Thank you to everyone that participated in the contest last week, and to everyone that read the article. If you didn’t win this week, don’t worry, we are giving away two more tickets to the Songs, Stools, and Stories show again this week. Same rules as last week, just answer my question correctly, and you put yourself in for the drawing to win.
Those of you that are avid readers of my article, first off I would like to thank you. It is great to see so many people enjoying something that I have put so much time and effort into. I really cannot say it enough. Secondly, you know that I am admittedly more of a rock fan, but I have a passion for music of any kind. When someone says metal, I have a vision of what that sounds like. When someone says pop, I have a vision of what that sounds like. Same with country. To me, a song isn’t country unless it has a certain sound, and most country music today is missing that sound. Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with modern country, I’m just saying that to me, country is more Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and others like that. Not over produced. Not pop-y. In modern country, most of the songs could be played on any pop music station, and fit in, well except for that lyrical message I suppose but I digress. I didn’t believe there would ever be an artist that would embrace that sound, and feel ever again. My younger brother, Adam, knows how I feel, and agrees with me. We are 26 and 23 respectively, and we both listen to classic country. Totally not what anyone would expect. Anyway, he told me of a new artist by the name of Chris Stapleton.
Stapleton was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and was raised in the small town of Staffordsville. His father was a coal miner, and his mother work at the local health department. He is the middle child, with an older brother and younger sister. He graduated from Johnson Central High School and attended Vanderbilt University, but after a year he dropped out to venture to Nashville. Not long after arriving in Nashville, Stapleton signed a deal with Sea Gayle Music.
During his early years in with Sea Gayle, Stapleton wrote hit songs for the likes of George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, and Darius Rucker. He also wrote a song for Adele. Yes that Adele. She recorded and released “If It Hadn’t Been For Love” as a bonus track for her wildly successful 2011 album, “21”.
Although he was seeing success writing songs, Stapleton wanted to sing the songs he was writing, so in 2008 he formed a band called Steeldrivers. The bluegrass group gained quite a bit of notoriety within the bluegrass community. In 2009, the group was named the Emerging Artist of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association. They even received three Grammy nominations the following year. Again I had never heard of the Steeldrivers, but I just listened to a few of their songs. They are very good, and if you are a fan of Chris Stapleton, which I think you should be, I highly suggest checking out “Blue Side Of The Mountain” by clicking here, and “Midnight Train to Memphis” by clickinghere.
Despite the success the band was seeing, Stapleton left Steeldrivers in 2010, and formed the Jompson Brothers. Moving away from bluegrass, the band, led by Stapleton, had a Southern Rock sound. They independently released a self-titled album in 2010, and toured with many bands until 2013. It looks like no matter what Stapleton puts his stamp on, it will be amazing. I suggest checking out “On The Run” by clicking here, “Barely Alive” by clicking here, and “Secret Weapon” by clicking here. Jason Aldean uses “Secret Weapon” as an intro to his live shows. I honestly can’t blame him. That song could and should be played on rock radio with regularity. I don’t know how, but The Jompson Brothers never saw any chart success or any award nominations. Again after only a few years, Stapleton left the Jompson Brothers in 2013.This time to pursue a solo career.
In 2013, Stapleton signed to Mercury Nashville. His first single, “What Are You Listening to?” was a part of an album that was recorded but never released. That may be because the track didn’t gain the traction they were hoping.
Two years later, he finally released his debut album “Traveler” in May 2015. On this album he recruited the bass layer from the Jompson Brothers, J.T. Cure, and added a slew of new bandmates. His wife even recorded the harmonies. Stapleton didn’t take the task of putting together his band lightly. He made it clear that magic within the lineup was very important, and the familiarity he had with Cure and drummer Derek Mixon, added to the overall richness of making the album.
“Traveler” reached number one on both the U.S. Country chart and the Billboard 200, and has already been certified platinum. Knowing all that, these following stats may seem a little weird, and they are to me as well. Only one of the songs on the album reached number one, and it wasn’t even one of the two singles. The singles, “Traveler”, and “Nobody to Blame” only reached number 17 and number 13 respectively, although as of writing this, “Nobody to Blame” is still at number 15. The only number one song off of the album is a cover of George Jones’ “Tennessee Whiskey”. Five other tracks charted, but none broke the top 25. This is a travesty to me. While writing this, I have been listening to the entire “Traveler” album, and there isn’t a bad song on it. There are very few albums out there that I can say that about. Even my favorite band. They just put out a new album, and I absolutely LOVE their sound, and there are a couple songs I skip. This album is complete. There aren’t any filler songs. Every song is poignant and meaningful.
The album did win Stapleton several award though. At the 2015 CMA Awards, he won Album of the Year, New Artist of the Year, and Male Vocalist of the Year. He also performed “Tennessee Whiskey” with Justin Timberlake at the show. I know it seems like an odd pairing, but Timberlake is an incredible talent. He is one of the few pop stars that can sing live, and doesn’t need to be auto tuned to death on his albums. This is, in my opinion, the best crossover song I have ever heard. Check it out by clicking here. At the Grammys, he won Best Country Album, and Best Country Solo Performance for the song “Traveler”. The 2016 ACM Awards haven’t been handed out yet, but Stapleton is nominated for Album of the Year, Song of the Year for “Nobody to Blame”, Songwriter of the Year, New Male Vocalist of the Year, and Male Vocalist of the Year.
Stapleton said that the album was inspired by a road trip he took after the passing of his father in 2013. The title track was written while on that road trip with his wife driving down Interstate 40 from Phoenix to Nashville.
Chris Stapleton is by far my new favorite singer/songwriter. His talent is a rare one. Very few people can transcend genres as gracefully, and effortlessly as Stapleton. Bluegrass, Southern Rock, and Country are no match for this incredible musical talent. I bet he could write and perform an opera and it would be incredible. The only issue I have with Chris Stapleton’s career is that he is not being recognized for his talent with chart success. If you are a fan of true, raw talent, and vocal ability, support this amazing artist. I know I will definetly be buying “Traveler”, as well as the Jompson Brothers album as well. Support true talent so we can get back to getting truly talented artists back on the air.
Time for the Songs, Stools, and Stories Show giveaway. The question is this. What did I say, in my opinion, was the best crossover song I have ever heard? To answer, email me email@example.com. You will have until Sunday night at 11:59 pm to answer. On Monday, I will randomly select a winner out of everyone that gets the answer correct. Make sure the subject line says “Featured artist question of the week” so I can easily spot it. In the email also include your name and a phone number. Good luck!
(courtesy of Ryan B)