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Jennifer Nettles Shows Off Diverse Musical Roots

  • Mary Morningstar

Jennifer Nettles performs at The Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, Feb. 22, 2014.

Jennifer Nettles performs at The Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, Feb. 22, 2014.

Jennifer Nettles is known for her work as the lead singer of Sugarland, a Grammy-winning Country music duo. But now she has released her first solo album, “That Girl.”

Nettles spent the past four years working on her debut solo album. While that seems like a long time, the 39-year-old Georgia native says she needed to take a break from Sugarland and allow herself the freedom to move in a new musical direction.

“I approached the desire to do a solo project like I do most anything that feels like a big life change, you know, I approached it with focus and with planning and with logistics," she said. "It took a lot of that, you know, because obviously where Sugarland is concerned, we’ve been together for 10 years, and that was in and of itself an incredible machine. There were jobs and people who were depending on what we were doing as a duo, and so I didn’t take it lightly from a logistics perspective what I was going to do, so consequently that type of planning and consideration allowed me the time artistically to also dig in, and to feel a little bit more free, and to not feel like I had an impending deadline on when I wanted to do this project.”

“That Girl” includes one cover song, Nettles’ version of Bob Seger’s 1986 hit, “Like a Rock.” Nettles collaborated on the album’s 10 other tracks with pop singers Sara Bareilles and Richard Marx; Nashville songwriter Mike Reid; much-in-demand-producer Butch Walker; Little Big Town’s Phillip Sweet and Better Than Ezra’s Kevin Griffin.

“I sat down at my piano, and I called old friends, and I made new friends, and all those things just to see from a writing perspective what would come together, and what kind of collection I would make,” she said.

Nettles wasn’t exactly able to focus her full attention on the recording project. While working on the album, she gave birth to her first child.

She says the sound on “That Girl” shows longtime Sugarland fans her diverse musical roots that range from Country and 1970s pop to gospel and rhythm-and-blues.

“I hope that fans hear this album and from an ego perspective for me, from an artist also perspective, I hope that they listen to it and go ‘Wow she’s a way better songwriter and a better singer than I would’ve ever thought,’" she said. "I feel like the work that I’ve done with Sugarland, I’m super proud of it and yet there are things that I wanted to prove to myself and to my fans and that I still want to. So I hope that they listen to that and they get to hear a side of me that they hadn’t before and it makes them like what I do as a performer that much more.”
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