when she found real-life little red boots. Since her manager purchased them for her, they’vebeen her constant companion as she has recorded her new album and toured.

“I slipped them on and I could literally hear a chorus of angels,” she said. “It happened to be my birthday at the time, too. I’ve had them now for about two years and the soles are coming off but I’m keeping them always.”

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Ortega’s music sounds like a mix of sounds from Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. Those and other traditional country performers made the music that Ortega was raised on.

“My mom was huge into country and that is what got me into country,” says Ortega who has “Bird on a Wire,” from a Leonard Cohen song, tattooed on her wrist. “I love Johnny [Cash], Willie [Nelson], and of course a lot of country people covered Leonard Cohen.”

Frequent trips to Nashville is just what Ortega needed to let the country flow into her own songs.

“I found awesome people there, friends who came to visit me in Toronto,” she said. “It was cool to hear how my music and styling fit in with the Nashville way of writing. My brand of country comes from the old school and it’s really, really cool to mesh it with new country ideas.”

“You know, it’s hard to refer to touring as a job because I love it so much.”

Clearly the love is there for roots fans, too, who put the new album at No. 10 on the roots chart, behind recent releases by Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and other major artists.

“The next part of my story is to tour,” said Ortega. “I’d love to be heavily touring across the United States and working on a new record. It’d also be amazing to do some collaborations. This is all just icing on the cake.”

Find out more about Lindi, her album and her upcoming concerts on her Web site.

Your Country’s Right Here: Mandy Barnett Offers “Sweet Dreams” To Patsy Cline Fans

Mandy Barnett has an old soul.

How else to explain her devotion to great vocalists ranging from Patsy Cline to Linda Ronstadt and Connie Francis? And how else would she be able to masterfully record some of the best-loved songs of Patsy Cline while adding a few subtle twists to make them her own?

“I am not a writer. I’m a vocalist and an interpreter of classics,” said Barnett by telephone from the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville just before she was scheduled to perform. “Whether it’s the ’40s, ’50s or ’60s, I’m really drawn to the classics in each genre.”

She does them proud, too, as evidenced by the critical and popular thumbs up reviews she has received for her albums and concertsplus her theatrical role in Always….Patsy Cline. It was her role in the two-woman show that tells the story of Cline and her devoted fan Louise Seger that prompted fans to ask her to record some of Cline’s classics.

Barnett’s new twelve-song album Sweet Dreams, released May 24, includes many of the songs Cline made popular plus a few other favorites including the Irving Berlin standards “Always” and “Strange.”

Reinterpreting and recording such powerhouse songs is no easy task when you consider that most of the songs are ingrained in popular culture.

“We were trying to figure out how to breathe life into these songs,” said Barnett of the recording session. “It’s tough when you have someone like her that sings and interprets songs so beautifully. You want what you to do pay tribute to her but stand on its own.”

Although some classic Cline songs such as “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “Fall to Pieces” were recorded with the standard arrangements, Barnett is especially proud of other songs such as “Sweet Dreams” where tweaks made the songs more her own.

She credits producer Steve Gibson with working closely with her and the musicians to carefully polish the songs.

“He has been a very successful studio musician for many years now, and he’s very respectful of the music,” she said. “He brought a lot of great musicians to the table. I thought we were all really on the same page as far as the material. This was a very pleasurable record to make. It makes a big difference when you can record together [in the studio]. That really makes the most of it.”

Of course, starting with some of the finest songs in the country catalog gave Barnett and the whole team a true advantage, she said.

“The good thing is that these are all really good songs, very well written,” she said. “When you have that, you can do anything. It makes it so easy when the quality is so high.”

Find out more about Barnett and the new album Sweet Dreams on the Ryman Web site.

The theatrical production Always…Patsy Cline will run Fridays, Saturday and Sundays from June 17 until July 24 at the Ryman Auditorium. For information, check here.

Get Lyrical: Calico Trail’s “Sweet Southern Small Town Summertime”

We’ve all heard the old joke: “What do you get when you play a country song backwards? You get your dog back, your wife back, your house back, your kids back…” Okay, sure. A lot of country songs deal with some pretty similar themes, and they aren’t always the cheeriest. But that’s why we count on bands like Calico Trail to mix things up for us. Their song “Sweet Southern Small Town Summertime” is anything but depressing. The Nashville-based songwriting collective uses it as a celebration of the joys of, well, being in a small town during the summer.

Calico Trail knows what makes us love the hot summer months, and finds a way to reference all of the things that make the season so universally appealing while rhyming them in a charming fashion. “Fishing poles” are paired with “swimming holes,” “flip flops” are rhymed with  “bikini tops,” and “lawn chairs” are matched up with “county fairs”. While there are a few southern summer standards that aren’t too familiar to us (“big ol’ tractors driving right through town” for example) the song’s lyrics still resonate. They also leave us with a few unanswered questions — such as, is the South really a place where “ice creams cones are fried”? Because that sounds right up our alley.

Much like small towns, Calico Trail’s song is enjoyable because they keep it simple. The twangy chorus is only one line, “Sweet Southern Small Town Summertime,” and its laid-back delivery begs for you to sing along. But don’t let the folksy chorus fool you, the verses of the track are so packed with colorful, sunny imagery that the seven-piece can take a break for a few lines. Can’t you just feel the summer sun shining on your skin as cool lake water laps around your ankles? Sounds pretty relaxing, no? After hearing this bad boy, we just might pack our bags and head for Tennessee. So roll down your windows, hit the highway and give “Sweet Southern Small Town Summertime” a listen below!

Have an interesting story behind your lyrics? Let us know at pr@nullourstage.com!

Your Country’s Right Here: Sugarland’s ‘Incredible Machine’ Keeps Rollin’

Think of Sugarland‘s album The Incredible Machine as something akin to The Little Engine That Could.

The title of the classic children’s story seems perfectly suited to describe Sugarland’s latest full-length recording. Even though it was released last October, the album continues to gather fans, awards and national exposure for the duo of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush. The two are consistently juggling sold-out arena concerts and high-profile appearances, such as the performance with Rihanna at last month’s Academy of Country Music Awards show televised from Las Vegas.

“That album was just a lot of fun to write and record and play,” said Nettles, noting the songs on it stretch the boundaries of country music by weaving pop, rock and soul throughout. “Mostly, we had a lot of fun writing this album. When the music is there, that just shows up in the recording and concerts.”

Although the GRAMMY Award-winning artists have been red-hot for years—their 2004 debut album Twice the Speed of Life went multi-platinum—there wassomething that just set them into another musical level when The Incredible Machine was released.

Bush said that in Nashville, where writers and performers are often thought of as two very distinct groups, he and Nettles have been welcomed into both camps.

“It’s been incredible to be welcomed as songwriters as well as artists,” he said. “This whole album is an example of what happens with the two of us.”

Bush is referring to the synergy he has with Nettles. On this project, they mixed and matched their musical influences—think Chrissy Hynde, Peter Gabriel, Blondie, and other ’80s icons—to develop the sound for this latest batch of songs.

The duo were so excited about the process that they produced and posted a documentary dubbed “Living Liner Notes” that shows them writing and recording.

“There’s always a mystery behind a record,” said Bush. “We had this new idea called ‘Living Liner Notes’ because we both like liner notes so much—we were those kind of kids. We wanted to share the process with the fans. So rather than just seeing a name—so and so was the engineer and so and so was the drummer, well here they are. Watch them work.”

Bush said one of his favorite clips is of the process to develop the song “Find the Beat Again.”

“We walk you through the whole thing,” he said. “Here you’re watching us write it. Then you’re watching us record it. It really shows how these songs developed.”

Fans also get a chance to see how the two mix things up.

“We tried to make our weaknesses our strengths,” said Nettles. “For example, the guitar. I love the way Kristian plays guitar when I sing. I love his choices, I love the way he fits his choices in and around my singing. We have been doing it together long enough now that there’s a really nice volley and a really nice way it dances together. I said to him ‘Why don’t you just play it? Why are we getting a guitar player?’ That’s one example of how we work together. That’s one reason each song feels so organic and fits perfectly.”

Something tells us this Machine will keep gathering steam for a long time to come.

Sugarland is on tour. For concert information, Living Liner Notes, and other news, go to their Web site.

 


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