“In 10 years I’ll be the biggest country star on this planet, I guaran-fuckin’-tee it. And there’s nothing they can do to stop that.” Sturgill says in a new interview.
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Maybe it is pure coincidence that a few months after Sturgill Simpson twisted off on the country music industry’s “formulaic cannon fodder bullshit,” and specifically “all the high school pageantry, meat parade award show bullshit,” that the CMA’s did something completely unprecedented, and announced that over half of their performers for their 50th annual presentation would be traditional country artists. And we’re not just talking about the usual suspects of token traditional performers like George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Charlie Daniels. We’re talking about performers that some country music fans are surprised to hear they’re still alive, folks like Roy Clark and Charley Pride.
Or maybe it isn’t coincidence at all.
On Wednesday (10/27), Saving Country Music posted an editorial about how it is one of the best times to be a true country music fan in how it seems like every sector of the genre—from the underground to the mainstream—appears to be breaking out in a new spring and the music is opening up like never before. This was posted before the CMA’s announced that afternoon that Charlie Daniels, Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs, Roy Clark, Dwight Yoakam, and Clint Black would be added to the 2016 CMA Awards lineup.
We’re living in historic times in country music, when the resurgence of more traditional, and more substantive music is taking hold like never before, and receiving more recognition for the industry than any period in recent memory. And it’s hard to not look at Sturgill Simpson and give him at least part of the blame.
Chris Stapleton was the artist the industry latched on to, but it was Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music that inspired Chris Stapleton to record his debut record Traveller with producer Dave Cobb, and do it organically and live just like Sturgill did. That record is now the reigning CMA Album of the Year, and going into the CMA Awards next week, Stapleton has to be considered a favorite for the night’s top award, Entertainer of the Year.
It’s not necessarily that Sturgill Simpson’s pointed words scared the CMA’s straight as much as maybe the have finally realized that the majority of people who consider themselves “country” fans can’t relate to 90% of the music and artists presented on these award shows. And to return to their past relevancy, the CMA’s and others are going to have to reach out.
But Sturgill Simpson is not satisfied.
“It took me this long to get right here,” Sturgill says in a recent interview with Adam Gold of The Nashville Scene. “[But] this isn’t all I want, this isn’t all I know my music [can do]. I know that there are a whole lot of people out there that aren’t aware, that will connect with [my] music. … The industry’s not gonna give it to me. And at this point I don’t want them to. I’m going to prove to them I can do it. In 10 years I’ll be the biggest country star on this planet, I guaran-fuckin’-tee it. And there’s nothing they can do to stop that.”
“I’ve got the Rocky heart, man,” Sturgill continues. “I’m gonna do it now out of spite. And I’m gonna go play rock ’n’ roll, too, and take all those fuckin’ people, and I’m going to build a little army. And you’ll come to my show, and it’ll be four hours long, and it’ll be an American music show. It won’t be a country music show, Americana music show or a soul music show. We’re gonna hit it all, we’re gonna touch it all, because I love it all. And I want to love everybody.”
On Sturgill Simpson’s first solo record, High Top Mountain, there was a song called “Life Ain’t Fair” that specifically called out the CMA for ignoring artists such as himself. Ironically, Sturgill actually was considered by the CMA Awards this year on one of their early ballots, though he didn’t make the final cut of nominees. Sturgill has stricken “Life Ain’t Fair” from his repertoire lately, to the chagrin of some fans.
“It’s all about me struggling to get my foot in the door and figuring out how to land,” Sturgill tells The Nashville Scene. “I’ve landed now. I can’t really sit there and complain anymore. Life’s pretty good. … But you still won’t see me on the fuckin’ CMAs.”
As for leaving Nashville, which Sturgill mentioned at the end of his August rant in defense of Merle Haggard and against the country industry, “I think I’m gonna make this town a little special project,” he says now. “I woke up the other day and I was like, ‘Fuck that, I’m not going anywhere.’ ”