After Sturgill Simpson and his recent album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth took home the trophy for Best Country Album at the 2017 Grammy Awards and was in contention for Album of the Year, some wondered if the ACM Awards would finally wise up and offer Sturgill Simpson a nomination. The ACM Awards announced the nominees for their 2017 awards on February 16th—only a few days after Sturgill’s big win. After all, the CMA’s considered Sturgill for the awards last year, and unlike the CMA’s, the ACM Awards break down their “Best New Artist” categories by male, female, and duo or group, giving them a perfect opportunity to highlight an outsider in one of the extra spots.
But it wasn’t meant to be for Sturgill Simpson. He got snubbed again, along with other fast-rising country stars who happen to not be on the radio. This wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it’s still unnerving how the industry refuses to acknowledge artists accomplishing great things just because these artists don’t have an inside track on Music Row.
Don’t think Sturgill Simpson is rattled by it though. If anything, it has emboldened him. After Sturgill’s music pal Wheeler Walker Jr. called out the ACM Awards on Twitter for giving five nominations to Florida Georgia Line and zero to Sturgill, Simpson’s reply on Saturday was, “Good..dodged a corny bullet. Plus it highlights their own hegemonic, transparent corruption/irrelevance. It’s all working perfectly…”
Close Sturgill Simpson fans know that there is no love lost between him and the ACM’s. In August 2016, Sturgill slammed the awards for disrespecting one of his mentors Merle Haggard, saying in part, “If the ACM wants to actually celebrate the legacy and music of Merle Haggard, they should drop all the formulaic cannon fodder bullshit they’ve been pumping down rural America’s throat for the last 30 years along with all the high school pageantry, meat parade award show bullshit and start dedicating their programs to more actual Country Music.”
So it’s probably no surprise that the ACM’s avoided Sturgill Simpson, and instead gave Best New Artist nominations to people like Kane Brown and Chris Lane. But as Sturgill Simpson alluded to in his statement, he’s taking the long game approach to climbing the country music mountain. And if it’s anyone that should acquiesce, it should be organizations like the ACM’s. They’re the ones that risk facing irrelevancy if they continue to not recognize the groundswell of artists fundamentally changing country music from its core, and without the help of radio or industry awards.
Sturgill also had folks in stitches Sunday night after the Oscars, saying about the Best Picture fiasco, “Beginning to think I might have actually won Album of the Year…”