Monday, December 11, 2017
Tampa Bay Music & Shows

Jennifer Nettles talks 'Coat of Many Colors,' rap crossovers before Clearwater show

Here's your early Christmas present from Jennifer Nettles: a whole bunch of Jennifer Nettles.

"There'll be a lot of me on your television throughout the holiday season," Nettles said by phone this week en route to a tour rehearsal in Nashville. "So keep an eye out."

On Dec. 3, the Grammy-winning Sugarland singer will return for her sixth stint hosting CMA Country Christmas, a star-studded holiday special on ABC. One week later, she'll play Dolly Parton's mother, Avie Lee, in NBC's Coat of Many Colors, based on Parton's autobiographical song of the same name.

You'll have to wait until spring for Nettles' second solo album, Playing With Fire. And you'll have to wait longer still for new music from Sugarland, as both Nettles and bandmate Kristian Bush seem content going their separate ways for a while.

"We're still doing our solo projects," Nettles said. "He just put a record out and has been touring wildly for that, and seems to be enjoying it very much. We're both enjoying figuring ourselves out from a solo perspecive."

In the meantime, Nettles returns to Clearwater Saturday for her second concert at Ruth Eckerd Hall in 20 months. This week, she talked about Playing With Fire, her secret love of hip hop and more.

You have new music coming out next year. How much will we hear at this show? How much will your show change?

The good thing is, sonically, the music itself sort of dictates each show. This record is much fuller, I would say, so it's going to allow for a lot more fun from a production standpoint. That Girl was a wonderfully organic and intimate record. And this new album, Playing With Fire, is going to be a much fuller sound. I think it's much more indicative of my voice and where I want to be and where I find myself now as a solo artist.

How is production going on Coat of Many Colors? Has it wrapped filming?

Oh, yeah, it's wrapped, it's done. It was so cathartic for me. I feel so super-spoiled for it to have been my first experience from a full-length film standpoint. From the perspective of a storyteller, it was amazing, because as a singer-songwriter, you have the opportunity to tell a story, in modern pop music, for three and a half minutes. You get to be that character for that long to try to connect with an audience. I love, from the standpoint of an actor, to really dig into a character, to get to play with more nuance and subtlety, to get to know her so much more than three and a half minutes, to know so much of her story.

As someone who's straddled the worlds of pop and country, how do you view Taylor Swift's career unfolding over the next five to 10 years?

Clearly, that young woman is navigating it all very well. She has navigated her transition from being a girl, really, when she started out, into turning into a young woman, and that is not an easy transition. She has navigated it with grace and continues to remain true to herself, continues to be able to provide music that her fan base relates to, while at the same time growing and getting new fans who not only evolve with her, but who are of her age or older. She's doing just fine, honey. She doesn't need any advice from me.

Do you have any favorite pop songs to cover these days? The last time you were here, you covered Imagine Dragons' Demons.

Without giving away all of the surprises in the show, I definitely have pop songs that I love listening to on the radio. Interestingly enough, when I came into rehearsal yesterday — I also love rap music very much, and I love Jay Z and I love Kanye — and I was saying, "Who is current that fills that same sort of space for me, that lyrically has that same type of content, that's also sonically of that nature?" I'm interested. If any of you young people out here reading this article want to pass on via Twitter or otherwise who might be good in the rap world right now, I'm looking for new inspiration.

Have you ever been asked to sing the hook on a rap song?

No, I have not. Though I would love to. That would be awesome.

That's suddenly all I want to hear right now, is you singing with, like, Kendrick Lamar.

Make it happen! Put it out in the universe!

Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

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