It started in August. That's when Sugarland's future pivoted from a weak "maybe" to a bold "definitely." Within a few weeks Kristian Bush and Jennifer Nettles were writing again. Within months they were standing on the stage of the CMA Awards, teasing fans with the idea of a comeback album and tour in 2018.

Sure, it's not fair to call it a reunion or even a comeback, but don't get wrapped up in semantics. Bush isn't. Since the award-winning duo went on hiatus in 2012 he's cut a solo album, produced a chart-topping album for Lindsay Ell, started a podcast, signed on to produce Tyler Farr's album, written for Frankie Ballard ... actually, that's all in the last 12 months!

“Welcome to the crazy that’s about to become my life," he says, laughing after a lengthy conversation about all things Sugarland. Nettles has been similarly busy with two studio albums, a Christmas album, various television roles and her son Magnus, born soon after the duo's last show.

Some starter facts: to date Sugarland have only cut two songs for their next album, but have many more ready to cut. For that reason Bush didn't want to talk about specific songs, as he couldn't promise any would reach fans' ears.

The album will remain true to the spirit of everything recorded previously, but there at least two additional people shaping the project. That's more of a tease than a fact, so try this: When the Still the Same Tour begins, both artists will dip into their solo catalogues, although Bush is unlikely to take lead on any future Sugarland songs. He's quite content playing backup to one of the most dynamic country vocalists of the 21st century.

What event set this all in motion?
I think the timing just worked out for Jennifer. She just reached out and I was like, ‘Alright, let’s see if we’ve still got it from a writing perspective. So we sat down and wrote and the first single ("Still the Same") was the first song that we wrote in like 45 minutes. I was like 'OK, that’s gonna work just fine.'

How much did you and Jennifer talk over the last few years?
We kept a good separation based on ... we had a built-in thing that prevented us from creating. Because if I was to write on a Jennifer record, it wouldn't be her music. And same thing, vice-versa.

She became a parent and that’s a whole different game. And if you know new parents, they disappear for the whole first three or four years anyways. Emotionally they’re gone and then they have to go find themselves afterward. So that’s exactly the timing that’s on this.

There’s a social piece to what’s going on in the Sugarland world, but we’ve never been a band that’s political, and I maintain that. The politics of the heart I will pick up and I will put on a frigging flag. Politics of politics, that’s your problem.

Were you nervous when you got back together for the first time?
I was kind of excited to hear what she’d been up to. I had been writing songs like daily since then, so the idea of sitting in a room writing songs had no fear on it for me. It was just the joy of getting to see someone you hadn’t seen in awhile.

At any point over the last few years did you believe Sugarland might be done for good?
I’ve always thought that we hadn’t finished saying the things we needed to say. But I also felt that way about Billy Pilgrim, which was my band before Sugarland. Andrew (BP partner Andrew Hyra) and I made a record that has not been released yet that we finished right as Sugarland was beginning. It was called Billy and the Time Machine and the reason we made that record is that we agreed, even though we had a little space before that, we weren’t finished telling our story.

With Sugarland it never felt like we were finished telling our story. It felt like we needed to collect more.

What have you been writing about for the new album?
It’s really fascinating to me because I put everything up to, ‘What would I want my daughter to hear?’ She’s 12. When I told her the band was coming back together I was trying to prepare her and she’s like, ‘Dad, my friends don’t care.’ [laughs]

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My son’s in high school he’s like, ‘Well suddenly there are people saying hello to me in the hallway that don’t ever speak to me.’ I think to myself, ‘What do they need right now?’ They’re born into the world at a certain time. They’re coming of age at a certain time and Sugarland has always been not about us as people. It was always about you as a fan. And you know I think we had this beautiful timing where we kind of slowed down at a time bro-country began and we’re kicking back in at the time it’s settling down. So we get to continue our conversation from where we last left it. But we’re doing it at a time where we’re sitting in this — we’re a band that empowers women and we’re having a real discussion about that as a culture, whereas we weren’t having one as a culture five or 10 years ago. That’s like double-bouncing on the trampoline. It just seems like suddenly we fit in.

How do you continue that conversation without being preachy?
Oh, that’s easy! You have to be very aware of preaching, no one responds well to that. And I’m a parent so I get it. My kids don’t listen to me when I preach at them. But if I tell them a story they can pull something from, that matters.

There’s a social piece to what’s going on in the Sugarland world, but we’ve never been a band that’s political, and I maintain that. The politics of the heart I will pick up and I will put on a frigging flag. Politics of politics, that’s your problem.

Are you nervous?
Oh yeah, it’s awesome! I’m excited nervous. I’ve got rehearsals this evening for our tour. I’ve got three more days to write for this. I’m staying up late, I’m getting up early before the sun comes up. Like this is it. This is what you train for your whole life.

"Still the Same" is a very nostalgic song. Sugarland has always been a band that pushes country music forward sonically. In what kind of ways will you do that?
I can guarantee you I won’t let you down [laughs]. I can tell you that it’s scaring me, which is great.

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