Sugarland's 'Incredible Machine': Jennifer Nettles talks new album, reggae breakdowns, and steampunk confusion

sugarlandImage Credit: Jennifer TzarWhen Sugarland announced their Incredible Machine tour this spring, Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush did a series of interviews in which they talked about their new “steampunk” aesthetic, leading many to believe that their similarly titled new album, The Incredible Machine (due Oct. 19) would share that artistic theme. This belief has caused much consternation among critics and fans alike, with endless speculation about how on earth all that creaky Victorian-era steam engine machinery would influence the sound of one of country’s sunniest acts. Further investigation, however — and by “investigation” I mean “listening to the five new songs Sugarland has debuted live or on radio so far” — would seem to indicate that this speculation is unfounded, or at least based on bad intel.

And now, straight from the horse’s mouth, we have proof that in fact Sugarland has not recorded the musical equivalent of that awful Will Smith/Kevin Kline movie Wild Wild West: “I find it oddly interesting that people made a jump from a visual aesthetic to think that’s musically what’s gonna happen,” Jennifer Nettles told EW this morning. “But I think that’s really our fault for the way that we explained it, to be honest. It has everything to do with the visual. We wanted another world on stage. We wanted something fun, a visual aesthetic to be inspired by. We chose that one. It has nothing to do with the music. I definitely put the brunt of that on our shoulders for anyone who didn’t understand that.”

Nettles also expanded on the thinking behind the occasional bursts of Auto-Tune and the fancy reggae-rap section in new single “Stuck Like Glue.” “[The Auto-Tune] is almost like a comic piece for us,” she said, “because everybody is doing it, and we thought, ‘Oh god, yes. If we’re gonna be able to put it anywhere, please, let’s put it right here.’ It was really just a moment of fun for us in the studio. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh yeah, this is cool.’ It was like, ‘This is hysterical.’ I mean, we’ve already put in a reggae breakdown. Which by the way, it’s not reggae country. It’s a breakdown. I think you’re allowed anything in a musical breakdown. Maybe I do have an inner Sean Kingston, or an inner Bob Marley. Something is going on here, I’m sure of it.”

Although at least one radio station is apparently editing out said breakdown, Nettles is unconcerned. “I’m hoping that’s just gonna blow over,” she said, “because it seems quite honestly a little silly. I mean, obviously, I am that good at reggae.” The song has already cracked the top 10 on iTunes, which Nettles attributes in part to them “going dark” for a bit after 2008’s Love on the Inside, and in part to the fans being psyched for the shock of the new. “With each record we try to grow artistically, we don’t try to regurgitate the same ol’, same ol’,” she said. “People get excited about hearing what kind of fun or crazy or artistic stretch we’re gonna do next. Apparently, this was what happened. Reggae. Of course.”

There ya go, Mixers. So: How you feeling about the state of the Sugarland union and The Incredible Machine now? Better? Or did all you steampunk fans out there just toss your top hats in disgust?

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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Comments (21 total) Add your comment
  • Sarah

    I’m loving it. I’m loving EVERY single aspect of all the new things coming from them. They’ve said before, we, as Sugarland fans are rabid fans. It’s true. We’ve craved this new album, new sound, new look, new everything. Most all of us are eating it up. They push boundries, that’s what Sugarland does, that’s what they’ve done since they hit the scene. Country Music needs this, any genre needs this to grow and expand, no continue with the “Same ol, Same ol” as Jennifer puts it. You grow, by changing, and that’s something they’re great at! I can’t wait for the new record. And Stuck Like Glue is on repeat as we speak. :)

    • T

      Sarah, I totally agree with you!! As a fellow rabid Sugarland fan, I have been yearning for this new album and every little snippet of it we get. I saw them in concert in May, and I absolutely *loved* the new stuff they sang. I’m really looking forward to the title track off the album – “The Incredible Machine” was my favorite song when they did it live. I will follow Jenn and Kristian wherever they choose to go musically – they really are that good and I trust them that much! So excited for October and getting all that new Sugarland music!!

    • VibeCat

      Sarah, I am with you also. One of the best things about Sugarland (and I am a rabid fan also!) is that they always seem to be growing and reaching, and I adore that about them. Keep it up, Sugarland – and we will keep up with you! I can’t wait for October! Can never get enough Sugarland.

    • ALM

      They can do no wrong in my eyes.

  • Hans

    As one of those ‘Steampunks’, I am sad that they are using only the visual aesthetic of Steampunk. Their is such an opportunity to gain a larger audience, and with out a musical hook to follow up the visual, that audience has been lost. Country and Steampunk are not an impossible mixture. There are a few Steampunk/Country bands out there, The Cog is Dead is one of the newest. It’s a comparatively untapped market. too bad Sugarland will pass it by. I have tossed my hat…

  • Garry

    I didn’t understand one word of that article.

  • Bee

    sugarland is just a whole lot of amazing and i LOVE their new song. their music is the kind to fix your mood. i wouldn’t mind if their whole album had songs like stuck like glue. whatever it sounds like, it’ll be great. jennifer’s voice and accents are totally awesome.

  • graeme

    “Stuck Like Glue” is so fun. The reggae breakdown puts a smile on my face everytime.

    • Tony

      In an effort to apsece Facebook’s (and now Twitter’s) pernicious grasp, I am making an effort to re-connect with my favorite daily reads, which includes the FireDuck. Of course, while not mathematically implied by the premise, it would certainly make my job easier if the people I read daily were to actually post…you know…daily. Thus, as a favor to a friend who really ought to be writing, as a public service to your many fans who are no doubt living lives of quiet(er) desperation since your hiatus, and mostly to me, the dude demanding things, I plan on leaving daily comments until I get my wish. Or you kill me. Either way, if I only show up to read my previous comments, that’s what I’ll be doing. MORE SPARKY DUCK!!!!!!!

      • Matiur

        From the Country California satire depetrmant: Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush were both injured today during rehearsals for the duo’s upcoming 2009 tour. Nettles and Bush were running giddily across a Nashville-area athletic field in clear plastic globes, imitating the crowd-surfing portion of their show, when a sudden gust of wind sent their oversized hamster balls sailing toward each other at high speeds.

  • wombat

    can’t wait to hear it. it couldn’t happen to two nicer, or more talented, people.

  • Kross5476

    Love ‘em! Love EVERYTHING they do!

  • uhhhh

    Not surprised they’re tempted to explore outside the same ol’ same ol’ country music genre. I was a huge fan of Kristian Bush’s work before Sugarland, and it was most definitely not country. He’s an amazing songwriter… I just can’t get into that twangy sound.

  • ChelseA

    Another huge fan here and agree with the rest of the fans here. Love them and everything they do. And the rap in stuck like glue makes me smile too! Actually the whole song makes me smile.

  • JR Jake

    Kristian and Jennifer absolutely crack me up. All you have to do is look at the picture and the first thing comes to mind is ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. The genius these two show is beyond belief because where their inspiration wells within maybe far removed from others in that genre. Love you guys wish I could see you live one day. Good luck on your new work and continue keeping it clean and fresh. Love it!

    • jackie

      ya’lll succck !

  • KMichele

    I ABSOLUTELY LOVE SUGARLAND and everything they bring to their shows! You can always count on a
    great show and wonderful fun rockin songs. They know how to put on a great show and Jennifer ROCKS!!! Love the complete band too!

  • Tracie

    I absolutely love “Stuck like Glue”!! I am a huge Sugarland and support all of the decisions they make for the new album. Jennifer can make anything sound good :0)



  • walter

    props to jennifer for playing for the troops..but katy perry kicked a**

  • tresorparis

    Thanks for interesting blog post. You guys are always provide information that it makes it impossible not to want to buy your next product ;I cant wait to see what you guys come up with based on all your research and data that you gather.

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