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Musicians + Sports: Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles On Her Son And Sports

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By Scott T. Sterling

“I love that ‘Centerfield’ song. Who is it that sings it?”

Country music star Jennifer Nettles trilled a few lines from John Fogerty‘s smash hit from 1985 in her warm, lilting voice during a recent interview with Radio.com.

“I don’t know who sings it, but that’s a good one,” she smiled when asked which tune she would choose as entrance music if she were an athlete as opposed to being one half of country’s most popular acts of the last ten years.

Both as a solo performer and as Sugarland‘s singer, Nettles has soared to the top of the charts and into the hearts of fans around the world with her sincere lyricism and intimate vocal styling.

With Sugarland on hiatus in part so the singer can bond with her one-year-old son Magnus, Nettles released the solo single “That Girl” last summer. The clever and inventive track, which serves as something of an answer to Dolly Parton’s classic 1973 single, “Jolene,” set up the release of a full-length album (also titled That Girl) this past January, which debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and took the No.1 spot on the Top Country Albums chart.

“This album is so intimate and personal, it doesn’t feel like that big anthemic stuff,” she explained when asked if any of her new music would work as a crowd-rousing sports anthem. “From my Sugarland records, ‘Wide Open’ I would say could definitely work in a sporty world.”

It’s an apt choice, as the track was featured on 2010’s AT&T Team USA Soundtrack, a compilation album from which a chunk of the profits benefited Team USA for that year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

“I’ve gotten to meet a couple of people here and there,” she said in regards to personal encounters with famous athletes on the road. “The (NFL’s New Orleans) Saints coach Sean Peyton. He’s dear friends with Kenny Chesney, and when we were out on tour with Kenny, we got to meet Sean. I’ve been really close to a couple of players, especially on Kenny’s tour, because he’s so (into) football. They were there watching. I’m so not sporty it’s hard to be specific.”

While Nettles is admittedly not exactly a sports maven, she’s open to the idea of her son Magnus growing up to become an athlete if he grows up to choose the sporting life.

“I think the joy of being able to use one’s body and sports are super beneficial on a lot of levels, especially for young men,” she explained. “There are so many lessons that can be learned, and life lessons within that. Not to mention, most importantly the joy I think that one can get from it, which is the same way I feel about music. People say, ‘are you going to encourage him to be a musician?’ I hope that he finds joy in music. What he does with that is up to him. Same thing for sports. I hope that he finds joy in that.”

Nettles does draw the line, however, when it comes to the more violent contact sports, such as football and hockey, for her baby boy.

“I’m not really interested in anything where concussions are a possibility,” the singer deadpanned. “That’s what I’ll say. You know what, babe? Golf. There are great scholarships in golf, let’s go there. My husband’s a big golfer too, so I’ll be interested to see. Part of it with kids, they’ll end up dictating it. We’ll see.”

Nettles will kick off an American tour in support of That Girl on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) with a show at Washington, D.C.’s Lincoln Center. The tour, which stretches into the summertime, includes stops at this year’s Stagecoach music fest in Indio, CA (April 26), Country Jam USA in Eu Claire, WI (July 18) and the 2014 Country Life Music Festival (July 20) in Peoria, IL.

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