CMA winner Kristian Bush shares his East Tennessee roots

CMA winner Kristian Bush shares his East Tennessee roots

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Long before the sold-out concerts and chart-topping hits, Kristian Bush was just a little boy in East Tennessee, born and raised in Sevierville, who loved music from the very beginning. Long before the sold-out concerts and chart-topping hits, Kristian Bush was just a little boy in East Tennessee, born and raised in Sevierville, who loved music from the very beginning.
"A career recording artist is something that I always dreamed of being," he said. "To have achieved it, and still feel like I'm just getting warmed up, I'm so very grateful." "A career recording artist is something that I always dreamed of being," he said. "To have achieved it, and still feel like I'm just getting warmed up, I'm so very grateful."
Sugarland has won countless awards including "Best Vocal Duo of the Year" at the CMAs. Sugarland has won countless awards including "Best Vocal Duo of the Year" at the CMAs.
Kristian Bush says it's the honesty of country music that speaks to the listener like no other genre. Kristian Bush says it's the honesty of country music that speaks to the listener like no other genre.

By HAYLEY HARMON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

ATLANTA (WATE) - Many of Wednesday's CMA Award winners and nominees have ties to right here in East Tennessee. One of those is the band Sugarland.

Sugarland was nominated for the CMA's "Vocal Duo of the Year," one they've taken home five times in the past.

Many people may not realize Kristian Bush, the guitar strumming, fedora hat wearing half of the powerhouse band, was born and raised in East Tennessee.

Sugarland burst onto the scene in 2004. They have now sold more than 22 million albums and landed eight number one singles.

"I've been waking up every day since I was 13, writing songs," Bush said.

Long before the sold-out concerts and chart-topping hits, Kristian Bush was just a little boy in East Tennessee, born and raised in Sevierville, who loved music from the very beginning.

"I was quite young, and I slightly remember mom asking me if I wanted to play the violin. And if you're from Sevierville, you don't know what that is. But if you call it the fiddle, you know exactly what it is," he said.

In middle school, he and his brother began attending the Webb School of Knoxville.

"I spent a lot of time on I-40 as a kid, listening to the radio," he admitted.

At age 11, he started writing and performing anywhere that would let him, spending hours at Knoxville's Pick' n' Grin Music.

"I would go in the music store and just sort of look over people's shoulders and pick up instruments and I didn't buy anything. I was just hanging out like a wallflower all day," said Bush.

He recorded his very first song there on a four-track.

"I was like 'Oh! You mean you can make records? Like the things that are on the radio?' So I was obsessed immediately."

His mom then got them into a real studio.

"She bought us two hours at the local 24-track studio, which was in the basement of Danny Brown's house on Kingston Pike in West Knoxville," he said.

"Everything we could get down in two hours. We would record two or three songs. Then we would take them home and duplicate them on cassettes and sell them to our friends."

It wasn't always country music for Bush. Not long after he moved to Atlanta for college, he actually landed a record deal with folk-rock duo "Billy Pilgrim."

When that band crumbled, Bush finally found the music he was meant to play.

"The music I was writing, it turns out, were country songs. And I just didn't know it," he said.

Bush bought an Atlanta studio, the birthplace of Sugarland.

"Jennifer [Nettles] and I sat here in this floor. We started writing songs. And then we made this band."

The name Sugarland was the hometown of a friend.

Having met on the Atlanta music scene, he and Nettles just clicked. Audiences loved them.

"You play it live, and people sing it back to you, and you're like 'Oh my gosh,'" he said.

Now, with countless awards behind them, Bush says it's still surprising.

"You get an award and you're just like 'Yes! Holy crap! Thank you!'"

He also says it's the honesty of country music that speaks to the listener like no other genre.

"It's hearing someone speak the feelings that you have on the inside. They're actually singing about it," he said. "So for some reason if I don't have the words that day, Johnny Cash does. Or Steve Earl does. Or Miranda Lambert does."

When he and Jennifer Nettles write songs, their ideas come from everywhere, but mostly just hearing people talk.

"You just have to stay on your toes to the things people say everyday that have more meaning than they think they do."

That includes the easy chatter and age old sayings he heard growing up in East Tennessee, one of which served as the inspiration for his new solo single "Love or Money."

"I love it, it's just kind of this forever quandary. It's very simple," he said.

It's easy to know Kristian Bush's answer to that question.

"A career recording artist is something that I always dreamed of being," he said. "To have achieved it, and still feel like I'm just getting warmed up, I'm so very grateful."

Bush's single "Love or Money" is available now on iTunes.

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