Brio Tuscan Grille
Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland
About Jennifer Nettles
"Re-creation". (Remove the dash.) "Recreation". Yep, that about sums it up.
Every few years, whether one is aware or not, we humans tend to recreate ourselves. For me it is some of the most fun "recreation" that exists. That is why I am singing from the rafters (pun intended) in celebration of my new solo project: "That Girl".
Being a musician can be very interactive. I like to share my music with my fans. I like to perform my songs in front of an audience. And yet, while this sharing is integral, there is additionally a very singular, isolated and narcissistic reward: the continual discovery of oneself. (In this case, of myself).
In Sugarland I have learned much of both who I am and who I am not. Even with all of our success, I have had the deep desire to share other parts of myself. To prove some things to myself. And, to just simply shake it up and do something different, perhaps scary, and certainly fresh and new.
Upon the release of "That Girl" the album, it will have been almost four years since I started steering my ship in the direction of a solo venture. Reinvention takes processing, evaluation, planning, time. And so, four years ago, I began. Again.
I started writing for this project with allowance and openness. I had no idea where it would lead, but I wanted to follow in faith. Ideas sprung from walks, from photographs, from solitary moments sitting at my piano playing around. I called old writer friends, new writer friends, and made serendipitous connections based on gut instincts or random conversations. I was curious, open, interested. And, I also got pregnant.
Indeed, the Universe was conspiring with me on my theme of transformation. I was changing from the inside out. Living metaphor. The last third of my pregnancy was one of the most prolific writing times in my life. In part because I was ready and in part because I was actually off the road and had the time. I learned from it: make time for this.
I enjoy a good deadline. I had set Spring of 2013 as a tentative goal for going into the studio. My son would be 4(ish) months old and I thought that would be a good time to jump into giving birth to a record after having delivered my child. I had a collection of songs. I needed a producer who would understand what I wanted for this album and who would support my vision of where I wanted to take my music and my voice. My manager simply asked who would be my dream producer. My answer was immediate.
People have asked, "How did you come to work with Rick Rubin?" The answer is both humble and simple: a phone call. To my excitement, a phone call gave way to a dialogue about what I wanted sonically for this project and what I had written. Writing work tapes, not fully produced demos, became the backbone of conversations discussing which songs needed work and rework, and which ones felt closer to ready. I volleyed ideas for requested changes. We talked about my musical hopes as an artist for this album, and we discussed my fears as a new mother going into the necessary vacuum of the studio experience while nursing an infant. Needless to say this recording was going to be different in a LOT of ways. We set a start date.
In May 2013 my husband, our new baby boy and I relocated from Nashville to California for a month. Rick's Shangri-La Studio is located in an old hippy ranch house in Malibu. While the daily commute was beautiful, the pedigree of this place is what bewitched me. Owned originally by Bob Dylan, and founded in the 70's, this place held the energy of four decades of music that was made by artists and musicians who had neither the luxury nor crutch of the technology that "perfects" the music so often currently floating through the airwaves. They made recordings that sounded like human emotion. Not sterile, perfection. I wanted the spirit of their fearless imperfection, with all of its raw, simple beauty, to span the decades and cross through the walls and into my songs, my voice and the hands of the fantastic musicians who would play on this album.
We set up a "nursery" in one of the studio rooms. Each day I would sing until Magnus (my son) let my husband or my mom know that he was hungry. At which point, off went the headphones and on went the baby for a feeding. We tracked each take live, so between the focus and excitement of my singing and the focus and attention of my mothering, I was nervously wrung out at the end of each day. We tracked 21 songs this way. Out of those 21, Rick and I made our own independent lists of "yes/no/maybes". Those we had in common made the album. Those we had in common also came together to tell stories of nostalgia, longing, loss. They spun tales of unintentional betrayal, of jealousy, of motherhood, of love. They were all, in one way or another, the legend of rediscovering oneself. Of course, to me, that is what all art does: it offers a new way to see your life, your past and yourself.
I will be forthright with you in sharing my hopes for this project. I hope it makes an impact. I hope it touches and moves and entertains people. I hope everyone wants to buy it. I hope multiple millions do. I hope it wins lots of awards, beau coupe hearts, and tons of new fans. I hope it takes me to exciting and new and wildly successful places. And, I hope you'll come with me.