Kristian Bush

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Kristian Bush
Kristian Bush at Ramstein Air Base, Germany (2009)
Kristian Bush at Ramstein Air Base, Germany (2009)
Background information
Birth nameKristian Merrill Bush
Born (1970-03-14) March 14, 1970 (age 52)[1]
OriginKnoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
Years active1990–present
Member ofSugarland
Formerly ofBilly Pilgrim

Kristian Merrill Bush (born March 14, 1970) is an American singer, songwriter, and record producer. Bush is one half of the country music duo Sugarland with Jennifer Nettles, and was a member of the folk rock duo Billy Pilgrim with Andrew Hyra. In addition to his work in these two groups, Bush has released one solo album, Southern Gravity, via Streamsound Records in 2015.

Early life[edit]

Kristian Bush was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is the great grandson of A.J. Bush, founder of Bush Brothers and Company; his part of the family sold their shares in the company when Bush was a child, although Kristian's cousin, Jay Bush, continues as company spokesman.[2] Bush was raised outside of Knoxville in Sevierville, Tennessee, a small town at the base of the Smoky Mountains that was also the hometown of Dolly Parton.[3] He was exposed to instruments from an early age, and picked up his first violin at the age of four years. During these early years, Bush, alongside younger brother Brandon, made his musical debut at the local Bush Beans Jamboree performing as Parton's opening act.[4]

Throughout childhood, Bush was enrolled in violin lessons and classically trained under the Suzuki method at the University of Tennessee.[3] The family eventually relocated to Knoxville and by the age of eleven, Bush agreed to play one season in the Knoxville Youth Symphony, before earning the right to lay the violin down for good and start learning the guitar.[5] As a teenager, Bush stuck with the guitar and began to create original music. It wasn't long before he was writing his own songs and recording homemade albums.[6]

Bush attended Avon Old Farms Boarding School in Avon, Connecticut, graduating in 1988. He then attended Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, earning a degree in Creative Writing.[3] During college, Bush began to connect with Atlanta's growing music scene, often begging his way into clubs; witnessing first-hand success from bands like R.E.M. and (fellow Emory students) the Indigo Girls.[3]

Musical career[edit]

While attending Emory University, Bush was the lead singer and guitarist in the rock band Storyteller, with fellow Emory students Chris "Tex" Nolter (bass, guitar) and Jon Slatkin (drums). Storyteller covered the Replacement's "I Can't Wait”, Rod Stewart's "Maggie May”, The English Beat's "Mirror in the Bathroom", and Jane's Addiction's "Jane Says”, among other songs, and they performed at numerous bars, campus events and parties in Atlanta.

Billy Pilgrim[edit]

Bush started his career in the early 1990s forming folk rock duo Billy Pilgrim along with Andrew Hyra. Bush and Hyra originally met in Knoxville after Hyra relocated to Tennessee with his sister Annie to pursue music together as a brother-sister duo, the Hyras. Bush had made a number of studio contacts while in college and he and the Hyras began performing together. Annie lent her voice to Bush's Politics and Pocketchange album, and Bush played guitar on the Hyras' Big Back Porch Songs. Bush was recruited to fill in for a string of Hyra's shows when Annie parted ways for a job in Florida.

As a new duo, Bush and Hyra soon relocated to Atlanta and began to gain a following with a place for themselves among the acoustic scene and songwriting community. They performed on Emory's campus occasionally under their names, before they chose a moniker for the duo. Bush and Hyra decided upon the name Billy Pilgrim (borrowed from the time traveling protagonist of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five) and released a pair of albums for Atlantic Records (their 1994 self-titled debut and 1995's Bloom), earning multiple Top 5 singles on the AAA charts, rotation on VH1 and a reputation as dynamic live performers who traveled from the tiny stage of Eddie's Attic in Decatur, Georgia, to a worldwide tour supporting Melissa Etheridge in 1995.[7]


Bush co-founded Sugarland in 2002, signed with Mercury Records Nashville in 2004, and exploded onto the country music scene. They have surpassed sales of over 22 million albums worldwide, achieved five No. 1 singles and won numerous awards, including trophies from the Grammys, American Music Awards, Academy of Country Music Awards, CMT Music Awards and CMA Awards.

Sugarland broke through in 2004 with the release of their debut single "Baby Girl", the first single from their multi-platinum debut album Twice the Speed of Life. The trio became a duo in 2006, when they also released their second album, Enjoy the Ride. This album produced their first two No. 1 singles (in the U.S.), "Want To" and "Settlin'", and won the duo a Grammy for "Stay". In 2008 they released their third album, titled Love on the Inside. This album produced three more No. 1 singles with "All I Want to Do", "Already Gone"and "It Happens". Their fourth album, The Incredible Machine was released on October 19, 2010 in both a standard and deluxe edition. Upon The Incredible Machine being certified platinum, Sugarland has sold in excess of 14 million records.[8] Nettles and Bush also write all of the band's songs.[9] In October of 2012, they were inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

At the 51st Annual Country Music Association Awards in 2017, Sugarland officially reunited following a five year hiatus and announced that they were working on new music together.[10] Their first full-band shows were at the C2C: Country to Country festival in March 2018. Their sixth studio album, Bigger was released on June 8, 2019.


To date, Bush has won six BMI Awards for his songwriting abilities, and in 2011 he founded the music publishing company and songwriting collective Songs of the Architect. Recent producing and songwriting collaborations include Ellis Paul, Laura Bell Bundy, Matt Nathanson, the dB’s, Martin Johnson of Boys Like Girls, Pretty Little Liars star Lucy Hale, and up-and-comers including Kristina Train, Larkin Poe, Canaan Smith, Lauren Alaina, Jaida Dreyer and Alana Springsteen.[citation needed]

Bush made his solo debut in March 2013 at the inaugural C2C: Country to Country Festival at the O2 Arena in London, England; his first single as a solo act, "Love or Money," debuted on iTunes in Europe the following week, along with an official lyric video released on YouTube for fans back home in the States.[11] He often takes part in the Country Music Association's Songwriters Series, which has included various appearances across the United States, as well as time spent abroad with the CMA's first-ever international initiative showcasing Nashville songwriters and their work to foreign audiences in clubs and theaters.[12] Bush is also a frequent panelist and speaker at events for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.[citation needed]

In July 2013, Bush collaborated with Canada-based computer and video game developer Big Blue Bubble, to become the latest character, and first celebrity guest in the hit online game, My Singing Monsters. Bush became a fan of the game after being introduced to it by his 11-year-old son. He then took his liking of the game to his Twitter account, and was soon connected with head developer Dave Kerr.[13] Bush received an invitation to guest star and made his debut as the all-new "Shugabush" monster on July 29, 2013. Bush provides his own mandolin and vocal recordings for the character.[14] A new island was also added to the game, called Shugabush Island, with a song that highly resembled Bush's " Love Or Money ".[citation needed]

On October 10, 2013, "Love or Money" was remixed by longtime Sugarland producer Byron Gallimore and released to iTunes in the United States.[15] After the collaboration, Gallimore asked to hear more of Bush's solo music, and subsequently signed him to his own label, Streamsound Records.[16]

Bush's debut solo single, "Trailer Hitch", was released on July 28, 2014.[17] His first solo album, Southern Gravity, was released on April 7, 2015. He wrote over 300 songs for the project, which he refers to as a “mainstream country record that is meant to be played on the radio.”[18]

On February 5, 2016, it was announced that Bush has signed a new publishing, producing, and label deal with Broken Bow Records, where he will record under their imprint Wheelhouse Records.[19]

"Forever Now (Say Yes)", written and performed by Bush, became the new theme song for the TLC reality series Say Yes to the Dress when their 14th season premiered on March 4, 2016. Bush also makes a guest appearance on the show later in the season.[20]

Bush collaborated with playwright Janece Shaffer on Troubadour, a romantic comedy set in 1950s Nashville (featuring original songs by Bush) that was scheduled to make its debut at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia on January 28, 2017.[21] In March 2017, he returned to the C2C: Country to Country festival, headlining the CMA songwriters series.[citation needed]

On May 31, 2019, Bush released a new EP, Summertime Six Pack.[22]

Bush has also co-written with actress and singer Rita Wilson on three of her albums; Rita Wilson, Bigger Picture, and Halfway to Home. He will be touring will Wilson in 2019.[22]

Dark Water[edit]

In 2019 Bush formed a new band with his brother Brandon, and friend Benji Shanks called Dark Water. He calls the band "an amazing experience", and he "can't wait for people to hear it."[22]


On BBC Radio 2 Country, Bush presented 'Country Duos', selecting some of his favourite country songs. He presented coverage of the 2017 CMA Music Festival on BBC Radio 2.

Personal life[edit]

Bush has a son and a daughter from his marriage, which ended in 2011.[23]

Bush's brother Brandon is a former member of the rock group Train, and also tours with Sugarland and Kristian's solo project as a keyboardist.

Awards and accolades[edit]

  • 2012 Named Distinguished Alumnus, Avon Old Farms School[11]
  • 2011 CMA Awards Vocal Duo of the Year - Sugarland[11]
  • 2011 CMT Music Awards Duo Video of the Year - Sugarland, "Stuck Like Glue"[11]
  • 2011 ACM Awards Top Vocal Duo - Sugarland[11]
  • 2010 CMA Awards Vocal Duo of the Year - Sugarland[11]
  • 2009 CMA Awards Vocal Duo of the Year - Sugarland[11]
  • 2009 CMT Music Awards Duo Video of the Year - Sugarland, "All I Want To Do"[11]
  • 2009 ACM Awards Top Vocal Duo - Sugarland[11]
  • 2009 Grammy Awards Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group - Sugarland, "Stay"[11]
  • 2009 Grammy Awards Best Country Song - Sugarland, "Stay"[11]
  • 2008 CMA Awards Vocal Duo of the Year - Sugarland[11]
  • 2008 CMT Music Awards Duo Video of the Year - Sugarland, "Stay"[11]
  • 2008 ACM Awards Single of the Year - Sugarland, "Stay"[11]
  • 2007 CMA Awards Vocal Duo of the Year - Sugarland[11]
  • 2007 CMT Awards Duo Video of the Year - Sugarland, "Want To"[11]
  • 2006 ACM Awards Top New Duo or Vocal Group - Sugarland[11]
  • 2005 American Music Awards Favorite Breakthrough New Artist - Sugarland[11]


Solo releases[edit]

  • Paint It All (2002)[24]
  • "Love or Money" [single] (2013)[24]
  • "Trailer Hitch" [single] (2014)[25]

Billy Pilgrim[edit]

  • St. Christopher's Crossing (1992)[26]
  • Words Like Numbers (1993)[26]
  • Billy Pilgrim (1994)[26]
  • Bloom (1995)[26]
  • In the Time Machine (2001)[26]


Studio albums[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions
US Country US US
Southern Gravity 16 160 5 17 31


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
US Country US Country Airplay US Bubbling CAN Country
2014 "Trailer Hitch" 25 21 9 44 Southern Gravity
2015 "Light Me Up" 60
2017 "Sing Along" 58

Music videos[edit]

Year Video Director
2014 "Trailer Hitch"[29] Blake Judd
2015 "Light Me Up"[30] Abdelnour/Ogle
2017 "Sing Along" Kyle Morgan


  1. ^ Dicaire, David (2008). The New Generation of Country Music Stars: Biographies of 50 Artists Born After 1940. McFarland. p. 143. ISBN 978-0-7864-3787-0. Retrieved March 7, 2020.
  2. ^ Darden, Beville. "Sugarland's Kristian Bush Talks 'Secret' Family Feud". Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Parvin, Paige P. "Down in Sugarland". Emory Magazine. Emory University. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  4. ^ Haynes, Beth. "HomeGrown: Kristian and Brandon Bush, Sugarland". Archived from the original on October 27, 2014. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  5. ^ Testerman, Janet. "Kristian Bush of Sugarland Cover Feature". Knoxville Magazine. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  6. ^ "An Interview with Kristian Bush of Sugarland". Epiphone. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  7. ^ Zimmerman, Matthew. "Tunes, Technology, and Time Travel: a Billy Pilgrim Biography". Trafalmadore. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  8. ^ Stromblad, Cory (January 31, 2011). "Sugarland Strikes Platinum With Their 'Incredible Machine'". The Boot. Retrieved January 31, 2011.
  9. ^ "Sugarland Red Dirt Road". Youtube. Archived from the original on December 19, 2021. Retrieved November 14, 2011.
  10. ^ "It's Official: Sugarland Are Returning with New Music!".
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Kristian Bush Official Bio". Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  12. ^ Willman, Chris (April 7, 2013). "Kristian Bush Talks Solo Work, Sugarland's Future". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  13. ^ "How Sugarland's Kristian Bush And Online Game "My Singing Monsters" Came To Make Music Together". Fast Company. July 26, 2013. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  14. ^ "Sugarland's Kristian Bush Is a Monster". Country Weekly. July 29, 2013. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  15. ^ Dukes, Billy. "Kristian Bush Excited to Release 'Love or Money' to iTunes in the U.S." Taste of Country. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  16. ^ "Kristian Bush Steps Out Of The Shadows With Solo Effort" (PDF). Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  17. ^ "Kristian Bush Debuts New Music Video for 'Trailer Hitch'". Retrieved July 12, 2014.[dead link]
  18. ^ Despres, Tricia (June 25, 2014). "Kristian Bush takes center stage at Jammin' at the Zoo". Archived from the original on October 27, 2014. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  19. ^ Whitaker, Sterling (February 6, 2016). "Kristian Bush Signs New Deal With BBR Music Group". Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  20. ^ Freeman, Jon (March 7, 2016). "See Kristian Bush Sing 'Say Yes to the Dress' Theme 'Forever Now'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  21. ^ "Alliance Theatre Goes Big for 2016–17 Season". Theatre Communications Group. March 24, 2016. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  22. ^ a b c Jones, Maggie (June 12, 2019). "Knoxville's Kristian Bush talks forming new band, releasing more Sugarland music". Knox News. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
  23. ^ Dunkerly, Beville (April 2, 2015). "Kristian Bush on Joyous New LP Born of Tragedy: It's 'Sunshine Into a Cave'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  24. ^ a b " Official Solo Releases Discography". Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  25. ^ "Kristian Bush Pulls Head-Turning 'Trailer' Stunt - Video Premiere". Rolling Stone. July 8, 2014. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  26. ^ a b c d e " Billy Pilgrim Discography". Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  27. ^ "ARIA Australian Top 50 Albums". Australian Recording Industry Association. March 23, 2015. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
  28. ^ "Billboard Country Update" (PDF). Billboard. Retrieved March 14, 2017.
  29. ^ "CMT : Videos : Kristian Bush : Trailer Hitch". Country Music Television. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  30. ^ "CMT : Videos : Kristian Bush : Light Me Up". Country Music Television. Retrieved September 1, 2015.

External links[edit]