LIFE BEYOND SUGARLAND
By Tricia Despres
All Kristian Bush is trying to do is make a good impression.
“The teachers certainly know when you are a single dad,” laughs the country music singer/songwriter from the Georgia home he shares with his 12-year-old son Tucker and his fashion conscious 9-year-old daughter Camille. “I wanted my daughter to be proud of me so I’ve started watching these YouTube videos about how to do hairstyles on girls. My daughter has super fine, super straight hair, just like me. But last night, we pinned her hair up after her shower and when she woke up, she had curls. Or at least she had curls long enough for the teachers to see it in the carpool line.”
Bush chuckles yet again, but there is an unspoken understanding that life hasn’t been just about pin curls as of late. In fact, the struggles of the platinum-selling superstar best known as half of country duo Sugarland has been well-documented.
First there was the Indiana State Fair tragedy in which a sudden storm and a resulting stage collapse at a Sugarland concert in 2011 killed seven. Just a few short months later, Bush found himself in the middle of a divorce with his wife of 12 years. And then, he received the news that his Sugarland band mate Jennifer Nettles wanted a break to pursue Broadway and motherhood––and a solo music career.
“It’s been hard all the way around,” Bush says quietly. “Let’s just say it’s been a challenge. The thing that has made it better has always been the kids. No matter what, their lives were still happening. I couldn’t give up because of them…and I couldn’t give up on the music.”
THE MUSIC TIME
Indeed, the music remains and just might be better than anything Bush has created thus far in his more than 20-year career. First breaking into the music scene in 1994 as half of folk-rock duo Billy Pilgrim, Bush’s debut solo album Southern Gravity has been called a “joyous” collection of songs that pushes the traditional country barriers while still remaining true to the sound that made Bush famous. “Every single song on this album is a wish,” says Bush, who reached the top 20 on the charts with his leadoff single Trailer Hitch. “I’d be the first person to testify with my hand raised high in the air that songs can be wishes. I’ve done it before and they have sold millions of copies. It’s hard to believe how powerful songs can be if they are actual wishes.”
His current single Light Me Up might be Bush’s wish of late, telling the story of love from a man’s point of view. No trucks. No beer cans. No bonfires. It’s just a true look into the love that a man can and hopes to have for a woman.
“Deep down it’s a wish to fall in love––and I don’t mind putting that wish out there,” he says. “It’s about love from a man’s point of view. When you are loved by a woman, it stays with you forever. It’s a beautiful, almost electric feeling. I love songs that feel that way. A song, if it’s good, should feel like a recharging of a battery, you know?”
THE PERSONAL TIME
And while the launching of a solo career certainly does not leave much time for the re-charge of one’s batteries, 45-year-old Bush says he is cognizant of always making sure to take time out for himself.
“I have always had a fascination with water,” says Bush, who enjoys doing yoga and has just begun taking on surfing. “Just being near water calms my body. So does anything home deep in the mountains. Whether I am on a beach in Florida or on a rock in Sedona, I’m good. But different people recharge in different ways, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes, I wouldn’t mind going on vacation and do nothing. I’m that guy too. Sometimes, sitting still is the most restorative thing ever.”
While out on the road on tour, Bush says that he also stays very conscious of how he treats his body. “Anyone who travels for a living knows it can be a challenge,” he says. “I try to drink as much water as I can, and I try to sleep. Sleep deprivation because you are going to bed at 2 a.m. and getting up at 6 a.m. causes me to get sick. And in terms of food, I try to eat things I understand. I try not to eat anything too complicated. Once or twice a week I eat a fancy meal, but I’m definitely not the explorer type ordering the weirdest thing on the menu. I also didn’t drink for a long time, but I just started drinking a glass of wine every now and then.”
And so far, his healthy strategies are working.
“I can out dance all the people in my band,” says Bush. “I mean, there is a 22-year-old in my band that can’t do a deep knee bend! I mean, c’mon!”
HIS FAMILY––AND HIS FUTURE
“It’s not like we are putting the band back together right this second,” answers Bush straightforwardly when asked if Sugarland will ever get back together.
Because for now, Bush says he is quite content with the life that lies in front of him. And the kids––how are they feeling?
Well, they seem to love watching their daddy reach his dreams.
“This time around, rather than step away from them and trying to separate their world from mine, I decided to go the other way,” Bush says. “I mean, these days they are doing their homework on the floor of the studio and learning of the intricacies of my record contract at dinner time. I am integrating them a lot more than I did during Sugarland. They are emotionally invested in my career a bit more and they realize when I have to sacrifice something of theirs.”
Like this particular weekend, where Bush says he is going to have to miss his daughter’s tap recital. “Right now, everything functions better when I am completely transparent about what I am trying to achieve,” he says in a hushed tone, hinting at a tad of uncertainty. “I just hope as a parent I am making the right decision.”
But Bush isn’t the type to spend much time on the past.
He is more of that guy that is determined to keep looking forward.
“At the age of 45, I have achieved so many of my dreams,” he says. “I have never seen age as a hindrance. It’s always given me a certain level of excitement. I love starting out again in a way and seeing the world in a completely brand new way. It’s quite amazing.”