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Kristian Merrill Bush (born March 14, 1970, in Knoxville, Tennessee) is an American singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist. He is best known for being one half of the country music duo Sugarland.
Bush is the great grandson of A.J. Bush, founder of Bush Brothers and Company; the family sold the company when Bush was a child, although Kristian's cousin, Jay Bush, continues as company spokesman. 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. He was exposed to instruments from an early age, and picked up his first violin at four years old. 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. Throughout childhood, Bush was enrolled in violin lessons and classically trained under the Suzuki method at the University of Tennessee. 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. 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. 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. It was also during this time at Emory that Bush began to connect with Atlanta's growing music scene, often begging his way into clubs; witnessing firsthand success from bands like R.E.M. and the Indigo Girls.
Bush started his career in the early '90s 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 Hyras 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. Bush and Hyra went on to form Billy Pilgrim (a name 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.
Bush founded Sugarland in 2002, signed with Mercury Records Nashville in 2004, and exploded onto the country music scene with singer Jennifer Nettles. 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.
Finally signed to Mercury Nashville Records, 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. Nettles and Bush also write all of the band's songs. In October of 2012, they were inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
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/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.
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. 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. Bush is also a frequent panelist and speaker at events for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
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. 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, and can be found in the ninth level of the game.
On October 10, 2013, "Love or Money" was released to iTunes in the United States. American fans of Bush's solo material had been encouraging him to make his debut solo single available after previously releasing the track to digital retailers in Europe and the U.K. in March.
Personal life and family
Bush and his wife, Jill, have two children, son Tucker and daughter Camille. The family resides in Atlanta, Georgia.
Bush's brother Brandon is a former member of the rock group Train, and also tours with Sugarland as their keyboardist.
Awards and Accolades
2012 Named Distinguished Alumnus, Avon Old Farms School
2011 CMA Awards Vocal Duo of the Year - Sugarland
2011 CMT Music Awards Duo Video of the Year - Sugarland, "Stuck Like Glue"
2011 ACM Awards Top Vocal Duo - Sugarland
2010 CMA Awards Vocal Duo of the Year - Sugarland
2009 CMA Awards Vocal Duo of the Year - Sugarland
2009 CMT Music Awards Duo Video of the Year - Sugarland, "All I Want To Do"
2009 ACM Awards Top Vocal Duo - Sugarland
2009 Grammy Awards Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group - Sugarland, "Stay"
2009 Grammy Awards Best Country Song - Sugarland, "Stay"
2008 CMA Awards Vocal Duo of the Year - Sugarland
2008 CMT Music Awards Duo Video of the Year - Sugarland, "Stay"
2008 ACM Awards Single of the Year - Sugarland, "Stay"
2007 CMA Awards Vocal Duo of the Year - Sugarland
2007 CMT Awards Duo Video of the Year - Sugarland, "Want To"
2006 ACM Awards Top New Duo or Vocal Group - Sugarland
2005 American Music Awards Favorite Breakthrough New Artist - Sugarland