Country singer Jennifer Nettles is a bit nervous about starting over. She’s spent years drawing fans and accolades as a part of Grammy Award-winning Sugarland, but now that duo is on hiatus while she sets off on her solo career.
“I think any time one takes the risk of reinvention and really puts herself out there in a new way, there are fears,” Nettles said. “And for me, people said, ‘Are you nervous? Are you scared?’ Yeah, I am scared in the way that one gets when something is important.”
Her new album, “That Girl,” released on Tuesday, is like the debut of an up-and-coming singer-songwriter that highlights her powerful vocals paired with simple backing music. Although she’s wanted to record a solo album for years, the success of Sugarland, which won the Country Music Association’s vocal duo category for five years straight, meant that she had to be careful with her timing of this album.
“The more success one has, the more responsibility I think comes with that. … Cause I love Sugarland and what I’ve done with Sugarland and the music that Kristian (Bush) and I have made, so I wanted to be able to protect that and set myself up as smartly and as prepared as possible,” Nettles said.
She wrote many of the songs while pregnant with her first child, Magnus, and then took her family to California to record with producer Rick Rubin, who has worked with artists as different as Jay Z and Johnny Cash.
“He is super diverse,” Nettles said of Rubin. “He is very much a song-focused producer. In the sense that he not only wants to serve the song, but that he wants the song to be its best and he is really good at that.”
Although primarily known as a country singer, the album allows her to experiment with her songwriting and style, such as her first single, “That Girl,” a sultry, bass-heavy number.
“I definitely want my fans to get to see a new side of me,” Nettles said. “I want to have them hear a new part of me vocally and a new part of me as a songwriter and to do something … more intimate and personal to me than a collaboration would be, with anyone, not just Sugarland.”
Sugarland will be on hiatus while both Nettles and Bush work on their separate projects, but she says that the separation is not out of a dislike of their collaboration.
“I want to be able to put myself 100 percent wholeheartedly into this project, cause that’s what I do with everything,” Nettles said. “And we have left it open ended as to when we might be coming back next. Because we want to be able to be wholehearted in what we are doing separately. So we will see what happens.”