Sugarland's Kristian Bush Makes His Solo Debut With 'Trailer Hitch' Single

Kristian Bush
David McClister

Let's get the preliminaries out of the way. Yes, Kristian Bush is from Sugarland, the award-winning country duo that made Jennifer Nettles a household name. No, though both artists are currently promoting solo music, they do not hate other -- or have bitterness toward the other in any way. And then there's the million-dollar question: What about Sugarland’s future? “To be continued,” Bush tells Billboard with a smile. “Always, to be continued.”

Bush, whose debut single “Trailer Hitch” hits iTunes on Tuesday and radio this week, doesn't mind all the curiosity -- in fact, he welcomes it. “Curiosity is actually contagious. In the case of my solo work, it’s the first thing that happens in any conversation. People will look at me in the eyes, and say, ‘How are you? I love you. I love your band. I love your work, but....I have no idea what you sound like,” he admits. “There’s a lot of joy in that experience of watching someone discover my music, but also discover someone they already knew in a new way. I think that’s kind of cool.”

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With the charismatic Nettles taking center stage during Sugarland's years together, it's refreshing for Bush to be noticed for his talents. “People laugh all the time, and if they’re trying to rip me, they’ll say ‘You’re the luckiest guy in show business.’ They think that I just didn’t do anything,” he says, laughing. “So, it’s been really fun having people watch what it is that I do. I watch people become fans that were concerned that they might not like it and come into the fold.”

“Trailer Hitch” was inspired by the old saying “You can’t take it with you when you go.” "My friend Tim said, ‘I’ve never seen a hearse on a trailer hitch.’ I thought ‘Holy crap, that’s funny.’ Why do we collect all these things? Why do we keep that box that we keep moving back and forth between houses that we still haven’t unpacked? We carry around a lot of crap in our lives that we don’t really need that we just collected along the way. It must be some deep-seated space of thinking that the one with the most toys wins. I’m not sure that’s true. The song is asking that question, but I’m trying to do it in a way that isn’t preachy, but also has some inflection on it that makes you feel it, and in a couple of months, you realize what you’re singing.”

Fans who loved Sugarland’s rhythmic hits like “All I Wanna Do” and “Stuck Like Glue” will find a familiar sound in Bush’s solo work. “Music is a combination of the rhythm and the melody. You can distill it all down to that. It was always the cornerstone of everything I wanted to do in Sugarland," says Bush. "It’s the joy, the stories, and the grooves that you might have expected from us, but with me singing. It’s supposed to make you feel something, not only in your heart -- but also in your hips.”

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Though Bush co-produced the music, he did enlist the help of a longtime ally in veteran producer Byron Gallimore, who's worked on Sugarland’s records. "He was a supporter of my voice, and always has been,” says Bush. In fact, Gallimore loved the sounds he heard so much that he offered Bush a contract on his Streamsound label. “For his record company to be releasing the music is a real vote of confidence.”

Though the future might be unclear for Sugarland at the moment, Bush stresses this is not a side project. “It’s a parallel project," he explains. "My voice and Sugarland can both be on the radio at the same time, so for the next ten years, you’ll hear us both.”