If you think you don’t know who Kristian Bush is you’re likely mistaken. He’s a guy from Sugarland, not a guy rather the guy. As the group takes a hiatus Bush has decided to pursue a solo project. His debut single is catchy, fun loving, and spreads a message that’s perfect for the holiday season. “Trailer Hitch” is the type of song that makes you want to get up and dance, and then go out and do something good for the world. It’s the perfect single to introduce Bush, the solo artist, to the national scene. We caught up with Kristian this week to chat about “Trailer Hitch,” his upcoming album Southern Gravity, and his charity work with Goodwill.
When you were writing “Trailer Hitch” did you think it was going to be a hit or even a single? Or was there more of a reflective mindset?
That song was written this year after the record was pretty much finished. I had picked all the songs and even started tracking [the album] so it was more of a song that wasn’t intended to be a single. At the same time I don’t think any of my singles, ever have been. We didn’t think it through that way, but I did think the song was a lot of fun as I was writing it.
I’m real sensitive after all these years of being around hits, especially the writing part of them. So when they start to feel fun, then you have to start paying attention.
You wrote “Trailer HItch” with your brother, have you two written together before or is something new?
We’ve been writing together off and on for a while. He wrote a lot for Train, when he was a part of that group, so there were times when he would pull me across and try to help him there. So in exchange I would just keep pulling him into the country side of things because what I do are melodies and lyrics – that’s the common thread in all my work. It wouldn’t really matter what genre it would be as long as it’s a great melody and a great lyric. My natural fit is in country music because that’s what it sounds like when it comes out of me.
Definitely. “Trailer Hitch” definitely strikes a chord and it’s a song that has a great message. Is that something we can expect for the remainder of the album?
Thank you. My songs, regardless of whether they’re Sugarland songs or my own songs, have a message within them. I try to be aware of it. Even if the message isn’t supposed to change the world and it’s just supposed to change your day. But I try to be aware and conscious as an artist and writer that the songs do their best to communicate a message that applies to your life.
So the rest of the album definitely has my signature on it – because I wrote them all. While they have a lot of under meaning in them, some of them have a lot of weight and others have less. Some of them are simply to be joyous and make you happy.
You’ve written something like 300 songs, when you were picking songs for Southern Gravity did you pull any old songs that you have always wanted to be on an album?
I tried to pull some up. It’s like a JV player that needs to play varsity. There were some songs that had stood the test of time that I needed to reexamine and give another shot. The interesting thing for me is that I’ve never had someone at a record company pick my songs for me. I’ve always tried to do it myself with the songs that I know I like.
In this case I was overwhelmed with the amount of songs. I’ve never been in this space before. Usually I’ll come in with like 18 songs for a Sugarland project. But for this one I came in with like 300 songs or something crazy like that – it’s really been mind blowing. I keep wondering if this is the beginning of a multiple chapter conversation. I don’t know yet.
It seems like you’ve got the material to make it a long standing thing.
It’s like television shows these days. As much as I want Game of Thrones, I want to watch all the seasons at one time. So that’s kind of how I feel – I feel like I’m sitting on season one of my music I can just see where it’s going, it’s exciting.
Not a bad problem to have. So besides the release of the album do you have any other plans lined up for the new year. Is there going to be a tour in place?
Most of my touring plans are reactive to radio. The song itself is really gaining traction on radio. I’m sitting here kind of stunned and humbled by the response. So most of it is reactive to that. But I will be going down to Australia to tour with Lady Antebellum so that’ll be great. Most of this is honestly people figuring out who that guy is that sings “Trailer Hitch,” and when they figure it out often they’re like ‘wow it’s the guy from Sugarland’ but still nobodies said my name. So it’s really a process of standing in front of people and having them realize that they know me and realize that I can sing. Once we overcome that I’ll be playing as many places as I can, but there’s no official tour that’s been booked for it.
We’re just planning on playing all the fairs and festivals, then we’re gonna go do radio, and then we’re going to go launch the record in different countries.
Is it tough hearing ‘I didn’t know you could sing’ or is that something you don’t really pay attention to?
I think it’s curious. It’s not hard to hear because I know I can so it’s not a judgement. It’s exciting to watch people discover something that they didn’t know about someone they did know. I think it’s a beautiful thing and in a way it seems to almost be inspirational to people.
So switching gears slightly to your work with Goodwill. Did they reach out to you? How did that partnership get started?
The Goodwill partnership is a result of the messaging of “Trailer Hitch” and how unbelievably seamlessly it fits the messaging at Goodwill. When we first decided it would be the first single, the obvious thought was ‘Wow this makes me feel good when I listen to it and it encourages people to question this part of their life.’ The fun thing about the song is that it doesn’t give an answer, rather it just asks the question.
I agree. I like how it’s open ended and isn’t trying to make you do one thing or another, rather make you think about what you think should be done.
Yeah I’m not a preacher and it’s not supposed to be Sunday, but I do like asking the question. And what a wonderful place I have found with Goodwill where they have the answer. So if you feel moved by this song we have a really easy way to do this and you’ be surprised how much you can help when you come in and drop off your stuff.
You did that one concert with Goodwill down in Texas, are you planning on doing more events like that across the country?
Absolutely. When I would tour with Sugarland I’ve always been fascinated with this idea that as we’d look out into the audience the people closest are the ones that spent the most amount of money. But in this case I’ve been interested in, “Can you come see a show without spending any money?” Like what if you don’t have money to spend. Things are getting tighter out there all the time, and if you don’t have the money to spend on tickets how can you possibly see a show? And so this experiment that we’ve done with Goodwill is the answer. You bring a bag of clothes or something and donate it and then you walk in the door and you have a concert.
I agree with all that. As a member of the press they usually put us right down in front so you get to hear the conversations and I’ve been in the back and all over and I’ve found that the biggest fans are not always the ones closest to the stage. So I think that’s a great point as well as a great idea.
Yeah definitely. There was always this sort of weird moment when you’re looking down at the people who’ve spent the most amount of money and they’re the closest to the stage. I’ve always thought that’s curious because sometimes they aren’t the biggest fans – sometimes it means that you’ve saved your money all year and that’s the end all, be all of your life. And I’ve been that kid in the front row. So at some point Jennifer [Nettles] and I were very conscious of it, and eventually turned it into a standing room only environment. So they were general admission tickets and they were the cheapest tickets you could get and we would let people in based on their participation in the fan club. If you were a member, you could come an hour and half early and stand wherever you want. That was an idea that we got from Pearl Jam.
Well thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us. Happy holidays and we wish you the best of luck in 2015.
You can catch Kristian perform in the Northeast on February 28, as a part of CountryCon in Albany, NY.