And then there were two.
That was the overwhelming feeling of Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles and her bandmate Kristian Bush after longtime third member Kristen Hall left the group early last year.
On the surface, Hall's departure couldn't have come at a worse time. The pop country act had finally broken through to the mainstream with the double-platinum success of 2004's Twice the Speed of Life, and hit singles "Baby Girl" and "Something More." While fans were shocked about Hall's decision to bolt, it wasn't completely out of left field for Nettles and Bush.
"You know, we did have a sense, because obviously you work so closely with each other ... it was obvious that she was unhappy on the road," says Nettles, calling from her Atlanta home. "It was no big secret, so it was definitely something that ended up being a good thing for everybody."
Hall's presence in the group was large, with her songwriting playing a strong role in the act she formed in 2003. Nettles admits there were plenty of internal pressures associated with the writing process; however, those fears were dismissed once the two remaining members started to write.
Instead of playing it safe, the twosome decided to take a songwriting leap on what would eventually become fall 2006 album Enjoy the Ride. The first completed song was "Settlin'," which, in case you've been in a cave, recently hit No. 1 on the Billboard country music singles chart.
"Thematically, I thought, "How apropos, that this is the first song we write for this record,'" Nettles says. "Because it was basically saying, "No, we're willing to take it to the next level,' and obviously it's in terms of a love relationship, but it's able to be applied to most anything in life. And at the time we were coming into this second record, we felt like, "No, let's do it. Let's raise the bar here and rise to meet it.'"
So far, they've done just that, with Enjoy the Ride going platinum. Along with "Settlin'," "Want To" and current release "Everyday America" have turned into bona fide country hits.
Also contributing to an undeniable confidence: Sugarland's been associated with some of the biggest names in contemporary music. When not touring with the likes of Nashville royalty Brooks & Dunn and Brad Paisley, the group was hanging with the Bon Jovi boys for the Country Music Television show Crossroads. (Nettles even made a duet with the Jersey guys for their 2006 crossover country hit "Who Says You Can't Go Home.")
The group currently is touring with country music icon Kenny Chesney and fan favorite Pat Green. Concertgoers shouldn't expect standard country fare from Sugarland they've been covering Beyonc's "Irreplaceable" on their recent set lists.
"We'll provide a little feminine energy for sure, seeing how, obviously, Kenny and his whole band are guys, and Pat and his whole band are guys," Nettles says. "We're a little bit crunchier and granola than Kenny. We inject an energetic element into the mix." firstname.lastname@example.org
Sugarland with Kenny Chesney and Pat Green
Dick's Sporting Goods Park, 6000 Victory Way, Commerce City
Saturday, June 30, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $65-$85; visit tickethorse.com.