“Honey load up your questions, and pick up your sticks and your stones.”
Chris Stapleton became an overnight Internet sensation after taking home three of the biggest honors at the 49th Annual CMA Awards. Within less than 24 hours, he became a trending hashtag, the most Googled name in America, and his album Traveller, which had been out since May, soared to the top spot on the iTunes charts. The abruptness of his national fame begets the question: Who is Chris Stapleton?
If your ears are accustomed to the sounds that solely originate from local radio airwaves, then it doesn’t surprise me that the name Chris Stapleton doesn’t ring a bell. Stapleton, like most musicians out in Music City, started his career as a songwriter. Over the years, Stapleton has wracked up an impressive resume, penning chart-topping tunes for names you probably have heard of like Darius Rucker (“Come Back Song”), Josh Turner (“Your Man”), Thomas Rhett (“Crash And Burn”) and King George (“Love’s Gonna Make It Alright”) just to name a few. From 2008 to 2010, he was also the frontman for bluegrass band The SteelDrivers.
For years, Stapleton has been Nashville’s best kept secret – mention his name and you’ll hear nothing but praises, praises he’s rightfully earned.
Over the summer, I picked up Stapleton’s Traveller album and immediately taken away. For those who complain that “country isn’t country anymore” (an argument I won’t digress in because it could take all day), Chris Stapleton is your answer. The title track hits you hard and fast – his voice gritty, soulful and raw. In a day and age where music in general tends to sound the same, Stapleton is a breath of fresh air and I want to keep breathing it in. Lyrics like “I’ll be hurting when I wake up on the floor, but I’ll be over it by noon. That’s the difference between whiskey and you.” and “Now I sold my soul a long time ago, I put it in a six string and a sad melody” are not the kind of lyrics you listen to whilst shotgunning on the tailgate, but the kind of music that moves your soul and transports emotionally to a different place and time.
As I checked for live updates of the CMA Awards last night (I don’t have cable), my excitement was unparalleled when I heard Stapleton was given his first honor. Finally, I thought, people in the industry are finally recognizing those who truly deserve it. Then came the second, then the amazing performance with Justin Timberlake, and then came the third. My heart was full. All day today, social media channels were plastered with good words on Chris Stapleton. Even music fanatics who quote on quote “like everything except for country” can’t help but sing his praises. I think it’s safe to say that Stapleton creates the kind of music that’s too beautiful to turn away.
So who is Chris Stapleton? He is a star. A pioneer. Real music to your ears. And if ya didn’t know, well, now ya know.