EXCLUSIVE: Jennifer Nettles on How Motherhood Changed Everything -- and Landed Her Face on a Cheerios Box
By Sophie Schillaci
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Get ready to meet the new, "emboldened" Jennifer Nettles!
The Sugarland alum and Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors star is gearing up to release a "sassy," "fun" and "emotional" new solo album, Playing With Fire, out May 13, and credits 3-year-old son Magnus with showing her a new side of herself.
"After having become a mom, I think I was emboldened by the vulnerability it was to go through that life change," Nettles tells ET. "So this record is bold in a lot of ways. I think I have a lot to say and different ways to connect with my fans, and with new fans, that I haven't before."
The 41-year-old singer looks better than ever these days, and can't help but beam while discussing her little boy.
"There is not one aspect of my life that having a child did not change," she confesses. "He goes with me everywhere, which definitely slows somebody down in the airport, for sure, but it is so welcomed and he is a seasoned little gypsy baby-world traveler. He has more sky miles at his age than I did before I was 30!
"The tour bus is different, the amount of free time I have is different, but that's the same with any working parent," she continues. "Your life is completely changed."
Nettles also says that motherhood has "made me more compassionate overall as a human being, and made me see the world in a much broader context." In that spirit, Nettles and her record label, Big Machine Label Group, have joined forces with Outnumber Hunger to help provide meals for local families in need.
"I always knew, clearly, that the problem of hunger still exists in our country, but it wasn't until I heard the actual numbers -- that one in seven Americans suffers from hunger -- that is a confronting number," she says. "When I heard that, I wanted to get involved with this program, with Outnumber Hunger, and to be able to hopefully make a difference with folks within their own communities."
Nettles, along with labelmates Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, Reba McEntire, Justin Moore, Maddie & Tae, Nick Fradiani, and Cassadee Pope, are taking over your local grocery stores, with photos on the packaging for various General Mills products, including Cheerios, Yoplait, Nature Valley and Pillsbury.
As part of the partnership between Big Machine Label Group, General Mills and Feeding America, each package featuring a Big Machine artist contains a code that, when redeemed via OutnumberHunger.com, will provide five meals to a local food bank. This year's program officially kicks off on March 28.
"This is the world that Magnus is going to be growing up in, and being able to show him what it is to be aware of the world around you and that there are people who do need," Nettles says. "I want to be able to offer that as an example."
For now, Magnus seems to already be following in his mother's musical footsteps.
"He does recognize my voice -- as well he should, because not only have I sung to him since the day he was born, but I was on tour until I was huge pregnant," Nettles says with a laugh. "But he loves all music and what's so fun to see is the instinctive connection to rhythm in him. He can know if something is more of a rockin' beat, or if it's something that is dance-y and backbeat and sort of sensual, he perceives the difference in that. To watch him dance is hysterical to me. It just fills my heart."