Kristian Bush of Sugarland Discusses Country Duo's New Album 'Bigger' & Upcoming Tour: 'It Doesn't Leave the Genre, It Leads the Genre'

Shervin Lainez

After a five-year hiatus and with a new tour looming next month, Sugarland is ready to start a new era -- with new music in tow.

The group's Kristian Bush tells Billboard that he and Jennifer Nettles delivered Bigger, Sugarland's sixth album and first in nearly eight years, two weeks ago, and can't wait for fans to hear what they've cooked up beyond the first single, "Still the Same," which came out during December.

"It literally sounds bigger, which is what it is," Bush says with a laugh. "We had very little time, so we recorded it essentially live; I taught the band the music and Jennifer sang down as we went." Bush promises the set -- which he co-produced with Nettles and Julien Raymond and is due out June 8 -- will have the diverse hallmarks of its predecessors.

"It doesn’t leave the genre, it leads the genre, which is a typical Sugarland thing to do," says Bush, who released one solo album while Nettles released three during the interim. "It's roots-based, groove-based. Country music's a pretty wide highway right now, kind of a super highway. We went exploring, but we didn't go into, like, metal space or anything like that. it's a record that should make you dance and it should make you cry, and if all goes well it should also invite you to a discussion about what's going on in the world right now. I think it's what you would expect from a Sugarland album if it came out today."

Bush, who has two teenagers, says Bigger's songs have a loose theme of "What do you tell your kids today?" about topics such as guns, teen suicide and empowerment among other issues. "It's less about specific politics but more about how do these issues affect children," he says. "We talk about guns, but we don't talk about the politics of guns; That's not very interesting to me. But what's interesting to me is, 'What do I tell my kids about it?' So we touch on those things -- and we touch on, 'How many ways can Kristian try to get you to dance?' That's always a fun game to play." 

Sugarland begins its first full tour in five years May 4 in Durant, Okla., and Bush promises that "we'll probably play your favorite Sugarland song -- and put in some of these new ones, too," as well as songs from his and Nettles' solo albums. "It's kind of like if you missed Season 5 of Sugarland, you can go back and get it," he notes. And, now "reactivated," it feels like he and Nettles haven't missed a beat, despite their time away from the band.

"Y'know, when we sat down together again, the first song we wrote was 'Still the Same,' and it was like, 'Boom! There we go...'," he recalls. "We really maintained a pretty separate relationship from each other; If I'd have helped [Jennifer] with her solo records and she helped me, it would be Sugarland, and that wasn't the point. We just needed to hit the pause button for a minute, and now we're back, 'cause we don't feel like we've finished telling the story yet."