Sugarland’s new album, The Incredible Machine, won’t be released until October, but musical partners Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush are already on the road with a new concert production and some new material to weave between the duo’s many hits.
One of the places they didn’t perform this year, however, was at the recent Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas, although they attended the show and stayed around to perform “Red Dirt Road” during an ACM-sponsored tribute to Brooks & Dunn to air next month on CBS.
During a press conference leading up to the ACM Awards, Nettles and Bush explained why they decided against performing on the show.
“We made a conscious choice not to because we are in between record cycles right now,” Nettles said. “We’re so excited for the new stuff, we sort of felt like we wanted to focus on that. We’re a little bit cold on the old record [Love on the Inside], and since we can’t come out now and promote the new stuff yet, for timing, we decided … to come and support the ACMs and support our friends.”
Sugarland’s concert schedule, the Incredible Machine tour, will include a total of 63 shows and will extend until October. They began planning the tour while recording the new album.
“We have a whole new set,” Nettles explained. “We worked with a new set and lighting designer, Steve Cohen, who has been around for years and years. He’s done Billy Joel, he’s done Justin Timberlake, he did the Star Wars tribute [Star Wars: In Concert]. … He’s a wonderful designer and designed the new set and the new lighting, and it’s bigger than we’ve ever been out with before as far as our production. It’s getting better and better and quite exciting, dramatic as well, but still very much us and what we do.”
The theme of the tour is inspired by steampunk, a movement described by The New York Times as “a subculture that is the aesthetic expression of a time-traveling fantasy world, one that embraces music, film, design and … fashion.”
“It started out as a literary movement in the ’80s,” Nettles said. “Basically, it’s based on the concept of ’if’ during the Victorian era and the age of inventionism, If instead of moving and evolving toward the cyber-world that we’re in now — with plastic and computer and silicon chips — what if we just kept it really romantic and organic and made it about steam engines and machines? So this, visually, was a beautiful launching pad for us and also the metaphors that can come from it.”
Bush added, “We have this real interesting moment — that I’m not sure it happens a lot of the time in your career — where we were making an album, but at the same time, we were completely redesigning our presentation of our music. So the album itself reaches a little bit further to each of the new parts of who we are and our influences and the places that we love and was inspired kind of forwards and backwards by the development of the show at the same time.”
As for the album, Nettles says, “We were in the studio all of February recording it. And we went straight from recording it into rehearsals for the new tour. … We decided … we’re going to keep it real — in the old school, if you will — and really use the tour to promote the record. We’re excited about new media and all that it can do. And you can do it from anywhere. Just hit ’enter,’ and you can market to a bajillion people. We’re all friends on Twitter, but we thought maybe it would be a good idea to take it back to the basics.”
The first single from the new album will probably be released in July, although Nettles and Bush have not had a chance to think about potential singles.
“We went straight from recording into rehearsals for the tour, so we haven’t heard the mix yet,” Nettles said.