Jennifer Nettles’ ‘Tomorrow’ Cover Is Poignant During COVID-19 Pandemic
Sugarland frontwoman and Broadway star Jennifer Nettles has released a goosebump-inducing cover of "Tomorrow," the 1977 show tune classic from Annie. The country star, who is currently sheltering in place with her parents, says the decision to release the song and accompanying video happened in about a week's time.
"I had this quickening inside me," Nettles tells Taste of Country. "It said, 'This feels significant. A little cosmic. A little kismet. A little indigo.'"
Nettles and Broadway musical director/supervisor superstar Alex Lacamoire (of Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, and The Greatest Showman fame) had been working on an album of famous show tunes before the coronavirus gripped the globe.
"We wanted to offer a fresh perspective and hopefully introduce that music to people who may or may not know it or to celebrate it differently with people who already love it," Nettles says.
When she and Lacamoire settled on the track list, they knew immediately they wanted to arrange the iconic "Tomorrow" in a slightly more haunting fashion.
"We came up with this arrangement that was beautiful and poignant and haunting, for this song that was originally sang by a child," Nettles says. "To offer it with a little more gravitas and seasoning and wisdom." (Nettles also said that the Annie soundtrack was the first album she ever owned, adding a bit of personal weight to the choice.)
The pair recorded the song on March 12 — it was the last song of the last session for the album. It was also the day New York City officially closed down Broadway for health and safety reasons. Soon after, the Sugarland singer reached out to Lacamoire to see if he'd be comfortable releasing "Tomorrow" immediately, "to make this an offering — and he said of course."
The video Nettles put out with the song compounded the song's message tenfold.
"I connected with another of my old Broadway pals Jason Patrick Sands, who I worked with in Chicago," Nettles says. "He was one of the dancers and he's gone on to do video production. I reached out to him and said, 'Hey this is what I'd like to do and can you help me do it?'"
Nettles and Sands discussed the perfect imagery for the video, which starts out with the eerie look of empty streets and buildings. Their idea was to show some of the great struggles we've overcome as a people and remind viewers that great leaders arise from troubling times. "And so we'll do this what [the coronavirus pandemic] too, and then get back to those happy life moments we all love," she says.
"We obviously looked at the wars and civil rights movement, but we went beyond those to things we're facing today, from climate change to the women's march," Nettles says. "We wanted to showcase all those pieces, and then also show, 'Here's a birthday party, and here's decorating for Christmas.'"
Nettles acknowledges that she's in the same state as a lot of people right now — "adjusting to the new not-so-normal but with added doses of fear and isolation" — but also takes a moment to acknowledge just how different our life circumstances can be.
"It can vary depending on your living situation, where it is you're sheltering in place, if you have kids or not and whether they're in distance learning or home schooling, if you're working remotely," she says.
For now, Nettles has an album of re-imagined Broadway tunes in her back pocket and time to spend with her family. "I don't know yet when it's going to come out," she admits with a laugh. "Everything right now feels so amoebic and who knows."
Sugarland also recently released a 3-song live EP from their Bigger Tour. Nettles and bandmate Kristian Bush and hopped on YouTube to chat with fans as they premiered the live videos for those songs.
"People in the live industry, artists, we're trying to become more aware of ways that we can connect, and what are the reasons we want to connect, and when we do connect, what do we want to share?" Nettles says. "And everybody handles that differently man. Some people want to do a million chats a day, and many of them don't have children [laughs] — some people want to talk about what they're eating and all these things that are great because those are things young people connect on, so yay. But others are taking their time to see what it feels like and I'm sure they will make artistic statements later."
Right now, the best way to help performers and the live industry in general is to listen to their music and Broadway cast albums, and follow them individually on social media to discover ways they're looking to connect, according to Nettles. And above all, remember to show up again when it's safe to gather, "Because nothing is going to replace those live experiences," she says.