Jennifer Nettles Talks New Album and Next Women Tour

Sophomore Solo Album Playing With Fire Due April 8th

We’ve loved her for over a decade as the lead singer of Sugarland, and over the past few years we’ve gotten to know Jennifer Nettles as a solo artist as well. In between headlining CMT’s 2016 Next Women of Country Tour and preparing to release a new album, we sat down with the songstress to get an update on her crazy, busy life.

You’ve been out on the Next Women of Country Tour for a few weeks now. How has it been going, and how does it compare to other tours you’ve been on?

It’s going great. We are having a blast out there, and it’s so fun. We’ve only been doing it for about three weeks now, so it’s fairly new and fresh, which is exciting. How it differs mostly from other tours that I’ve done is that the bill is all women. With the exception of a few Lilith Fair shows, this is the first solid tour that I’ve done that’s all women, and that to me is exciting.

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And Brandy Clark is on this tour with you…

Who I love. She and I had the chance to get to know each other out on the That Girl Tour, and we became fast friends and got to do a lot of writing together, so consequently we wrote a lot of my new album together.

What is it about you two that makes you work so well together?

What I love about Brandy and about doing the shows with her and writing with her is that she’s from Washington State, and I’m from South Georgia, so her sensibilities are much more traditional country than mine. Being from South Georgia, mine are much more swampy and there’s a lot of gospel and R&B and blues in that. When we come together, it’s a nice mixture, and we complement each other in a way that has not only nostalgia, but also something fresh, new and unique to it.

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Lindsay Ell and Tara Thompson, who were recently inducted in to the 2016 class of CMT Next Women of Country, are also on the tour with you. As a seasoned tour veteran, what advice did you have for them going in to the tour?

They are super sweet. I had the chance of traveling a bit with Tara for an event, and we had the chance to talk and I got to know a little bit more about her story. I didn’t know how old she was, she’s 28, and I was telling her that that was the time for me when Sugarland started taking off. What I did share with her was, “Listen, don’t feel like you’re old to be in this business, or any business, at 28. Because No. 1, that’s super young, and No. 2, in general it takes that long.” I mean, if you were going to be a doctor, do you know how old you would be when you finish with all of your schooling? You would be in your late 20s. If you were going to be a lawyer, same thing. If you were really going to get established within a company, it would take a good 8-10 years of being in an industry to get somewhere. Everything doesn’t have to be discovered on YouTube when you’re 16 years old. Not all of us go that route, and I think for many of us, you are well served for it to take that long. You will be much better prepared.

At the announcement of the tour, you talked about championing women in music and society. Can you talk a little bit about what that means to you?

Again, I will reiterate, I do love championing women. I think within any industry, we’re not fooling ourselves to think sexism isn’t still a reality, because it is. So I think coming together and supporting each other, and also celebrating what women bring to, in this specific case, music, is a super valid point to get behind.

During this tour, do you have a favorite song that you sing or a favorite moment that you look forward to throughout the night?

I think that varies, and every night is different. Right now, I love performing the new single off the album called “Unlove You,” because people are starting to get familiar with it, and it’s such an emotional moment in the show. And then I take a hard left turn and change up the energy after singing that song, and I do a song called Sugar, which is also off of the new album. It’s very fun and sassy, so it’s fun to play those two back-to-back because they are such differing energies.

The video you shot for “Sugar” looked like so much fun to make.

It was so much fun. I did that video with Declan Whitebloom. People might remember his style from the video for “Stuck Like Glue,” which he also directed. I thought he would be perfect for “Sugar” because he and I share a very similar dark sense of humor, and I thought that would be great for this song. All of the dancers and performers on that video were friends of mine from when I did Chicago on Broadway, so for me it was such a fun day.

“Unlove You” has fans chomping at the bit for information about your new album. Do you have any tidbits of info for fans about what they can expect on your upcoming album?

The album is called Playing With Fire, and it’s going to be out April 8. As for the sound of it, I will say, No. 1 it varies greatly from the last album That Girl, which I loved doing. I did that one with Rick Rubin out in Malibu, and it has a very California-vintage sound to it. I think since that time, over the past couple of years of being a mother and all that comes with that transformation, I have a lot more to say. There’s a lot of sass on this record, and there’s a lot of raw emotion and vulnerability, so it’s a mixture for sure. But I definitely like to push the edges.

We saw an adorable Instagram you posted a couple of weeks ago with your son Magnus and the caption “On the road again.” Has Magnus been able to come to a lot of your shows?

He comes with me everywhere.

What does he say about seeing you performing ?
You know, it’s all he’s known, so for him he doesn’t know that it’s anything different. I know that he thinks that everybody’s mom does that because every time he sees somebody on television that is singing or holding a microphone, he thinks its me, which I think is super sweet. He has looked at Beyoncé and said “Mama!” And of course when he said that I was like, “Yes, as a matter of fact, that is Mama.”

Does he love the traveling lifestyle?
Again, that’s all he knows, so he doesn’t know that it’s anything different. He is more well-traveled, and has more airline miles at his little three years of age than I had in my thirties. He’s a little gypsy baby.

For more Nettles, follow CMT on Instagram Saturday (Feb. 6) as she gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the Next Women of Country Tour stop in Cherokee, North Carolina.

Writer and social-ite for CMT, lover of all things Nashville, and firm believer that Ross and Rachel were not on a break.