Exclusive Q&A with Jennifer Nettles

Photo provided by Marc Baptiste

Written by Katy Lindenmuth

We asked solo artist Jennifer Nettles about the important things in life: her brand-new music, female empowerment, and Nashville's best taco joint.

NL: In 2014, you released That Girl, your first solo album. Why did you venture away from Sugarland after so much success as part of a duo?

JN: The decision to go solo was an artistic one. I think you can get into a dangerous place as an artist when your brand starts to dictate your art. And Sugarland had, thankfully, had such success that the sound that we had had been branded. And my voice had been branded as a certain sound. And I found that exciting and also limiting, ultimately, in the sense that I would have people come up to me all the time and sayafter doing a collaboration or an awards show collaboration or the myriad of other wonderful different outside-of-Sugarland opportunities that I had had in music'Wow, we didn't know you could sing like that.” When you get branded as a sound, then that is all radio will play. It is effective in terms of commerce, and it is crippling in terms of art.

So I decided to take a risk. It was at a very interesting time of my life of complete rebirth: I had a child at the same time as I was recording and writing for That Girl. … It was to not only start that process of the solo career but also to just sing and feel like myself in the sense that becoming a mother is a big identity shaper and shifterand bludgeoning sometimes.

NL: And with all of this going on, you also managed to star in Chicago on Broadway.

JN: I grew up doing theater, and that for me has been on my bucket list for such a long time, to try to get back in that world. And the success that I've had in my music career to offer me the re-entry into that world at such a level just blew me away. That experience for me was transformative, to get to work with that caliber of talent, to get to enjoy being onstage, to get the structure of that kind of schedule, to get to sleep in my own bed and work at the same time. I left not only artistically validated and filled but also with lifelong friends and so many wonderful experiences that I would love to do it again. … As soon I got done, I called my agent and said, 'All right, when are we doing another one?”

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