SugarlandWhen Kristian Bush was growing up, he used to love going through the hymnal at church, so he could make up his own original melodies to go with the songs in it. Today, along with Sugarland partner Jennifer Nettles, he's still doing that ... with Christmas classics the duo selected to record for their first holiday album, 'Gold and Green.'

"We chose [the traditional Christmas carols] based on their interpretative ability," Kristian tells the Tennessean. "Jennifer and I really feel strongly that you really need to have an intention about making [the cover song] your own -- even if you aren't going to change the chord structure or the gender of the singer. I'm taking a lot of liberty with these songs, but I think that's important."

For their interpretation of 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel,' Kristian felt it was important to convey a feeling that was very cold, very gray ... because he remembers winters being that way, growing up in East Tennessee.

"When we talked about it, I said, 'Jennifer, this is a really cold, cold song," Kristian remembers. 'Can't you imagine someone sitting on a porch, singing this song ... and the song is supposed to save them -- as if you are asking Him to come -- not as if you are in church, celebrating it. What happens if you are really broken by the time you are singing this?' She just lit up, and said, 'Yeah ... let's find that place!"

And so Kristian and Jennifer wrapped their story around the Christmas song, in hopes listeners would feel just how cold and stark an East Tennessee winter day can be when one is that broken.

"I really wanted this landscape of what it feels like to be in East Tennessee at Christmas ... and it hasn't snowed ... and it's that cold, that all the world is kind of gray ... and you can almost see your breath," Kristian reflects. "That's where we're going to sing this song. And when you do it that way, there's a really great reason to be singing the song -- that's already been written."

When it came to the five Christmas songs he and Jennifer wrote for 'Gold and Green,' Kristian says it was all about honesty and emotion.

"You have to be honest about the pictures you're painting. Songwriting is a balance between showing and telling," he explains. "Some things you can show by describing, and some things you have to tell. If you show what it looks like outside, you don't have to say you feel peaceful. [Christmas] makes for a whole different palette when you're writing those songs. I just love that we got to do it ... and that when given the opportunity, we jumped at it -- five times in a row!"

'Gold and Green' is available now. A new Sugarland album is expected in 2010.