Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland made her solo debut at the Grand Ole Opry earlier this month with her new single-song duet partner; not the duet partner we are used to seeing by her side. Nettles brought out Brandy Clark, who has been opening many of the Sugarland singer’s shows this year.
Nettles had presented the idea for the song to her co-writers, Hillary Lindsey and Ashley Gorley, knowing that she wanted to stray from the common song ideas. “I wanted it to be a duet, but a different duet,” she told CMT. “I didn’t want it to be ‘Oh, you love him and I love him, he’s with you and I wish he was with me.’”
Once the song was complete, Nettles needed just the right voice to complement hers. The song, titled “His Hands,” was recorded without a duet partner since Nettles had an unexpectedly hard time finding the right person to fill the void. She recorded “His Hands” on her own and included it as a bonus track on the deluxe edition of “That Girl,” her solo album released in January 2014.
While out on the road, she said it made sense to ask Clark to join her on stage. Nettles told CMT “To be out on the road with Brandy, it felt organic. It just organically came up.” She told Clark she had a song that could be something really good. “We started performing it,” she said. “It started going over really well. It was exciting.”
Nettles says Clark’s hint of vulnerability in her voice is a perfect fit for the character in the song; a woman sends a warning to her ex’s new girlfriend after escaping a violent relationship. As with many of Nettles’ cleverly written songs, though, listeners may not see the twist right away.
“When you hear the first chorus after the first verse I sing, you think, ‘Oh, she’s talking about an intimate encounter.’ Then when you get the twist of ‘OK, this is actually about an abusive encounter,’ that’s a really powerful moment,” Nettles says.
In two years she has become a wife, a mother and she released her first solo album. It may seem as if Nettles has been MIA since Sugarland’s hiatus that began two years ago, but she has been preparing, essentially, for her solo Opry debut.