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Jennifer Nettles is currently touring behind Bigger, Sugarland's latest album, and she has one mission for the trek: she wants every single one of her fans to feel comfortable, accepted and "seen" at a Sugarland show -- especially members of LGBTQ and marginalized communities.
In a compelling, thoughtful conversation with Pride Source, Nettles discussed the inspiration for some of Bigger's most intense and vulnerable songs, which have the country act tackling everything from school shootings and gun control ("Tuesday's Broken") to self-acceptance and love, no matter how you define it. Bigger was informed by the tumultuous times we're living in, and especially the challenges facing Sugarland's LGBTQ fans.
"It was on our minds significantly," she tells Pride Source. "You hear those messages poke through within the music: messages of unity and inclusion, and of not only tolerance -- sometimes tolerance to me is such a… ack!… it’s not even the right word anymore. We need to move beyond just tolerance. And it even needs to move beyond acceptance. It needs to move into celebration and just outright humanism."
She stresses that these sentiments are the bedrock of Bigger and carry on through multiple tracks. "I think you hear those messages celebrated in songs like 'Tuesday’s Broken,' 'Mother' and 'Not the Only,' and even in songs like 'Bigger,'" she says. "But you hear it much more clearly and outright on 'Mother,' where it says, 'She’s got a ring to give to you she hopes you’ll give away/She don’t care who you give it to, where they’re from, if they pray like you…'
"And for me, obviously always being a champion of the marginalized, always being a champion of those who are being oppressed – and all of these really horribly divisive tones that we hear now in our culture and in our community that have always been there but we’re hearing them now in a way that is super ugly – when you hear those messages of self-love and of inclusion on this record, absolutely the LGBTQA community was on our minds when we were writing this," she continues.
Sugarland didn't think twice about expressing their support or political leanings on Bigger in spite of country's traditionally conservative listeners, too.
"The interesting thing is the reason many times it feels bold within the country music community is because everyone talks about the Dixie Chicks syndrome of what we saw all those years ago," she says. "I think times are different. I think it is time for people within all of the music community, but especially in the country music community, where we have such a beautifully diverse audience -- we are not preaching to the choir here. We are offering messages. We are offering them to hopefully inspire people to be open and think differently for those who may not already."
As for her travels and spreading this message of love and acceptance far and wide, Bigger is all about inclusion, and the Bigger tour is exactly the same deal.
"We try to make it feel transportive so when you leave you feel like you have been offered an escape and some asylum and some refugee, and that you leave feeling seen," she says of Sugarland's shows.
"I think it’s such an interesting time where we are supposedly more technologically, in terms of ideas, connected than ever. But at the same time -- the last song on the album, 'Not the Only,' especially speaks to this -- a lot of us still feel very alone and very unseen, and I hope that within the queer community, within the gay community, the trans community -- the LGBTQA! All the letters! I hope that everyone feels seen, and let’s say again: celebrated."
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