Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles Talks 2018 CMA Awards Nominations: 'You Can Never Take Any of This for Granted'

After Sugarland announced during the 2017 CMA Awards they were working on a new record following a five-year hiatus, things have come full circle for the country duo, who are now nominated for two awards at this year’s ceremony — a moment lead vocalist, Jennifer Nettles does not take for granted.

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(Photo: Walter McBride/WireImage)

Talking exclusively to PopCulture.com ahead of tonight’s 52nd Annual Country Music Awards airing on ABC, Nettles is humbled by “a lot of good stuff” that has happened this past year, particularly with fans welcoming back the Georgia native and her bandmate, Kristian Bush, to the country music scene.

“After a hiatus to come back, you never know — the industry has changed so much over the past five years, seven years since we made a record,” Nettles told PopCulture.com. “So to get to come back and receive the welcome that we have and the love that we have, especially where the CMAs are concerned, it feels validating. You can never take any of this for granted. There is rightfully so, an arch to every career, so to still be at this point in the game, I am thrilled.”

In addition to getting a nomination at this year’s CMAs for Vocal Duo of the Year in honor of their sixth studio album Bigger, Sugarland is also up for Music Video of the Year for their collaborative single, “Babe,” featuring Taylor Swift. The former country-turned-popstar co-write the single with Train’s Pat Monahan and approached Nettles and Bush about recording the song for their anticipated return.

“We had our hearts and our eyes open, but we didn’t know what to expect,” Nettles said of the song recorded by the two that was also the first track never written by them. “We loved the fact that [Taylor] wanted to offer us a song, and loved the song when we heard it, but we also wanted to make sure like, ‘Okay, is this gonna fit within the album that we’re making? Can we do this justice? Is she going to like what we do with it?’”

Nettles said after figuring out all the “bits and pieces” of Swift’s generosity and leading the charge in creatively recording the track with Bush, the duo “loved how it sounded.”

Humbled by the gesture of kindness by Swift, Nettles said she and Bush wanted to get her blessing for it, and were amazed at her reaction.

“So, we sent it over to her and she loved it… she loved it so much that she wanted to be a part of the song,” Nettles said. “So you hear her on the background vocals and then she loved it so much she wanted to do a video, which she did.”

The Mad Men-inspired music video, which has raked in more than 20 million views since its summer debut, has been a massive hit for the duo, granting the two incredible exposure with new audiences.

“To get the song and to record it, all of it has been fantastic, you know,” Nettles enthused. “To be able to be exposed to her audience, which is worldwide, massive huge, and to have a song that people are excited about just from a collaborative standpoint… and to have such a great song in general… I’m thrilled that she passed it our way and wanted us to do it, what a blessing it has been.”

Fans will have to wait to see if Sugarland grabs up two wins tonight for their respective categories, but Nettles alludes to the fact that this past year’s successes are just the beginning of the duo’s resurrection. While the two just recently wrapped up their Still the Same tour this past September, Nettles promises fans a lot more to come.

“We’re trying to decide now what we want to do next, so stay tuned,” she said with a smile.

In the meantime, Nettles has her hands full with plenty of events and projects. In addition to jumpstarting a career in acting and starring in this winter’s biopic, Harriet, while also taking part in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, the 44-year-old released her first cookbook, Sweet, Savory & Simple, which she teases is the perfect holiday addition.

Stay tuned to PopCulture.com for more on Jennifer Nettles’ projects, including the new cookbook — something that is truly a perfect addition to your holiday season menus!

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The 52nd Annual CMA Awards airs tonight at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. Check your local listings.

Photo credit: Walter McBride/WireImage