Everywhere you look people are singing the praises of independent country music upstart Sturgill Simpson and his latest album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. The Kentucky-born singer and songwriter has become a favorite of critics and fans alike. Sturgill has recently been ensconced at the very top of many media outlet’s end-of-year ‘Best Of’ lists, walked away with a new piece of shelf art for Emerging Artist of the Year at the Americana Music Awards, and now has even been nominated for a Grammy. It’s all part of a ‘Metamodern’ rise that has seen Sturgill go from a no name to one of the most promising independent country artists to be launched in years.
But not everyone shares in the positive sentiments. As with all things, taste is subjective, and one music fan named Justin Rose from East Nashville is not on board the Sturgill Simpson bandwagon, at least not anymore.
“If I want to listen to Waylon, I’ll listen to Waylon. Not some modern-day impersonator who wears Carhartt and probably drinks corporate beer that’s not Pabst,” says Justin Rose while rolling a cigarette outside of Fond Object on Nashville’s east side. “I bet he hasn’t even done all the psychedelics he sings about. Like he’s the very first to make a psychedelic country record or something. Please. I have a dozen albums better than that on vinyl. I heard that he was in the Navy. He’s probably active in his church’s volleyball league and voted for Romney.”
Despite his dismissive tone, Justin Rose says he was an early fan of Sturgill’s when the songwriter first moved to Nashville.
“Yeah, I knew that guy when he was playing to an empty Station Inn and nobody knew about him. He actually wasn’t half bad back then. I saw him at The Basement with like six people. Now you can’t even get into his shows because they’re so packed with Vanderbilt Business School post-grads with khaki pants and backwards baseball caps that smell like Axe body spray. I even bought his first solo album ‘High Top Mountain’ on vinyl. It was alright, but when I saw how everyone was jumping on board and calling him the ‘country music savior’ I donated it with a bunch of other crap to the thrift store. At one of his shows I tried to talk to him about my tattoos, but he said he had to load his gear or something. Now I heard he was out touring with fucking Zac Brown. It just proves that bullshit sells.”
Justin Rose insists that the music of Sturgill Simpson is no big deal.
“There’s probably a dozen bands here in east Nashville that are better than Sturgill, but of course you will never hear about them because the music business is all politics. And really, I’m glad nobody will hear about them. Last thing I want is a bunch of people showing up, ruining the experience. People should make music for the art of it, not to get popular and have critics kiss your ass just because it’s cool. I saw they gave Sturgill the #1 album in ‘American Songwriter’ and ‘The Nashville Scene.’ I don’t understand why people don’t get that music sounds better when less people know about it. Watching good bands play to empty bar rooms and not be able to support themselves or their families fills me with a sense of elitism and pride, like I’m better than everybody else because I know about this awesome music and others don’t, and then me an my friends can flaunt this on Facebook and Instagram under the guise of ‘supporting the music.’ I just can’t like music if I think it is popular or successful in any way. Feeling like I’m part of an exclusive scene fills me with a sense of self-importance.”
Though Mr. Rose refuses to count himself amongst Sturgill Simpson supporters, he says he’s not completely opposed to listening to Sturgill’s music in the future. “Maybe if he plays Burning Man or some of my favorite local festivals where there’s more bands than fans in attendance and nobody makes any money, then it’s not like I’d avoid his set or anything. But until then, me and my friends will park across from whatever venue he’s playing and laugh about how the people are dressed and how they don’t ‘get it’ like we do.”