Sugarland and B-52s Say Their Collaboration Felt Natural at CMT Music Awards

Alan Jackson, Rascal Flatts, Zac Brown Band Discuss Wins Backstage

Sugarland surprised the CMT Music Awards audience on Tuesday night (June 16) by joining their colorful new friends, the B-52s, on a lively rendition of “Love Shack.” Both artists have roots in Georgia, so it was only a matter of time until word traveled back that the duo was using the quirky band’s signature song as an encore.

“We do it live, so we had it worked out as far as the arrangement,” said Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, “but we wondered, ‘How would it work to bring everybody in?’”

“We just wanted them to play it — and we were just going to stand onstage,” added Nettles musical partner, Kristian Bush, with a laugh.

“I remember hearing about you first getting together, and I thought, ‘Wow,’ and started following you,” said red-headed Kate Pierson of the B-52s. “It’s the first time we’ve ever done it together — and it was goooood, too. Put that in there!”

Asked if they would consider future shows together, everyone chimed in with enthusiasm.

“You know what I’d love? I thought we could finally do a show in Atlanta with all the bands from Georgia that have caught the dream,” said Bush. “These guys certainly taught us how to genre-bust.”

But didn’t it seem unusual for such an outrageous ensemble to be embraced by a country audience?

“It felt really natural,” Pierson said. “I mean, it felt like it was just totally natural.”

“I think a lot of our songs have a country feel,” said B-52s member Fred Schneider. “When we wrote ‘Cosmic Thing,’ we were thinking about being back in Georgia.”

“And the love shack is a honky-tonk, essentially,” added the band’s guitarist, Keith Strickland. “It’s down a country road. It’s out in the country. It’s a country song.”

“‘Tin roof rusted,’ right?” noted band member Cindy Wilson. “How much more country can you get?”

“I don’t think you can,” Nettles replied. “I think videos, television and radio are finally catching on to what music lovers know — and that is that good music is good. It is no longer defined, especially in this day and age, by some sort of image or lifestyle. It is about, ‘Do you like it, and does it make you feel good?’ These guys make me feel good. These guys make me feel good and that’s what we love.”

Earlier in the night, Alan Jackson won a CMT Music Award for the live video of “Country Boy,” from CMT Giants, in the category of CMT performance of the year. He shared the award with Dierks Bentley and Brad Paisley, who were both at the awards ceremony, as well as George Strait, who did not attend.

Asked by a reporter why this configuration had clicked with fans, Jackson replied, “Well, they had a lot to like there, man! Four artists there to choose from. It’s a pretty good deal for us.” Noting that he’s made about 45 videos over the last 20 years, Jackson added, “The fans have always been there for me.”

Rascal Flatts won the group video of the year trophy for “Every Day.” Bassist Jay DeMarcus said they came up with the concept for the video during a brainstorming session on their tour bus. It has become one of the biggest songs in their show. Asked what message the band was hoping to convey in the dramatic video, he answered, “That normal people can save someone’s life every day without them even knowing it.”

Singer Gary LeVox added, “Live every day like it’s your last. Tomorrow’s never promised, and it’s funny where you find help and strength to get through things. It could be from a stranger and someone you don’t even know.”

The Zac Brown Band captured their first CMT Music Award — the USA Today breakthrough video honor for “Chicken Fried.” Brown remembers the original concept for the video was scrapped just a week before the video shoot date because of budgeting concerns.

“We had one week to get this video together,” Brown said. “I called family and friends. I called Clifton [Collins Jr., the director]. He flew in and we shot it all in two days, on a week’s notice.”

Asked how much of his personality was reflected in this video, Brown replied, “A tremendous amount — good food, family, a bonfire out in the country. That’s what we do. We always want to be true to who we are in our music, in our videos and everything. It’s great that the country music fans have accepted us for that and hopefully it’s some new life and some new air breathing into the format. We’re not going anywhere. We’ll be here.”

Check out CMT.com’s full coverage of the awards show, including photos and videos.