“I’ve been a new artist two other times, and it’s a unique feeling,” Bush tells Billboard. Sugarland has been on hiatus since touring to support 2010’s The Incredible Machine, and going it alone, Bush says, “has its own unique energy. In this case, no one’s really familiar with my voice. They’re familiar with my voice as a writer and my work as a producer, but Sugarland was, and still is, an evolution for Jennifer‘s (Nettles) voice. So this is completely open territory for me.” Being “from Sugarland,” however, means Bush is aware there will be certain expectations for what Southern Gravity (out April 7 and available for pre-order) should sound like.
“It’s not the voice you expect, but it’ll sound like something you would expect from Sugarland,” promises Bush, who co-produced and co-wrote all 12 songs on the album. “When you’re connecting it later, you’ll go, ‘Oh, that makes sense…’ “
Bush worked with a wealth of new collaborators on Southern Gravity, and with Jesse Rice he came up with “Light Me Up,” which Bush considers a unique moment for him as an artist. “For me it’s a special one, because for the first time in my country music career, I am getting to sing a love song directly to you,” Bush explains. “I’ve spent the better part of 12 years being aware that the songs I wrote were going to be delivered by a woman, and there are certain things I wanted to say as a man that didn’t quite fit in that context. ‘Light Me Up’ is about how I feel when I am loved. A woman’s love is a powerful, unforgettable force. It changes you forever. The men out there reading this know what I mean. You can’t go back to who you were before. I decided to write a song to celebrate that.”
Listen to “Light Me Up” below, which Billboard is exclusively premiering.
With one single, “Trailer Hitch,” already out, Bush says the general tone of Southern Gravity is upbeat. “I’m trying to make you dance,” he says. “I’m trying to give you a groove that you can hang your hat on. Music is supposed to shake your hips, so there’s a lot of that. It’s a radio album, too. I meant for it to be shared and discovered by people.”
The singer-songwriter plans to continue the sharing with extensive touring to promote the album, but he allays any fears that the appearance of Southern Gravity and Nettles’ 2014 solo album That Girl, as well as her role on Broadway in Chicago: The Musical, means Sugarland is finished. “Not at all,” Bush says. We haven’t gotten a call from the label yet. Whenever they call us, I’m sure we’ll do something. Her record cycle has kinda come and gone; I waited ’cause, y’know, a good Southern gentleman lets the lady go first. But we’ll be back at it as soon as we get back at it.”