At the time of this interview, summer of 2015, Kristian Bush was the most popular guest I have had on my podcast. He had come out of the Atlanta music scene when it was on fire, launching acts like REM, Indigo Girls, Black Crows, Shawn Mullins, John Mayer and his band, Billy Pilgrim. Billy Pilgrim had some success touring the world, even appearing in one of the first episodes of VH1 storytellers. Next for him was the creation of pop/country mega group Sugarland, who in their lifespan, moved over 14 million records – and this was during the age of the digital takeover – that is a lot, my friend. When I met with him he was touring his new project, a debut solo record entitled, Southern Gravity. The only thing that surprised me more than his kindness and generosity was his immense optimism.
I would consider myself an optimist … well … maybe a scarred, moderate optimist with relapse tendencies and a short-term memory. Either way I’d say I am above average, otherwise I would not still be in this business. Kristian Bush is an optimist and one who has a lot to show for it. I am sure he has had his beat-ups and regrets. But he keeps moving. I know he is a relentless hard worker. But optimism is only realized through those who push through its antithesis. He certainly has, and it has paid off … big time! In his own words, “thoughts become things, be carful which ones you choose.” Think about that the next time it rains on your wedding day, Alanis!
Here is the end of our time together. He picks up by explaining how he begins his big ideas. I encourage you all to listen to the full podcast. If you don’t like it I’ll refund the hour of your life. Click here to hear the full podcast
Kristian: I think about if this works … what if suddenly I get ten cuts on other people’s records next year. OK, I guess I’m going to need a publisher! What happens if I get in a movie and become a movie star at the same time? I have no idea but instead of thinking about what’s going to happen if you don’t, focus on what’s going to happen if you do, because that’s worth preparing for.
Mike: In my head I’m seeing … it’s like preparing to hold the reigns of a horse going forward rather than make the rope into a noose … [Worrying about] what if it doesn’t happen?
Kristian: Yea … or you know, I got a rope.
Mike: Yeah, I have a rope, what am I going to do with this?
Kristian: What am I going to do with this!? … Am I going to tie it around the neck of the horse so we can walk or do you want to find a way to make it so you can run?
Kristian: And how am I going … and am I going to use it to tie myself on to the horse or am I going to use it to tie the horse up while I’m drinkin’?
Kristian: You know, like, I don’t know! But it’s … here we go! And that’s the way I try to look at every show, every record, every big idea. You know?
Mike: There seems to me, from listening to your music, and listening to you talk, to be a real understanding of a lot of space in front of you … like specifically I was listening to the song, “Trailer Hitch” and “Given It Up,” those two songs, and it seems that you’re saying … man, there’s a lot of space ahead of us, let’s focus on going there rather than where our shoes are standing. In “Trailer Hitch” you’re talking about obviously material goods and stuff like that. It’s like country pop biblical music there, I mean, you know!? … You can’t take it with you, you know!? Is that kind of a big driving force for you? The understanding that we’re part of something bigger and you want to rush towards it?
Kristian: Well I think that it’s like maybe if the metaphor is a lens. You ever put a wide-angle lens on the camera?
Kristian: And suddenly there’s like …
Mike: The room looks better.
Kristian: … fifty percent more of the world available. I think that’s what songs I hope do for me or for you. As much as, you know, when I’m writing these songs I’m writing them to communicate with you I’m also aware of the mantra effect which is the more I sing it the more it gets played on the radio, the more it comes true. Don’t ever doubt that that has a real relationship with the way the world unfolds. You know thoughts become things, be careful which ones you choose.
Mike: Right, that’s a beautiful point. Well I hope you have … I know you have great thoughts because I can see great things happening and I thank you for following through at that early age, and I thank you for doing the violin but also saying you know what … I need to get some ladies and I’m going to go in this direction because I think we’ve all benefited from it. (a weird quote out of context … listen to the podcast for clarification)
Kristian: (laughing) I still do my best with my guitar! I feel like I’m cuter with my guitar on and I know it’s probably, you know, anxiety driving.
Kristian: But I think it’s awesome. I still believe in the mythology of giant speakers, you know, I still believe in the radio.
Kristian: I believe in the idea of being a hero not because I need one but because somebody has got to step up during the next twenty minutes and be one.
Kristian: Might as well be me.
Kristian: I take the cape off soon as I take the guitar off so …
Mike: So it’s going to come off anyway …
Kristian: (Laughing) It’s going to come off anyway …
Mike: You got it, might as well keep it warm and wear it right?
Kristian: That’s so good.
Mike: Well thank you so much. I appreciate your time and I wish you all the best, man, and I’m excited about this news, about what’s happening with the songs on the record and you know, hopefully you can buy me lunch again sometime
Kristian: Yes, lets do that!