"You get a different understanding of the depth of feeling and the sacrifices that you're willing to make," she tells PEOPLE

By Ana Calderone
Updated May 23, 2015 03:45 PM
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Credit: Mei Tao

When it came to getting serious about starting her musical career, Sugarland singer turned solo artist Jennifer Nettles had one deal with her mom.

“She had always told me if I went to college I could do whatever I wanted to do but that that was important to her,” Nettles tells PEOPLE of Carla Temple. “And I think one of the biggest testaments of her support was when I graduated college because that day I said, ‘Hey, I’d like to take this degree and try to be a popular singer-songwriter.’ ”

“I didn’t want her to look back and say, ‘What if,’ ” explains Temple.

But the now retired schoolteacher had been supporting her daughter long before she put on her cap and gown.

“She took me around everywhere,” says Nettles, 40, who recently wrapped her Broadway debut as Roxie Hart in Chicago. “Musical theater, church groups, weddings, funerals – I sang whenever I could.”

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Now, the country superstar is leaning on her mom in a different way – helping her to raise her son Magnus, 2½, with husband Justin Miller.

“We always had that agreement that when she had a baby, that would be my cue to retire and move to help,” says Temple.

Adds Nettles, “I grew up with my great-grandmother right next door so I love that Magnus will have that same access and connection and ability to see her often enough.”

And becoming a mother has given the singer a whole new appreciation for her own mom.

“You get a different understanding of the depth of feeling and the sacrifices that you’re willing to make,” she says. “I have a greater appreciation for what it feels like to feel that closeness and feel that love.”

For more on Jennifer Nettles and Carla Temple, pick up the May 11 issue of PEOPLE

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