10 Questions with ... Kristian Bush
November 23, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Bush kickstarted his career in the early '90s, when he formed the folk rock duo Billy Pilgrim with Andrew Hyra. Together, the two released a pair of critically-acclaimed albums (1994's self-titled Billy Pilgrim and 1995's Bloom), enjoyed regular rotation on VH-1, and earned multiple Top 5 hits on the AAA charts. Bush's success continued with Sugarland, a coed country duo that formed in 2002 and sold more than 22 million albums during the ten years that followed. Along the way, Bush and Jennifer Nettles launched five No. 1 singles, earned a well-deserved induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and took home trophies from the Grammys, AMAs, ACM Awards, CMT Music Awards and CMA Awards. Now, On Southern Gravity, his first release as a solo artist, Bush occupies the spotlight himself, juggling the roles of vocalist, songwriter, bandleader and producer.
1) Kristian, thanks for chatting with All Access! Alright, let's just take care of the elephant in the room. You and Jennifer have each put out a solo project. Does this signify a Sugarland breakup?
No, not at all! We'll get back to it when we get back to it... and you'll have three times as much music to enjoy when we get there.
2) Many fans know you as the second half of Sugarland. What many people might not know is that you played multiple instruments on the records, co-produced the group's platinum-selling albums, and co-wrote most of Sugarland's catalog of songs. What else do you want people to know about Kristian Bush as an artist?
I've dreamed of being a recording artist since I was little. I started writing to record labels when I was 13, asking to be considered for a record deal. When I was 21, I got my first yes, from Atlantic Records in New York. That was my first band: Billy Pilgrim. Ten years later, it happened again, and that was Sugarland. Now, lightning is striking for a third time with my solo project and "Trailer Hitch." It's still magic to me every time I hear my voice on the radio.
3) As a songwriter, you've mentioned that you write for commercial appeal. Can you explain your songwriting process and why you feel you gravitate toward that writing style?
I always listened to the radio growing up. It is where I discovered the soundtrack to my life. I want to be that soundtrack for someone else. The writing process is simple: If it sounds good to me, I keep it. If not, I go back to the drawing board. And I always try to write with people I love or who inspire me.
4) Not only do you write with a purpose but you release music with a direction. How do you choose singles and the ordering in which they are released?
As a fan, I've noticed artists who tell stories over multiple singles or releases, or who explore topics over an entire album. I've tried to model myself after them. It may be a dying art form, but I still believe in the album as a story. And I believe that songs can and should carry a message.
5) Speaking of singles, your debut solo single "Trailer Hitch" has a unique sound and message. What does this song tell the audience about Kristian Bush?
I believe music should either move your hips or explode your heart. "Trailer Hitch" does a little bit of both.
6) You recently released a really cool and meaningful lyric video for "Trailer Hitch" that you shot in Chicago. Can you tell us where the idea for the video stemmed from and how it all came together?
It was an organic process. We knew we had that day in Chicago to shoot, and we knew that we wanted to reflect the message of the song in the video somehow. The director had some visuals in mind, and he suggested that maybe I could stand on the street and busk - play songs for money -- while people walked by. At the last minute, I decided to take it a step further and fill the guitar case with money that I would give to people instead. We used sidewalk chalk to say "Please take one," and little by little, folks started to catch on. You can see their joy in the video. It turned out better than we ever imagined.
7) You've stated that you wrote over 300 songs during the Sugarland hiatus. Out of those 300 songs, how were you able to decide which went on your album "Southern Gravity"? Also, what will happen to those other songs that didn't make this album?
It's been the most difficult album-making process I've ever encountered. Having too much material is worse somehow than not having enough! I don't know why that is true, but it is. I started performing the songs live, and sharing them on my website every Monday, and the fans helped me decide in a lot of ways, just based on their responses. After all, these songs are their stories too, not just mine.
I don't know what happens to the songs that don't make the album. Maybe other artists will cut them, or maybe my sophomore solo album will just come out really really soon. :)
8) Your album is coming out on Streamsound Records. Why the decision to partner with a new label?
I wanted to move faster than a major label was able to move. Luckily, my friends at Mercury understood that, and allowed me to partner with my longtime Sugarland co-producer Byron Gallimore and his label, Streamsound.
9) In your Sugarland days, you were taken out on radio tour. Now you are out again, but as a solo artist. How has this experience been different with your new project?
The first time you go out on radio tour as a new artist it can be disorienting, until you realize that what you are building is a lasting partnership with radio stations, programmers, and their listeners. This time around, I feel responsible for those partnerships, and I feel very lucky that I get the chance to renew those wonderful relationships. It's like traveling to see good friends.
10) You've been behind a guitar, behind a pen and paper, behind a production board, and behind a microphone. Where do you see the direction of your career going over the next 10 years?
I wake up every day and get to make music. I am living my dream - and I hope that over the next 10 years, I can help show people through my music and my live shows that anything is possible if you never give up.
1) You live in Atlanta full time now. What do you love most about the city?
I've lived in Atlanta full-time since I graduated from college at Emory. Atlanta is where I put down my roots, and it informs so much of the music that I've made, from Billy Pilgrim to Sugarland to now. I just bought my first place in Nashville last year, because I consider Music City my second home.
2) I'm in Atlanta for the day and you're my tour guide. What would our day look like and where would we go?
Your day would revolve around food. It would start at Ria's Bluebird Café with the blueberry pancakes, then a stroll through the aquarium, and lunch at a Braves game. We would check Twitter to find the nearest King of Pops cart, then drop by my studio in Decatur to see who's tracking that day. Eventually we would end up at H. Harper for a burger and a fun bourbon drink, or maybe take in a show at Eddie's Attic. And you would totally get why I love it here. :)