Editor’s note: With live music and concert reviews on hold due to COVID-19, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is focusing on how Georgia musicians are spending their time in our new feature, Mic Check.
Trying to keep up with Kristian Bush’s schedule is like herding cats.
As half of Sugarland, Bush is frequently touring in the summer with musical partner Jennifer Nettles. The duo has a new album, “There Goes the Neighborhood,” sitting on hold since the tour to support it was canceled last month due to the shutdown of the live music industry.
He’s actively working in Dark Water, the new-ish jam-rock band with brother, Brandon, and guitarist Benji Shanks. In May, they started a two-month YouTube drop of a new video every Tuesday (this week’s is “Come Out and Play,” from an Atlanta concert).
And this spring, Bush celebrated the five-year anniversary of his solo album, “Southern Gravity,” with a bounty of extras.
Oh, and he and Billy Pilgrim partner Andrew Hyra have something new brewing as well.
Here is what Bush had to say in between his impressive multi-tasking.
What have you been doing these last couple of months?
My plans this year have to do with releasing a lot of music, and suddenly I’m stuck at home and staring at all of these release schedules. Then I started to clean out the closets and during my cleaning, I found entire albums that Andrew (Hyra) and I made during the Billy Pilgrim days, so I got in touch with Andrew, and we’ve been talking. If you’re a fan of any of the things I do, you’re going to have a playlist of fun. I have four bands’ worth of music to release!
What do you miss about normal life?
Because I compulsively create, it’s important for me to stop what I’m doing and go to a restaurant and do something. My self-care is not great because I get lost so much in making things. I really depend on others when it comes to self-care, even if it’s to go to an exercise class or get a haircut or eat dinner. Now what’s happening is my self-care is falling apart. I find myself (doing a) pendulum swing, suddenly confused why I’m suddenly down or have all the energy in the world. My medium space was dependent on me leaving my creative space and being part of a community. What we need now is what I do best — make songs that make you feel better, even if it’s just to comfort myself. I joke with my buddies that quarantine is perfectly aligned with the muscle memory of being a musician. We’re used to getting in vans with people and finding a way to be cool about it for 20 months on end and saving all your money because you’re going to not have a job when you get home and will be sleeping on people’s floors and eating ramen.
What have you been listening to?
I noticed that the music I’d play at dinner would really affect my kids (Bush’s son is 17 and daughter is 14). At first, my go-to was Van Morrison, and then I started to put Bob Marley on, and people started to sway while eating, which was fun. I started to make these “shelter in place” playlists for my kids and friends: Echo & The Bunnymen, Del Amitri, Marcus King. Pandora asked me to do this, so they have the “Kristian Bush Playlist.”
You recently re-released your solo album, “Southern Gravity,” with seven new songs. But I remember you telling me when you first put it out that you had written more than 300. How did you choose these extras?
Originally, they wanted to issue the album on vinyl when it first came out. (April) was the five-year anniversary, so I just posted online, “Hey, happy birthday,” and people started to respond, and it didn’t stop because everyone (was) at home. A lot of times as an artist you forget that these (songs) are still living. I still play them a lot, but you can get seduced by the process of the press cycle. If no one is talking about it, it must not still be alive. So I started pulling up the old hard drives and realized we had made the rest of this record to fit on vinyl… and I found the exact number of songs to make it a double vinyl album. I found the mastering files and called my manager and said let’s do it now. And we put it out within a week and a half.
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