12 Years Ago Today: Kristen Hall Sues Sugarland
Kristen Hall was one of the founding members of Sugarland, and she co-wrote the group's breakthrough debut single, "Baby Girl." But her participation in the band ended bitterly when she filed suit against her former bandmates, Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush, on Aug. 7, 2008.
Sugarland formed out of Atlanta's acoustic singer-songwriter scene in the early 2000s. They played a well-received showcase in Nashville in July of 2003, and subsequently signed with Mercury Nashville.
The group released their major-label debut album, Twice the Speed of Life, in October of 2004. They released "Baby Girl" as their debut single, and it was an overnight smash hit, rocketing to No. 2 and spending a total of 46 weeks on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, a new record.
The trio followed up with "Something More," "Just Might (Make Me Believe)" and "Down in Mississippi (Up to No Good)," all of which scored additional hits. Twice the Speed of Life was certified Double-Platinum, but by the time the trio were out on the road promoting the album, cracks between Hall and Nettles and Bush were already deepening. Nettles and Bush showed up for an appearance on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno without Hall on Jan. 12, 2006, and within days an announcement came with little fanfare, stating that Hall had split with Sugarland because "she wants to stay home and write songs."
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Nettles and Bush moved on as a duo, releasing Enjoy the Ride in 2006 and scoring additional hits, including "Stay," which gave them one of their biggest career singles. They had just released their third album, Love on the Inside, when Hall filed suit against them in August of 2008.
Hall's lawsuit alleges that she coined the name Sugarland and auditioned and hired Bush and Nettles, and she also claimed to have financed the band's early days with her personal credit cards. She further claimed to have re-recorded "Baby Girl" after the record company rejected two earlier versions, and her suit said she served as the band's manager, booking agent and tour organizer early on, as well as designing its promotional materials. Hall also wrote or co-wrote every song on Twice the Speed of Life.
She claimed that Nettles and Bush later excluded her from her fair one-third share of the band's profits as agreed upon, and alleged breach of partnership agreement, breach of fiduciary duty and more. Hall asked a judge to award her $1.5 million, as well as attorney's fees, to settle her claim, and she asked for a jury trial.
The suit escalated after Nettles and Bush fired back in court, downplaying Hall's early contributions to the band and claiming she had never entered into a profit-sharing agreement with them after her departure. The amount Hall was asking for ultimately reached $14 million, and Billboard reports that the warring parties settled the suit out of court in November of 2010, just three days before a potentially embarrassing public trial was set to commence.
The terms of the settlement were not disclosed publicly, and Hall has remained mostly out of the public eye since ending her tenure in Sugarland.
Hall was actually not the first former member to sue Sugarland. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the group's early self-released album, Premium Quality Tunes, listed five members: Nettles, Bush, Hall, drummer Simone Simonton and guitarist Bret Hartley. Simonton and Hartley were still on board at the group's 2003 showcase, according to CMT, but were nowhere to be found by the time Twice the Speed of Life was released the following year. They sued Sugarland in 2004, alleging that they contributed to songs that were later re-recorded for Twice the Speed of Life and were cut out of the writing credits. That suit was also settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of money.
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