Sugarland's lead singer Jennifer Nettles is back and going solo again with new music set to be released this year. After making music and touring with Sugarland, and putting out a successful debut solo album in 2014, the country singer has a new single out called "Unlove You," and a sophomore solo album on the way this year.
"Unlove You" was recently named country music radio's most added song in its first week of impact. You may remember the song debuting to the world during Jennifer's performance during "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" on November 24th, 2015. The track was co-written by Jennifer and Brandy Clark, and first played live during Nettles's "Playing With Fire" tour in the fall. "Unlove You" is the first single from her upcoming album Playing With Fire.
Jennifer recently stopped by iHeartRadio HQ for an exclusive interview, where she talked to us about her new single, how motherhood has influenced her new music, and what fans can expect to hear on her upcoming album.
On writing her new single "Unlove You" with Brandy Clark:
"She [Brandy] and I were having a conversation, and she made the comment, 'You know, you can't unring a bell.' And I thought, 'You know what? That is true.' Like when you feel something, when you know something, you can't unfeel it. You can then therefore deal with what you feel or what you know, but you can't stop that. You can't change that it has happened, that it is known or felt. Later on, I sat down with the guitar, and came up with the chorus idea around it, and called her up and said, 'Hey, I think we we got a good one here, let's see if we can finish it.' And we did.
For me, there is music for different reasons. And a lot of times people make fun of country music and they say, 'Oh, it's about your dog dying, and your car breaking down, and your wife leaving you, and all those things.' But the truth to that kernel of the stereotype is what country music does better, I think, than any other genre is it celebrates brokenness, and it celebrates realness in a way that I think others don't. This song is one of those. Because when we shed a little light on that brokenness, I think we can heal better from it, and deal better with it the next time it comes around. So 'Unlove You' is about heartbreak, and is about feeling all the feels."
*FUN FACT: Jennifer's favorite lyric from "Unlove You" is: "I wasn't lost until you found me.'"
On why she chose a ballad as the first single from her new album:
"For me, emotionally it resonates in a way that I think it's a really powerful performance. Also, for my fans already, I think it will be reminiscent for them of vocal stylings that they've heard from me and really liked. I have a song called 'Stay' that I did in my ensemble work with Sugarland that I wrote, and people really responded to that, and I so I got from that they like whenever I do sing the songs that have all the feels. So this song definitely falls into that category. 'Unlove You' definitely does that, but at the same time I've gone around and asked people who know more than I do -- I like to think because I love all the songs on the album -- but who know more than I do as far as what works on radio, and what resonates on radio with people, and how it crosses those airwaves, and speaks to their listeners. And all of them responded unanimously to 'Unlove You' that that it was a most powerful representation for starting out this album."
On what fans can expect to hear on her upcoming album Playing With Fire:
"The album's called Playing With Fire, and I think for me, in comparison, for example, to my debut effort as a solo artist was called That Girl, and I recorded it when I had a five month old baby, and I just wanted to feel good and sing songs, and write songs that that felt good to sing, and feel a little bit like myself after what I call the bludgeoning of identity that is becoming a mother. So I did that, and I got the chance to record it with Rick Rubin, and it was a fabulous record and did for me what I needed it to do. And yet, Playing With Fire, I think I have something to say now. I think I have the life experience and and some the processing and digesting of the time that has passed since then that offers me some vulnerability, and some grit, and some sass, of course, on this new record. So you will hear all of that. Vulnerability and sass, it's a nice mixture."
On being inspired by motherhood, and how her song "Drunk In Heels" was created:
"None of them are inspired by my son, though some of them are inspired by being a mom, and being a working mom. I have a song on the record called 'Drunk In Heels.' And actually I wrote it with Brandy as well. She and I were chatting and she said, 'You know what? I've always wanted to write a song based on the idea that they talk about Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. And they say Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in heels.' And she said, 'So I have this idea of drunk in heels, but I don't know what to do with it.' And we just left it out there for several months, that idea had floated out there. And I was on tour for That Girl at the time, and I was exhausted and I was rocking my son, Magnus, to get him into a nap. And my husband had just gotten off the bus, which he's very hands-on, but if anybody who has a child knows that for the first little while, the buck stops here with the mom. So I was exhausted, and a little cantankerous at that point like, 'I'm out here working and I'm rocking this baby and I'm doing this and I'm doing that.' And, all of a sudden the first verse just sort of descended upon me, and as soon as I laid him down, I ran off my bus and ran on Brandy's and said, 'I've got it. This is where the curtain lifts.' So we wrote 'Drunk In Heels' based on that."
On the meaning behind the album's title Playing With Fire:
"I think after having become a mother, I think what happened to me in that process is that there was a loss of identity, and it was sort of a pressure cooker for me. Where in some ways it felt like a vacuum, that all of the air had been sort of sucked out of part of my identity. And I think a lot of women go through that, but nobody likes to talk about it because you get embarrassed Because motherhood is supposed to be the best thing that ever happened to you, and yet it's very challenging. For some women it is easy, and for some women it is not. And I am one of those for whom it was not. So I felt like all the oxygen had been sucked out of part of my identity. And when I started to come to and come back to myself, when Magnus turned about two/two-and-a-half, I felt like there was almost a back draft, if you will, in terms of fire. All of a sudden there was just a surfacing that happened. I feel fiery in my life, I feel fiery in my art. I love also to the the symbolic transformative nature of fire, and I definitely know that I have gone through a transformation over the past few years."
Learn more about Jennifer Nettles when iHeartRadio's own Paul Costabile got the country star to reveal a few random facts about herself that you need to know:
Photos: Rachel Kaplan for iHeartRadio