Sugarland Goes Steampunk For 'Incredible Machine' Album, Tour

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Kate Powers


Sugarland, the Grammy-winning country duo, is in the studio wrapping up session for their fourth studio album, tentatively titled "The Incredible Machine." No release date is set, but vocalist Jennifer Nettles hopes that fans will hear the new material this fall.

The new album will most likely end up with 10 or 11 new tracks, all of which have been written since their last release, 2008's "Love on the Inside." "This time, we wanted to be lean and clean with it and make conscious choices going into it," Nettles says. "If we felt like one wasn't working, we didn't finish it. From a writing standpoint, we've really been able to grow. And for me as a singer, you want to evolve. You paint with a lot of emotional colors and you don't want to sing the same thing or sing the same way."

"We didn't make it ballad heavy, though we do enjoy those moments of poignancy," she continues. "The arrangements use different choices of instrumentation. I don't know if there's even a mandolin on this record."

Sugarland's rise to fame began in 2004 with the release of "Twice the Speed of Life," which has sold 2,635,000 copies according to Nielsen SoundScan. The follow-up, 2006's "Enjoy the Ride," has sold more, now at 2,800,000. Sugarland's most recent album, "Love on the Inside," landed the duo their first Number 1 slot atop the Billboard 200 and has sold 2,035,000 to date.

Thus, Sugarland has a hefty amount of steam behind them, both figuratively and literally. Nettles says that "The Incredible Machine" --both the album and their forthcoming tour -- take inspiration from the "steampunk movement," , a branch of science fiction that imagines a world where humans evolved intellectually, but technology remained set in Victorian times. "I describe it emotionally as bungee jumping and eating chocolate cake," she says. "It's terrifying and gratifying, all at the same time."

As far as Nettles own vocals, she says that this record was "a blast." "Not only is it diverse within the context of these songs, but it's diverse compared to what we've done in the past. Obviously, it's me. I also really enjoyed exploring other parts of my voice-the deeper, richer, more gravely parts of my voice. I'd say a little bit of Chrissie Hynde, a little bit of Blondie."

Sugarland is set to launch its U.S. tour, beginning on April 23 at Primm, Nevada's Star of the Desert Arena. A few festival dates such as Stage Coach (April 24,) Country Thunder (July 23) in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin and Country Jam (July 24) in Eau Claire, Wisconsin are peppered throughout the itinerary, with headlining shows at arenas and amphitheaters filling out the schedule.