The Malec Minute: Sugarland Lawsuit Sheds Light on Hall’s Departure

Jim Malec | August 8th, 2008

Suagarland with Kristen HallToday’s news that former Sugarland member and co-founder Kristen Hall is suing her ex-mates, to the tune of $1.5 million, goes a long way towards providing a bit of context regarding the Atlanta singer/songwriter’s sudden departure from the group.

When Hall left Sugarland in early 2006, only a little more than a year after the trio broke onto the scene with their smash debut single “Baby Girl,” the situation seemed awkward–why would anyone leave what was quickly becoming one of the hottest musical acts in the country? Rumors began to swirl that Hall didn’t leave by choice, but was instead forced or pressured out of the group for image reasons–the common belief, back then, was that her weight was the issue. Of course, there was also the small problem that Hall was an “out” lesbian.

If the image of an overweight lesbian who has spent years toiling away on Atlanta’s Soul music scene doesn’t strike you as the kind of image that bodes well for the future of a mainstream, major-label country music act, you’re not alone. So even though Sugarland’s Jan 17, 2006, statement claimed that “Kristen has decided that she wants to stay home and write songs, and we support her in that decision,” doubts were immediately raised about the sincerity of that statement, and those doubts have continued to fuel questions and rumors–to this day, one of the most searched for phrases which leads readers to The 9513 is “Why did Kristen Hall leave Sugarland?”

The truth is that a Kristen Hall departure from Sugarland, of her own accord and free will, just didn’t make a lot of sense, and her own explanation only made the whole situation seem even more implausible. Exactly ten months after Sugarland’s official statement was released, Hall was quoted by the Kansas City Star as saying, “I don’t want to be a touring musician, I love to find unsigned acts and bring them to the level (that) we did. I love that. That, to me, is my passion and what’s fun about this business.

That’s a head-scratch statement if I’ve ever seen one. How can you “love to find unsigned acts and bring them to that level,” when you’ve never previously brought an unsigned act to that level? Hall had never achieved any significant national success prior to Sugarland, and certainly was never involved with an act of Sugarland’s demonstrated commercial potential–a potential which was beginning to be realized even at that early stage.

Further, Hall has not, at least publicly, been taking part in the development of any unsigned acts since she left the trio. Why would Hall leave the group she helped bring into the public eye to go and do something she’d never done before and hasn’t done since?

We will probably never know with absolute certainly what the motivations of any of the involved parties are or were. But when we look at today’s events in the context of this larger situation, we can surmise that certain scenarios make sense, and certain scenarios just don’t.

Today the AP reports that, Hall has “an agreement with Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush to equally share profits and losses,” which, if true, can only mean one thing: someone at Mercury, someone in the band’s management, or someone in the band itself, wanted Hall gone.

Otherwise, why reward an individual for jumping ship? If Natalie Maines left the Dixie Chicks tomorrow, she would not be an equal partner in all of their future profits or losses. Surely there would still be past and future financial rewards for her involvement with the band, but equal partners? I can’t think of a legal precedent for that.

If there was such an agreement, as Hall claims, that agreement would not need to be based on her bandmates loyalty, respect, or on their gratefulness to her for her contributions in those early stages of the band’s development. Hall, having written or co-written every song on the multi-platinum Twice The Speed Of Life (the band’s debut album), was, from day one, reaping the financial rewards of royalties associated with that initial project–and, indeed, she is still reaping those rewards. Why would Nettles and Bush agree to give her a cut of profits that goes above and beyond what she was already due?

The only way any of this makes any sense is in the highly unlikely scenario that Hall, Bush, and Nettles formed an agreement, before Suagrland ever struck it big, that no matter what happened in the future they would share profits forever. They would have made this agreement knowing all the while that Hall only intended to stay until the band gained a foothold, and the agreement would signify a willingness to compensate her for her help getting them to that point. It would have been purely a business venture.

Of course, that raises the question of why Nettles and Bush would believe that Hall would be able to break them into the industry in the first place, especially considering that they each were considerably more well connected in industry circles at that point than Hall was–Nettles having been named Musician’s Atlas‘ 2000 “Independent Musican Of The Year,” and Bush having been a member of the major label act Billy Pillgram. (It’s worth noting that Bush also had a second major label connection–his brother, Brandon, plays keyboard with rock band Train.) Hall’s most notable pre-Sugarland accomplishment, aside from a series of independent albums, was sporadic involvement with folk-rock group the Indigo Girls.

But there’s another, more pressing question: if Nettles and Bush knew all along that Hall was intending to leave the group, and the three of them made the supposed deal ahead of time, why did the band’s later statement claim that Hall had “decided she wanted to stay home and write songs?”

It just doesn’t jibe. And today, it certainly seems like the most plausible, most reasonable, and most realistic scenario was that Hall simply needed to go, and she was given a financial incentive–which somebody on the inside didn’t want written down–to make the separation less painful for everyone involved.

That hypothesis has always been suspected, and it will probably never be provable one way or the other. But it’s the only hypothesis which follows any discernible logic, as it is the only hypothesis which finds the characters in this story behaving in a consistent and expected manner.

Unless we’re missing some key information, in which case this drama has the potential to explode even further.

2 Pings

  1. [...] Nettles and Kristian Bush because “she wants to stay home and write songs.” Since then, rumors have spread that Hall was forced out for image reasons, or that the co-writer of many of the group’s [...]
  2. [...] Nettles and Kristian Bush because “she wants to stay home and write songs.” Since then, rumors have spread that Hall was forced out for image reasons, or that the co-writer of many of the group’s early [...]
  1. Chris N.
    August 8, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Fancy logo!

  2. Drew
    August 8, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Call me cold-hearted, but I wouldn’t care if Nettles & Bush or their management did indeed ask Hall to step aside for image reasons. The music business is cold and hard… and to make it, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

  3. Kelly
    August 8, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    “there’s gotta be somethin’ more…”

    sorry, couldnt help it….

  4. Blake
    August 8, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Given all that we know now, it is hard to imagine there was a time when Sugarland was anything but a sure bet. What other logical reason would there be for entering into the mainstream on a major label with someone considered to be a liability.

    Jim, I think it is interesting that you reference the Dixie Chicks. Their former lead singer was asked to leave by Martie and Emily once they realized that they needed a stronger frontwoman to break into the big time. Wouldn’t the Mercury staff have at least broached this possibility before Sugarland’s first record?

    While it seems that Kristen Hall made an important impact on the act, I feel that the two entities of Sugarland were moving opposite directions regardless of image issues. No one cared that Kristen was an overweight lesbian when the first record sold double platinum. She could have been a silent writing/touring partner and still benefited. But of course, the more you have to divide the pie…

    Again, I question why this is just coming out now.

  5. Jim Malec
    August 8, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Chris–my pinky is fairly high in that picture.

    Drew–I think what’s interesting about this is that some would say they had “already made it.” Which does give some credibility to the idea that Kristen was the one who wanted to leave.

    Blake–one point you just brushed up against, but which I didn’t mention in this piece, is this: if they parted on friendly terms, why hasn’t Hall been a part of their writing?

    Everything here is speculation, but I think we can justifiably question certain inconsistencies in how this has all played out.

  6. Blake
    August 8, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Jim,

    Excellent hypothetical question. Hall would have made a lion’s share of royalties if she had assisted in the songwriting process. But I think it is safe to say that Jennifer, Kristian and the Mercury staff felt they could produce more accessible, viable music without her services.

  7. Stephen H.
    August 8, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    My guess is that the label felt Hall more expendable as she wasn’t, in the public’s eye, a contributing member of the band. Yes, she was probably the biggest songwriter on the first album, but to the public the band was, is, and will be Jennifer Nettles. Kristian Bush is tolerated because there’s always room in country music for a man who does nothing but stand there, strum a guitar, and maybe sing a few words (I’m looking at YOU, Kix Brooks), but it seems like someone of Hall’s image would probably be deemed a liability, or at least expendable.

    While we’re in the world of speculation, I wonder if there was going to be some sort of big deal made in the near future about Kristen’s sexuality. It was largely unknown during the first album, but I wonder if there was something about to come out in some publication about her, or if nothing else (this goes along with what Jim said) the label feared the reaction of the conservative base to an openly lesbian member of the trio.

    Whatever the reasoning, the sell the label gave to Bush and Nettles probably convinced them that removing Hall was the way to go, and when they (I assume it would be the two of them to break the news, not the label) let her know the bad news, it led to an acrimonious split, though I doubt the split was initiated by Bush/Nettles. The song “Sugarland” from their second album was probably the one relic left from before their split.

    Ultimately, she must have been found expendable, as her image (in the label’s eye) would have endangered their success to the fan base that was starting to open up to blonde bombshells like Carrie, Taylor, et al, and her sexuality (in the label’s eye) would have endangered their success to conservatives. Just my two cents.

    Where’s “Behind the Music” when you need it?

  8. Katie
    August 8, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    Great analysis, Jim. My only problem with the forced-out theory is that at the time she left it seemed like a risky thing for the group. Duos don’t do well in country these days, especially male-female pairings. With Hall (also at the time the primary songwriter) gone, you were left with a really dynamic lead vocalist and a guy whose musical contributions weren’t all that clear yet. I thought for sure Nettles would go solo and the band wouldn’t last the year. Shows how much I know! But unless Hall was really making noise about coming out (or doing so more vocally?) you’d think the band/label wouldn’t want to fix something that wasn’t broken.

  9. Jim Malec
    August 8, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    I think the fact that Hall is a lesbian simply hadn’t caught on as a narrative with the mainstream media yet. Realize, at this time, there was no The 9513, and many of the other country news outlets depend on stars for their content. Why would GAC or CMT pound that story when it would potentially derail one of their best windfalls in years? If you go back and look at Hall’s interviews and such prior to Sugarland, I don’t think there was any question about her orientation.

    I agree with you that it was risky–but the question is…which way was more risky?

  10. gaby
    August 8, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    kelly beat me to the “gotta be something more” reference…that was my first thought when reading the article

    i also agree with stephen h.
    where is the “behind the music” special when you need it…heck i’d even settle for a “cmt insider” clarification at this point :)

  11. leeann
    August 8, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    I love Behind the Music!

  12. Rick
    August 8, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Maybe Kristen was making passes at Jennifer Nettles since Jennifer is such a hottie and the situation just got uncomfortable! The real story could be one of mainstream country music’s first lesbian love triangles! (Actually I don’t give a rip, but this whole situation is kind of interesting…..)

  13. Marc
    August 8, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Who cares if she’s gay… some people still love Wynonna!

    :)

  14. Stormy
    August 8, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Many of us love Mary Gauthier (who co-wrote some songs on her last album with Hall).

  15. Matt B.
    August 8, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    It’s a sad fact in our country that the powers that be are afraid of gay artists. It’s not just limited to country music but any genre of music (except perhaps dance) and film/TV. They just think that the masses cannot relate to a star if they’re “out.” It’s absurd that this happens but that seems to be a driving force behind decisions like what may have happened with Kristen Hall.

  16. Drew
    August 8, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Well, when it’s a music industry which is as close to Faith as country music is, then it’s pretty easy to see why it could be an issue. Many sects of Christianity view homosexuality as a sin.

  17. Lynn
    August 9, 2008 at 12:12 am

    The timing of this lawsuit isn’t really all that much of a surprise. Sugarland is at the height of their popularity. They’re getting all kinds of media attention. I imagine Hall might be a bit ticked off…and Hall’s attorneys see a situation ripe for a big settlement.

    As far as the potential lesbian issue — I really don’t want to believe that a talented woman, who just so happens to be a lesbian, was kicked out of a group on the rise for that reason alone. I understand that some people may still care about that sort of thing, I just don’t know any of them, and Jennifer and Kristian never came off as the sort of people who would place any importance on that kind of thing. In fact, I’ve heard they were well-known as being very friendly towards the gay community in Atlanta.

    As far as image — I don’t believe that Jennifer and Kristian are popular because of their image. In many ways, I think they’re the exception to the rule in country music right now. They are popular for their catchy pop music and energy. Neither one of them is particularly attractive. They’re just likable people who give off a down home, girl/guy next door image. I can’t imagine that Hall’s weight or whatever would have had any effect on that image.

    Country music seems to be begging for diversity right now. If the rumors are true that the industry/label pushed them out, in this case (IMO), they shot themselves in the foot. Just another case of putting style over substance.

  18. Marc
    August 9, 2008 at 8:08 am

    I too doubt her orientation was a play.

  19. Razor X
    August 9, 2008 at 9:03 am

    I’m not entirely convinced that Hall’s sexuality was the problem. If Jennifer Nettles were a lesbian, I could see that being a problem, but I really don’t think the public would have cared very much since Hall was pretty much in the background most of the time. I may be wrong, but I don’t recall K.D. Lang having any problems because of her sexuality. People were generally supportive. It was the “meat stinks” thing that did her in as a commercially viable act in Nashville.

  20. Razor X
    August 9, 2008 at 9:10 am

    Marc said, ”

    Who cares if she’s gay

  21. leeann
    August 9, 2008 at 9:12 am

    While I have no idea if her orientation played a part in any of this, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if it did. It’s not like the country music industry wouldn’t run screaming if they discovered one of their artists was gay or lesbian. I cannot think of one gay or lesbian artist in the country music business who has gotten any significant or even insignificant airplay…and I’m not talking about loose speculation. So, I’m surprised that people are so sure that this wouldn’t have played a part in the dissolution of Halls partnership with the group.

  22. Lucas
    August 9, 2008 at 9:17 am

    You know why they’d agree to sharing the Sugarland profits with her, don’t you? Because Nettles will break away and become a solo act. Just wait.

    Who cares what her orientation is? Music is music.

  23. Razor X
    August 9, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Leann said, “So, I’m surprised that people are so sure that this wouldn’t have played a part in the dissolution of Halls partnership with the group.”

    Speaking for myself only, I’m not so sure it wouldn’t have played a part. I’m just not sure that it actually did. Her sexuality was never a secret and I don’t think anyone would have been surprised upon getting confirmation of it. If it were a problem, I don’t understand why it wasn’t addressed when the group first got their record deal. That’s the point at which you’d expect some personnel changes to make the group more marketable. Why wait until a year or more later to deal with the issue? That’s far risker, I would think.

  24. Razor X
    August 9, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Lucas said, “You know why they’d agree to sharing the Sugarland profits with her, don’t you? Because Nettles will break away and become a solo act. Just wait.”

    This brings up another interesting point. It does appear that Hall was offered a financial incentive to quietly go away. So if Bush and Nettles — or someone on their behalf — were so anxious to get rid of Hall and keep her quiet that they were willing to make such a generous offer, then why did they risk her breaking her silence by not honoring their part of the deal?

  25. leeann
    August 9, 2008 at 9:36 am

    AnyI, personally, don’t care about someone’s sexual orientation. I, however, believe that the typically conservative fan base would care. Therefore, I think that the country music labels would conceivably try to avoid that kind of controversy.

  26. Rick
    August 9, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Lynn said: “They are popular for their catchy pop music and energy. Neither one of them is particularly attractive. They’re just likable people who give off a down home, girl/guy next door image.”

    I would have to disagree with you about Jennifer Nettles not being “particularly attractive”…..

  27. B. Jonathan
    August 9, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Do I believe her sexual orientation played a role? Sure, to a small degree, but I think her general image itself was the majority of the problem. Trying to market themselves with the youthful, commercial country realm was going to be that much harder with Kristen, who was well into her 40s when the first record came out and clearly not one of the “pretty young things” of country music.

  28. Blake
    August 9, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Sorry…that’s me above.

  29. leeann
    August 9, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Razor X, I agree with your “huh?” on Marc’s Wynonna comment. I’m not really sure where that’s coming from.

  30. leeann
    August 9, 2008 at 11:57 am

    At any rate, I’m sure it was a mix of all of the above, but I agree that it ultimately probably wasn’t her choice. As Jim pointed out, all of the initial excuses for her departure don’t add up.

  31. Danielle Saunders
    August 9, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    You wasted your time with the half of your piece that suggested she wasn’t forced out. She was forced out, and there was some agreement about future earnings, since she had hired Jennifer (and probably Kristian also), she had hired the manager, she’d probably come up with the name of the group. It had basically been her band. She was pretty bitter about the whole deal, after which she attempted to become a part of the N’ville songwriter scene, and I think she still writes with some folks in town. Now she’s trying to collect what is pretty rightfully hers, and is an amount of money that she could never earn playing the Atlanta club scene.
    The most surprising thing is that she actually has had to file a lawsuit (assuming it has been filed). Ordinarily these things are worked out out of the public eye. She may have had to hire a publicist to press her point and apply some pressure to those who remain.

  32. Doug
    August 9, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    Hall’s departure saddened me. She made the trio so different and interesting, for all of the reasons already noted. It’s been hard for me to warm up to Sugarland ever since, given my lingering hunch that Hall was forced out.

  33. Kitty
    August 10, 2008 at 6:43 am

    it looks really intensional that she filed the lawsuit the same day that their new cd came out…

  34. J.R. Journey
    August 10, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Danielle said “Ordinarily these things are worked out out of the public eye. She may have had to hire a publicist to press her point and apply some pressure to those who remain.” That’s kinda my thinking on the timing of the lawsuit too. I would think this has been brewing for some time and whatever agreement they made – because I’m sure she was offered something for leaving quietly – wasn’t being honored. And from Hall’s standpoint, now is the perfect time to file suit. Sugarland is all over the news from their own promotion of the new album, not mention they have the number one album in America and the number one country song right now. So I think her timing for filing suit is very relevant to what’s happening with the band right now.

    As for her sexuality, I don’t think it would have made much difference to the commercial success of Sugarland. Jennifer was, even in 2006, the front-runner of the group and the member the spotlight was on. Hall and Bush were simply backing members for Nettles’ vocals. And I think the country music industry would have gotten over Hall’s sexuality. It would have been written about, sure. But, only a line or two in an article more about Nettles’ singing and the group’s stellar songwriting. I just think too much is being made out of the fact that she’s a lesbian. And I think the ‘powers that be’ truly underestimate the country music listening audience to think we could never accept an openly-gay performer. We are a little more civilized than they give us credit for.

    Oh, and when did Wynonna jump the fence? Sure, she’s kinda macho sometimes, but I never thought she was gay …

  35. Peter Kohan
    August 10, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    I think the key questions are this:
    1. When was the agreement signed between the original three Sugarland members?
    2. When it was signed did Nettles and Bush and Hall know that Hall wasn’t interested in moving forward beyond a certain point, or was Hall forced out and the rest of the group had to reckon with the temrs of the agreement?
    3. If the parting was indeed amicable from a financial perspective, how come Hall hasn’t contributed any further songs to the group’s work?
    4. Tell me why I need to care about this again?
    5. Hall is really a 1/3 partner in Sugarland for all time? Lou Pearlman would be proud of her contractual acumen.

  36. Matt B.
    August 11, 2008 at 9:43 am

    Peter,

    I’m glad I’m not the only one ’round here who remembers Lou Pearlman and his sick way of getting himself part of the boy bands (so he could oogle them apparently).

  37. m.c.
    August 11, 2008 at 10:50 am

    I’m late to add to this, but I spent a decent amount of time around the band in 2006 and became familiar with their story and personalities. I think Danielle adds a lot of insight to what had otherwise been mostly speculation.

    Hall did form the band. She approached Bush about forming a country group when the two were writing songs together. Hall found Nettles and suggested to Bush that they hire her as a singer. She found the manager, set up publishing, etc. She was much, much more than just a contributing writer. She wrote or co-wrote all of their early material and arranged the songs in pre-production, and so on. It wasn’t evident on stage, but she was the band’s driving force before and during the first record. It’s just once they went on tour, Jennifer’s big, fun personality took over, and the dynamics started to change.

    Hall also struggled the most with the road, and she had health problems flaring up because of it. That first year of success, the band worked incredibly hard, even more than the usual grueling schedules for a new hit act. They got a lot of opening slots, going from tour to tour and already garnering a rare level of exposure in the media, from CMT to People magazine, etc. They were always on the go, go, go. Nettles and Bush struggled, too, from the time and travel demands of it all. But Hall was older and not as fit, and she also had a relationship break apart while the others were in marriages (Jennifer’s was still going at the time). All of this made it harder on her than the others, it seemed. When I was around them, her complaints and problems were more on the surface than the others.

    I’m not sure what all contributed to her leaving, but those who know her say she was forced out and unhappy about it, but the agreement had them all putting a positive spin on it. It had to be have been difficult on all involved to get to the point of her leaving.

    Hall getting a cut of future income wouldn’t be out of the question. It happens in production deals, etc. It’s not unprecedented for a band member to get money when no longer performing or recording with the band. Brian Wilson always got band money from the Beach Boys when he didn’t tour beyone his songwriting royalties, and Ed King received a cut of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s income when he left Lynyrd Skynyrd, as did the estates of members who died in the plane wreck. There are other cases, too, where integral members of groups continued to profit from non-songwwriting income even after departing the band. If you’re legally bound to the band through the incorporating of its name, you can sometimes work deals this way.

  38. Marc
    August 11, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Oh cmon… Wynonna? really? :)

  39. Joe
    August 11, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    kd lang had NOTHING but problems during her Nashville stint and it was ENTIRELY because of her sexuality. She wasn’t even publicly out then (unlike Hall). Oh, there was that part about how she thought she was Patsy Cline incarnate, but still.

    With only a couple singles that managed to barely hit the Top 40, she won her “country vocal performance – female” Grammy back in 1989 with the same support from Music City that it offered the Dixie Chicks at last year’s Grammy show.

    The “I’m anti-beef” thing only hurt her in Canada, which was when she crossed from country to mainstream.

    Personally, I became suspicious of Sugarland’s relationship with Kristen when it seemed — after all that time she devoted to songwriting — only one song she co-wrote made it onto the “Enjoy the Ride” album.

  40. Joe
    August 11, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Oh … and if I was Wynonna, given all the bad luck she’s had with men over the years, I’d be taking another look at the girls right about now.

    I mean: if ANYONE’S life story seems to scream, “Grrl, all this time you’ve been looking in the wrong direction,” it’s her’s.

    No judgment. This is just logic kickin’ in.

  41. Paula
    August 11, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Posted on the CMT.com site this afternoon:

    An attorney for Sugarland has released a statement that a lawsuit by Kristen Hall, one of the band’s founders who left in 2005, is “totally baseless and without merit.” Hall filed a lawsuit on July 29 claiming she is owed $1.5 million, plus interest, from revenue stemming from an unwritten agreement with the band at the time of her departure. The statement from Gary Gilbert also says that, “Among other factual inaccuracies suggested in the complaint, it is indisputable that Ms. Hall left the group voluntarily and on her own accord. We are absolutely confident that this matter will be resolved in favor of Jennifer and Kristian.”

  42. Barrett
    August 12, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    There is no written agreement which Hall’s lawyer says is no problem. Sugarland’s lawyer says that the case is stupid and will hold no ground. But Nashville lawyers think there is some claim due to the fact of Georgia law, where the original trademarks were filed for the band name declaring “Sugarland” as a seperate business entity. In that event The trademarks which name Hall as the founder could hold up to her having a legitimate claim in profits from the band. When a General Partnership is disbanded all the assets are supposed to be liquidated and equally distributed beore the other partners can reform. Techincally Kristian and Jennifer would have had to buy out her share in a written agreement. Without such agreement it doesn’t matter if they had a verbal agreement or not to continue to pay her, she could be making that part up and it most likely will not be proven, but her name on the trademarks and the lack of a written agreement upon her leaving the band should lead to her gettin some sort of reimbursement since she should still be counted as an equal member of the general partnership that is “sugarland.”

  43. kat
    August 12, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    For those of us from Atlanta, who have both followed the local music scene as well as been around all three of these musicians over 10 years, none of us are surprised that Kristen left the band, and then filed a lawsuit. We already were not surprised that she would rather sit on the couch and reap royalties than get out and tour a tough schedule promoting a new album. I would guess losing a member just when things get rolling would be an obstacle rather than a help. I would imagine they allowed her to leave knowing it could be risky, and now they are getting bitten for allowing her to bail out, because she wants to quit and still make the big bucks. I do not possess any insider info on the subject. But I do know that both kristian and jennifer played gay audiences for years, they could have cared less about orientation. Now, what you may not realize, is that Kristen is not known for her good attitude. I can imagine that her attitude would be a problem. In fact we were surprised that such a whiner would be involved with jennifer and kristian in the first place. (Have you ever heard her solo music? She has a good voice, good writing, but FEELS SORRY FOR HERSELF, a lot.) You know the kind of person with talent, but not so much drive and tends to like to stay unhappy rather than happy.

    As far as her departure being for image purposes, I would concur that her look was not an asset. But I feel sure that this would have been addressed by the label earlier on as she is hard to miss. I cannot see either Kristian or Jennifer caring at all. They would probably say bring it on, we don’t care, we just want to play music. Lastly, I was under the impression that she left because she did not want to endure the heavy demands of success and was not so comfortable playing such large crowds and big time events.

  44. Seth
    August 13, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    I know for a fact that Jennifer has always been extremely gay and lesbian friendly, and have heard nothing nasty about Kristian, either. I have no doubt that Kristen left of her own accord. I was around a lot of shows that Jennifer did from 1997 forward, both as part of Soul Miner’s Daughter, and with her own band, and there has never been a more queer friendly vibe at any show I’ve attended since by a non gay artist. Kristen being a lesbian had nothing to do with whatever happened.

  45. leeann
    August 13, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    I actually don’t believe that if Hall was pushed out that it was by Bush or Nettles. I would think that it was more of a label/management decision.

  46. kristen
    August 13, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Actually, the falling out an departure happened shortly after a several page article in The Advocate magazine.

  47. Mary
    August 14, 2008 at 10:16 am

    Yes, Jennifer is Gay friendly, but that doesn’t mean the label is. Sugarland was a band of 5, and we never got to find out “why” the two other members got dumped with the record deal. Unfortunately, that matter went to private arbitration, and we will never know. What I hope is that this stays the full course and goes to trial; that all the dirty laundry gets aired as the fans have a right to know as their money supported them at their shows and for their CD sales.

    I don’t blame the players as much as I blame management, the label, and the lawyers who didn’t end things when they should have (at Ms. Hall’s departure) but thought that nothing would be done and they would get away with the dirty dead.

    I also find it interesting that Ms. Hall wasn’t paid since December 20th according to the papers filed, however, she appeared on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve Special with the trio. What a cheap shot!

  48. Uncle Milty
    August 14, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    If you think country music is tolerant of gay people go ask Ty Herndon how his career is going. He made bathroom play chic way before Senator Larry Craig. Billy Currington wrestled with some past demons and look where it got him. This group whether two or three is totally contrived to capitalize on the aw-shuks country music market. Jennifer Nettles’ music prior to Sugarland is nothing like the bubble gum she’s popping today. People evolved as musicians – not tran$form. It would’ve been virtually impossible to sell the last album – including the weepy Stay ballad with a fat chick in the picture. Sorry – insensitive but true.

  49. Chris N.
    August 14, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Well, insensitive anyway.

  50. Hollerin' Ben
    August 14, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    I liked the “tran$form”

  51. "Gus Gus"
    August 16, 2008 at 9:10 am

    I started reading all I could get my hands on right after I saw Baby Girl on CMT and GAC to see what kind of magic had put together what I thought to be a very outstanding, upbeat song with a storyline every potential young female singer dreams of. Once I bought and was introduced to “Twice the Speed of Life,” then latched onto the Eddie’s Attic album, “Premium Quality Tunes” and the double shot of “Sugar in the Raw,” I felt this was a trio I could easily learn to love. Most of the earlier articles I read were by and of Kristen Hall and more so, because of her success as an indie, Jennifer Nettles.

    I always thought Kristen’s interviews indicated an up and down moodswing because she was loving the early publicity and had the band name to her credit and made two careful and successful selections in asking Kristian to write with her and hit “pay dirt” when Jen said, “heck, I’ll give it a chance.” But I always got the feeling Kristen was so shy it was difficult for her to get on stage for every performance and the Meet and Greets (a part of successful band development) she felt very uncomfortable with. But she loved to write, that was her passion. Of all the statements that I read by her in the band’s move to excellence the one that always stuck with me was “Do you realize that I’ve put myself in a position where the only escape is death.” Kristen Hall You can say she was kidding, but I thought that was weird.
    Put that together with – - -
    “For every date you see on the tour page, there are 10-20 you don’t. That should give you an idea of how busy we have been.” Kristen Hall;
    “My life in SugarLand is crazy and surreal.” Kristen Hall
    Someone mentioned age and as the oldest member of the band without the outgoing personality of two dynamite performers already on stage, I always felt the trio would not last. Sexual orientation had nothing to do with it, IMO. I really believed the original press release about the downsizing. If there was a dispute over the ending of the band and who got what, I don’t know. Maybe Kristen thought “they’ll never survive without my talent” turned out wrong. I feel Kristian and Jen asked her to stay, as they didn’t have any idea either if they would continue to be successful if she left them hanging. So why take the chance? As it turned out perseverance won out on their part. If she had stayed with the band, the next couple of albums would have been totally different than what we’ve seen. If Kristen had remained would they still be popular or more or less popular, we’ll never know. Hey!!! I can live with what we have, a dynamite duo. Settle the lawsuit out of court and let them get on with their lives. I just feel more sorry for Kristen that she felt it necessary to rain on their parade at this time and place. Sounds like a bitter woman, during a bad moodswing, IMO.

  52. Mary
    August 21, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Ahhh, I think there were 2 things that did play to her leaving Sugarland. For almost a full day, she had a song that automatically started on her myspace page, that was critical of “you say it’s not OK to be gay” It wasn’t her singing it, but she did get her message out. Both that song, and the thread on the CMT board about the song, was deleted in full by the end of the day.

    Also, her weight seemed to cause a problem as you can tell by the way they were posing her in pictures to try and hide her weight. They don’t do that to male singers (who are fat and balding, no less!) but for women, there seems to be a different criteria. I guess women will always have to be eye candy?

  53. fornetti
    August 31, 2008 at 9:41 am

    I do not believe this

  54. Richard
    September 7, 2008 at 12:15 am

    How can anyone say Jennifer Nettles is not attractive!!! I think she was a liability and they knew it.1.5 million isn’t that much to make her go away for ever.

  55. Troy
    September 7, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    She not as attractive as other country singers

  56. Yanick D
    September 11, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Troy: YES SHE ARE!

    She is the greatest singer I’ve ever heard! She got the body, the originality and the BIG voice! She’s the best!!! Well I’m not sure but personnally I can think that Hall didn’t want to do what they have to do and I really think Sugarland is the best that they can be now ’cause it’s the band in more expension! I hope to see ‘em in Canada near my town maybe last summer! Long life to SUGARLAND and I’ll ever love that band! they rocks all my world!!!!! (sorry for my bad english!:)…)

  57. Annie
    September 21, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    I’m not sure if we’ll ever know what really went down. It could have been a situation where Sugarland took off so fast and the woman got whiplash. Songwriters who aren’t used to performing tend to be a bit introverted, so that spotlight can be rattling. Remember Cyndi Thompson? She came onto the scene with “What I Really Meant to Say.” It was wildly popular. Within a year, the poor girl came out with a statement basically saying, “I just want to write songs” and she ran for the hills. She’s completely disappeared.

    If Hall hasn’t received royalties from the songs on which she co-wrote, then absolutely take them all to court. That’s business. But if it’s a situation where she feels she deserves a piece of the continuing pie? That’s a different story.

  58. Mayor Jobob
    October 5, 2008 at 6:14 am

    Say it ain’t so Ty Herndon!!:(

  59. Mayor Jobob
    October 5, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    One More Thing:
    Why was John Rich Fired from Lonestar???

  60. J.R. Journey
    October 5, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    That’s a really good question, Mayor. I never really thought about it. But now I wanna know too.

  61. The Confessor
    October 5, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    My understanding of the situation was that the band, as originally conceived, featured both Richie McDonald and John Rich trading off vocal duties.

    By the time they had a couple albums under their belts, it was clear that Richie’s singles (such as No News, Say When, and Everything’s Changed) and had largely outperformed Rich’s; the only top-tier single I think Rich *might* have been lead on was Come Cryin’ to Me. It was certainly clear by then that McDonald’s more distinctive voice (and I hope not to fall afoul of any Rich partisans by making that observation) had become the one that casual fans expected to hear from the band.

    Rich wanted equal time as vocalist; the rest of the band wanted to consolidate their image around what appeared to be the surer bet.

    That was what *I* gathered, although at the time it was billed as a mutual parting of ways by all parties involved; I don’t know that any of the other contemporary members of Lonestar have commented on Rich’s claim that it was less than amicable.

    Interestingly, the band’s first single after Rich’s departure was Saturday Night, from their third album Lonely Grill, a insipid clunker of a song that didn’t even make the top 40 and reportedly made the band fear for their record deal.

    Their *next* single was a little ditty called Amazed. It was somewhat more successful.

  62. leeann Ward
    October 5, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    I’m not a Lonestar expert, but I don’t recall a single with John Rich on it. I know that “Come Cryin’ To Me” was sung by McDonald though.

  63. The Confessor
    October 5, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Leeann, I just took a second listen to the song, and you’re obviously right. The confusion was due to an inability to remember a corresponding visual that would have made it clear (I don’t think there was a corresponding music video), a somewhat lower vocal part than was usual for Richie enforcing a slightly modified tone, and what seems to have been a pretty crappy audio version on Youtube that I used for “confirmation”.

    I apologize for that inaccuracy, but I think the rest of my observations are in line with what the players have stated publicly.

  64. leeann Ward
    October 5, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    I can imagine that Rich wouldn’t fit too well with the guys from Lonestar. From what I’ve gathered, Richie McDonald has somewhat of an inflated ego, but we all know about John Rich’s ginormous ego.

    I have no doubt that you’re right about the happenings there; it’s not something that I followed closely at all.

  65. Matt B.
    October 6, 2008 at 12:04 am

    John Rich sang on quite a few album tracks but “Heartbroke Every Day” was his only song to feature him on leads. It peaked in the Top 20 or 30. He was fired but it was a mutual agreement to go separate ways. He did, however write “Say When” and “Come Crying To Me”

  66. Country Music Fan
    October 19, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Well Drew yes you are not only cold but callous also, in this day age to descriminate againt some for any reason is unexceptable anywhere so open youor eyes and see the real world of change and join us, As long as she is now getting her just deserts for her part in the group and bringing it to the forefront of country music.

  67. Drew
    October 19, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    It isn’t unacceptable at all, it’s business. Life is hard, and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. But on the other hand, I definitely agree with you that she deserves her just fair if she had some sort of agreement with the band and they did not keep their end. More to her if she can bring it to the forefront and do everything in her power to stick it right back at them if they were stupid enough to not follow the agreement. You’ve got to look out for number 1.

  68. Don Summers
    December 7, 2008 at 9:30 am

    as a musician myself for over 30 years i think the lawsuit is unfounded. she is entitled to her royalties for the songs that she has written. but after leaving the band they are under no obligation to pay her anything else. and in my opinion she did not contribute musically on stage to the band. as a song writer she does a great job and has proven that. as far as her being gay. that is up to her but she should have understood that that image in country music could have a negative impact.. maybe better decisions could have been made on her part. and if in fact the band did ask her to leave because of that image, i can’t say that i blame them. the goal is to be a a success and it is up to you to decide which image you want to display, your lifestyle.. or your professional image. if they do not match you have to pick. just my opinion for whatever it is worth…

  69. Mary
    December 19, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Well, it looks like Sugarland may have been stopped from touring as there is NOTHING on their schedule, nor has there been anything for a while. I don’t think they would have no scheduled tours unless there was merit with the lawsuit that is unknown to the public at this point.

  70. Chris N.
    December 19, 2008 at 11:21 am

    They have a few festival dates scheduled for next year.

  71. Mary
    December 22, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Well, that is just publicity as they are NOT touring currently, nor is anything listed on the CMT Sugarland Tour Schedule, or the “Official” Sugarland tour Schedule, except a gig in August, 2009…9 months away!

    I guess you have to talk about up coming tours for publicity, if you have no current tours or anything happening to give you publicity.

    Interesting, why would a Country Music Act be playing at a New Orleans Jazz Festival? Makes no sense.

  72. BugsMeany
    January 7, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Just found this thread and doubt anyone still reads it, but come on, Jennifer Nettles is “not particularly attractive”? That’s one of the craziest things I’ve seen on the Internet, which is saying something. She’s gorgeous and I doubt you could find 2 people out of 100 who would disagree.

    I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, so I think image had more to do with it than orientation. Sugarland is far easier to sell as a duo: the beautiful blonde singer, the funky looking guy with a guitar. They sing face-to-face on stage, they jump around together during the more up-tempo songs. The blunt truth is that an overweight, average-looking woman (gay or straight) is an awkward addition.

  73. WDT
    February 21, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    So it’s Sunday Feb. 22, 2009 and I’ve spent the last hour or so reading all the comments. It’s truly fascinating. I thought I was pretty knowledgable about Sugarland but honestly had no idea Kristen was gay. Guess I wasn’t reading the right articles. It really makes no difference to me. Although I’m impressed that Kristen was the “brain child” behind the formation of the band, it’s been clear to me from three “listens” and two “views” of “Baby Girl” that Jennifer was, is, and always will be the “leader” of Sugarland. I wrongly predicted, as others have, that Jennifer would go solo within a year of that first release, but if you listen all the way through “Love On The Inside” it’s hard to hear Kristian Bush on more than a couple of tracks, excluding harmonies. My point being she already is a solo act. I’m not taking anything away from Kristian Bush. I think he loves the role he plays and why wouldn’t he. I love all of Sugarland’s songs and will continue to follow their paths. And for the record, Jennifer is HOT, HOT, HOT!!!!! In closing I do believe Kristen Hall is due her share from the early success but it seems clear that the current line up deserves everything they get in the future. Enjoy the day!

  74. Jordan
    March 18, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Forget the gays. Unless Mercury had a problem with Kristen, her lesbianism had nothing to do with the leave. Jennifer’s primary audience (pre-Sugarland) was composed of lesbians. In fact, I remember that as Sugarland started growing its audience base, a lot of Jennifer Nettles Band’s fans were shocked to go to a concert with more than a handful of straight couples. If Jennifer was homophobic, she hid it REALLY well.

    And Krisitan is that kind of guy who loves everyone. He’s a genuinely good human being. I don’t know that he has the power to even recognize homophobia exists, much less dislike someone because they are gay.

    I still love Kristen and wish she’d come out with a new cd, but it was obvious from the beginning that there were differences among band mates. Kristen was quick to pack up after the first gig they did in California, but Jenn and Kristian hung out with the fans for a good hour. When they did a concert for “up and coming country stars” (also in CA), it was stated that Sugarland would preform a song with Brett Michaels, but when the time came, Jenn was the only person on stage with Brett. Kristen could be found in the back of the venue with a beer in her hand.

    I don’t know why they broke up, but I do know that the gay rumor really should be put to rest. I think the bottomline is that Kristen is a very different kind of person. Moreover, Jenn’s stage presence has always been powerful…it’s a crazy gift she has, and Sugarland was supposed to be comprised of 3 people, not 1.

    Mary mentions that the band was originally composed of 5 people…I always wonder what happened to the female drummer??? And why did Jenn’s trademark flute disappear!?!?!? :-)

  75. Jordan
    March 18, 2009 at 8:54 am

    PS It’s funny to think of Jenn as hot. She once had a fan (who constantly told her to write a song for him) tell her that she’s not too pretty but not too ugly. For those of you who follow Jenn’s music, you know that she ultimately wrote a song for him.

    She’s an attractive woman and the fame sphere has helped make her “hot” to the general public, but prior to fame, she was a cutie with a great personality.

  76. BERNIE
    August 1, 2009 at 2:15 am

    OK, Here we are 1 Aug 2009 on the eve of Sugarland’s latest album and a TV Special on the 3rd of August. Has any of this lawsuit been resolved?

  77. squawkin
    August 8, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Jennifer is HOTTTTTT!

  78. James
    August 9, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    I like all of the Sugarland releases, including the first with Hall. Does anyone know how to get the independently released music from Nettles, Bush, and Hall? I know that there are cds out there of pre-Sugarland writings…

  79. A Fan
    November 15, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Having known the musicians long before their Sugarland collaboration, I can say their story that Kristen wanted to “stay home” is credible. Kristen is a tormented soul who works it out in her music. That instability is part of what makes her such an incredible songwriter. Her solo recordings are well worth finding and buying.

    Kristen isn’t a fit for the whole positive image, happy pop music that “Suglarland” decided to make. The idea that she gave it a try and just wasn’t a fit for a stage with Jon Bon Jovi makes sense, as does her sense of entitlement for the bands success.

    I hear the matter was settled recently. Hopefully everyone can get on with their lives. It would be good to see Kristen out playing again and hear her voice.

  80. sara
    May 25, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    I know this is an old post, but while flipping channels last night I came across the video for the group’s first single, “Baby Girl.” It’s interesting, if not awkard, to note the lengths in which the camera goes to avoid Kristen Hall. Tight shots on the other two, half of her face visible at times, panning far out; like she’s there, but not really. If it had been me in that video, I would’ve certainly understood I wasn’t wanted.

  81. Mike
    June 25, 2011 at 11:59 am

    I Remeber The Baby Girl Music Video Avoids Kristen Hall Alot & I Like The Song Something More That is a Good Song.

  82. Mr Black
    December 11, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    IMO – The song “Stay” wasn’t about a man and a woman. I feel there was a relationship between her (Kristen) and Jennifer. It all falls in line with divorces etc. Think on that. There was no lack of talent among the three.

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