May
16

Where Does Sturgill Simpson Go From Here?

May 16, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  73 Comments

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Sturgill Simpson has arrived ladies & gentlemen, thanks to the resounding critical success of his new album Metamodern Sounds of Country Music that has permeated just about every corner of the independent roots music culture. From NPR, to The New York Times, to Billboard, to important periodicals in Europe, wherever you turn, someone is singing the praises of the Kentucky native.

This resounding success has made some, if not many, wonder where does Sturgill Simpson go from here? Just how big can he get? Could we possibly hear Sturgill Simpson songs on mainstream radio? Could we see him get a nomination from the CMA? Could Sturgill Simpson and Metamodern Sounds be the artist and album to save country music? Without a doubt he’s that one artist this is resonating, right here, right now, and unlike other artists that have done so recently such as Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson is decidedly country, potentially giving him the ability to be considered for attention by country music’s largest institutions.

I think we all need to take a douse of realism, while at the same time understanding that Sturgill Simpson becoming something bigger than just a mid-level club act is very realistic if the right things fall into place. But there is a long, long way to go, and a lot of the talk surrounding him at the moment is sort of like playing fantasy football. In the long run, for an artist like Sturgill to reach the CMA level, a lot of specific watermarks must be reached, and it’s imperative on his fans, and Sturgill himself, not to set unrealistic expectations that can end up deflating the positive momentum he’s created. So in the end, a “Let’s just do the best we can, and see where this goes” mentality is probably the most wise course of action. Though someone who might read artcles on savingcountrymusic.com on a regular basis might see Sturgill Simpson’s name everywhere they turn and think this thing is in the midst of something historic, out in the big scary world, he’s still very much an unknown. For now.

But you also can’t discount the magic of music when it is matched up with the right moment for the world to hear it. That’s how all great movements in music start, by one person doing something the world has a great hunger for. And can anyone disagree that a hunger for someone like Sturgill Simpson exists in country music right now? As silly as the notion may seem to some, the indelible part of the country music mythos that hopes for a savior to come and return balance to the genre is a very real force all to itself, and carries its own weight and momentum.

It’s also worth pointing out that Sturgill Simpson isn’t the only one who deserves credit for what is becoming a meteoric rise. Some very wise moves have been made in marketing him, and how his music has been released. Normally, releasing albums less than a year apart is frowned upon these days. For Sturgill, this move was fortuitous. Just as the High Top Mountain‘s cycle was losing steam, here he comes with an album that regardless of where he goes from here, will be looked back upon as a landmark; as an important moment in his development. Now Sturgill has all the momentum at his back, and that, along with an excellent management team, has allowed Sturgill to reach far beyond what we normally see from independent artists that may feel very intimate to us because we’ve seen them in half empty barrooms, or heard their music before anyone else.

Sturgill’s manager Marc Dottore (also Marty Stuart’s manager), has been able to get him in front of big audiences at the Opry, on The Marty Stuart Show, and opened up many doors not normally accessible to independent artists. Sturgill’s booking agent got him on some big tours opening for Dwight Yoakam. And Sturgill and his band have been pounding the pavement, playing strange tour runs that are not always intuitive when they’re drawn on a map, and that take a toll on the band’s personal lives and sanity, but in the end got him in front of the right people to have an impact. There are a lot of talented country artists, and a lot of artists like Sturgill that have worked very hard. But Sturgill, his band, and his management team and publicists didn’t just work hard, they worked smart. And that, just as much as Sturgill’s talent, the appeal of the music, and the fortuitous timing of it, lent to where he is today.

Could Sturgill Simpson Be Picked Up By A Major Label?

Could he? Sure. Since he’s signed with new school distribution company Thirty Tigers, Sturgill still retains his rights, and the freedom to do whatever he wants with his music, whether it is the music on Metamodern Sounds, or music he makes in the future. This is one of the specific reasons Sturgill decided to go with Thirty Tigers, despite being offered other deals by other labels before High Top Mountain. And there’s precedent here with other artists. Chase Rice, one of the writers of Florida Georgia Line’s blockbuster song “Cruise”, started out as a Thirty Tigers artist, releasing music through the label before making a partnership through Columbia Records in March to distribute his EP and his “Ready, Set, Roll” single.

Speaking of Florida Georgia Line, they have a somewhat similar story, where they made an EP called It’z Just What We Do that after it went crazy, landed them a deal with Big Machine Records. Much of the music from that EP ended up on their first major full-length release.

But let’s be realistic. Do we really think real deal Sturgill Simpson is going to sign with a major label that would more than likely mean handing over the rights to his songs, and potentially artistic control? Granted, this isn’t always a pitfall of the major label world. There are some artists that with the right leverage power have been able to negotiate contracts in their favor that didn’t include all the traditional trappings of a major label deal. But unless it is perfect, Sturgill Simpson isn’t going to take it. Sturgill is a peculiar, cantankerous individual; an idealist that isn’t motivated by fame and money beyond wanting to provide for his family.

So the next question would be is, would the combination of Thirty Tigers and Sturgill’s current management structure be able to handle some major meteoric rise that would result in the gross equivalent of a major label deal? It’s kind of hard to know, but simply asking the question may be getting way ahead of ourselves.

Could Sturgill Simpson Be Nominated for a CMA Award?

Not to throw cold water on anything, but shaking my magic ’8′ ball, what I’m coming up with is “not likely”. Maybe in the future, when Sturgill has taken a few more steps, and his name recognition is such that the wider industry is paying more attention. But for now, Sturgill must conquer the Americana and independent ranks. He may very well do that with Metamodern Sounds, and this may create the gateway to greener pastures. But we can’t take this happening as a given.

One benefit he has over artists like Jason Isbell or Justin Townes Earle who’ve both had big success in Americana, is that Sturgill Simpson is purely country. This means hypothetically that the sky is the limit, unlike with Americana.

But the CMA, and especially the ACM are set up to promote the country music industry, just as the Americana Music Awards are set up to promote the Americana industry. And right now, Sturgill Simpson isn’t part of that industry. He may play country music, but that doesn’t immediately make him a contender, let alone visible to the CMA voters, even though he may technically qualify. What would put him on their map is strong, prolonged commercial success along with his critical acclaim: solid showings on MediaBase and Billboard charts for sales and plays.

The other thing he would need to do to be considered by the CMA is to have mainstream radio play. And with the climate these days at mainstream radio, where it realistically takes sometimes $500,000 to $1 million dollars to promote a single, especially from an unknown artist, that possibility may be the most out-of-reach for Sturgill. Besides, I’m not sure Metamodern Sounds contains any “single” material for modern-day radio.

However there is hope that a critical darling can crack through all the commercial hurdles that hold many artists out of the CMA process. Though Kacey Musgraves resides on a major label, appreciate that without even one Top 10 single to her name, she walked away with the Album of the Year trophies at both the Grammy Awards and ACM’s this year. When faced with overwhelming consensus about a critical favorite, whether it’s Musgraves’ Same Trailer, Different Park, or Jamey Johnson’s That Lonesome Song, industry awards will step up to at least dole out nominations to these projects. An Americana Grammy for Sturgill is a very real possibility, but remember last year they completely snubbed Jason Isbell, who by all accounts was the clear favorite going in.

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More realistically, Sturgill Simpson just needs to eat what’s on his plate, and focus on growing his name recognition. Sturgill will continue to focus on touring, and creating a fan base that can support him at the club level. That will open up the possibility for bigger opening slots, and more exposure.

We have been at this crossroads before, where an artist feels like he’s on the brink of blowing up and rising to the mainstream level. In 2008 when Hank Williams III was riding off of huge momentum from a critically-acclaimed and commercially-successful release Straight to Hell, it looked for a minute that he may break through the walls of the mainstream and completely shake up the industry. Williams had been touring like crazy for a half decade. He had all the momentum at his back. When his next album came out, Damn Right, Rebel Proud in 2008, it debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts. Williams had climbed nine rungs up a ten rung ladder, and he had done it his way, fighting against his label to win creative freedom, and finding success despite a lack of radio play.

But Damn Right, Rebel Proud was a step down in quality from his previous releases, and Hank3 proceeded to take 18 months off of touring. Subsequent releases charted decently as well, but he never reached the same heights. Hank3 had been right there, right at the precipice of breaking through, and for whatever reason, lost the drive, lost the momentum, had pushed himself too hard, and had to step back.

Hellbound Glory, also finding great critical acclaim, landed the opportunity to open for Kid Rock on an arena tour, and it looked like the doors would finally start opening for them. And some doors did. But a year later, Leroy Virgil had not a single member in his band that had been around for the Kid Rock tour, and in many respects landed right back where he started. Jamey Johnson reached the very top of the industry, penning #1 songs and being nominated for big awards. But then a label dispute stopped him in his tracks, and it’s been nearly four years since he’s released an original song.

Whether the fault of the artists or others, the ninth rung of that ten rung ladder has been where these artists have stalled, one after another. And the dream, the promise of returning the balance back to country music stalls with it. Whether it’s artists losing their hunger, being hindered by the industry, or never really having a chance to begin with, the dream wasn’t fully realized. It wasn’t played out to its last, exhaustive breath. But with Sturgill Simpson, we have another opportunity.

And if something magical does happen with Sturgill Simpson, we shouldn’t see it as a shot from nowhere. George Strait just won Entertainer of the Year for both the CMA’s and ACM’s. Kacey Musgraves has been winning awards left and right. Both traditionalism and substance are resonating again in country music, despite however buried they may appear by bro-country.

The most important thing is that Sturgill Simpson keeps on growing, and that the independent community does what they can to help foster that growth. Sturgill Simpson said it best when he posted the day of the release of Metamodern Sounds:

I have said it many times and I will continue to say it, as it is the truth and I whole heartedly believe it…guys like me and the countless others others out there attempting to offer an alternative are not capable of change. We are not the catalyst of change. You guys are. We can only do our best to make the best records we are capable of but it is up to you the listener to have your voices heard. This is the only road to the true change that a lot of you I talk to at shows are seeking. If you connect with something that moves you it’s up to you to share it/burn it/ steal it/ give it away. As long as it finds and connects with as many people as possible that is all we wish for.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you all for everything YOU have done and are collectively doing to make our dreams come true. It goes without saying that I am about as sick of hearing/talking about me as I have ever been in my entire life. With that said, we are anxiously looking forward to taking this show on the road for the rest of our lives.

LOVE
Sturgill, Kevin, Miles, & Little Joe

 

73 Comments to “Where Does Sturgill Simpson Go From Here?”

  • Great article!! Totally in agreement. All of these great artists reach that 9th rung on the ladder but never quite climb higher. I’m not sure it ever will because I feel that radio airplay is the hinderance. The majority of folks get their spoonful of music through radio airplay, not through scouring the internet like us music nerds here on the internet. I think the best way around it nowadays is to focus on the Americana scene which lends to grammy recognition. I really feel that the barrier between Americana and mainstream country music will eventually fade away and we will see artists being promoted and heard on both sides of the fence. This is as long as Americana keeps its steam moving forward and focusing not only on existing talent but new unknown unheard talent. I also think as long as we are hearing these artists on tv shows and movies that helps keep the momentum going. We all know bro country will fade away and behind it may be some other shitty form of country music, but I think things always come full circle. It just takes time to get there.

    FYI. Another artist I thought would have hit it big would have been Ryan Bingham. It seemed like everything was going his way with awards and movie credits, but it just stalled also.

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    • Same here in regards to Ryan Bingham. ..I really thought he would blow up more as well….and Hayes carll was/is another I thought would be bigger

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      • For a while there, it looked like Hayes Carll and Ryan Bingham could be the one-two punch that could permeate the mainstream. They were both on Lost Highway Record, which was a cool, independent-feeling record label, but still a subsidiary of a major. And then when Lost Highways folded (or faded is probably the better word), it seemed to deflate both of their careers. Carll has also been hindered by taking so long to put out new music in my opinion. Once Bingham won that Oscar, I thought that is what was going to put him over the top.

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        • Let me begin by saying that I am a big fan of this website.

          I recently went to the SS concert at the HOB in Chicago I was excited to see him and this site was the primary reason I attended.

          I have never bought a complete album of SS, but I have purchased a few individual tracks, so although I am not a big fan, I do have respect for his work.

          A few observations

          The hardcore outlaw crowd will NEVER cross into his demographic
          - SS portrays himself as an outlaw and has some Waylon’esk parallels to some of his songs. However as hard as he tried to portray himself as country, his band is all studio musician “Emo” types. His traveling band couldn’t be further from the country genre even if they tried; sure they wear the cowboy hat and the flannel shirt, but it is plain as day that they are there because “it’s cool” and not because of who they are as individuals.

          The crowd was mostly 6 figure types dressed like cowboys in an environment that resembled what could have been a fraternity party.

          I don’t know the SS catalogue as well as I do when seeing other headlining acts
          -being from the South Side of Chicago I at times have been accused of having a thick accent. SS is from Kentucky and the twang from that region IMO is one of the strongest in the Midwest. When he is singing it is very difficult to understand what he’s saying. He has a case of the “Eddie Vedders” when singing and can seem real nasal and forced.

          If I had to someup what he is and draw a comparison I would have to say that he is a Jeff Tweety type that sings country songs.

          *i honestly think JT is a giant douche bag and in no way am I including that in the comparison to SS.

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          • Mike,

            Is it possible that you are basing an opinion on one show? Having worked in live music venues, I might suggest trying a few different observation points as the acoustics of any room will have dead spots and zones where the speakers clash (although SS can tend to not sound like he is trying to sing as clearly as he could, not sure I would either if I was singing the same songs 300 times a year).

            As far as trying to pass himself of as outlaw, I have never heard him claim such a thing. Were you to listen to his whole catalogue before forming an opinion, you would hear him say that the most outlaw thing he’s ever done is give a good woman a ring, in contrast to how most ‘outlaws’ operate. If you had the opportunity to speak with him I would wager that you wouldn’t walk away with the impression that he thought anything particularly special of himself at all.

            The band is both his touring and recording band as of the most recent album, and just because they don’t meet your aesthetic expectations doesn’t mean they aren’t authentic. If they are playing these songs hundreds of times a year and clocking tens of thousands of miles, I don’t see how anyone else could be more authentic than that.

            Good to see some dissenting opinions on this site (It Ain’t All Flowers!), I share your appreciation of this place. In my experience everything is understandable, if one takes the time to consider all the possibilities opinions become irrelevant.

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          • Mike,

            If you did not like Sturgill’s show then hey man, that’s your opinion and I can respect that. But I have to say, I’ve never thought of Sturgill portraying himself as an Outlaw. In fact I have a sense that like many artists right now, he would probably want to distance himself from that term. Now if you went into a show thinking that’s what he wants to be, you might notice his blue Adiddas and his bass player’s haircut and say to yourself, “These guys are hipsters.” But if you went into it as simple a country music show, you may have walked away with a different feeling.

            I’m not sure what hardcore Outlaw crowd you are referring to, but one of the weak suits of some of the Outlaw crowds I have seen out there is they are based a lot on image, and who you know. Sturgill has purposely tried to avoid any “scene”, and as I explained about, that is one of the reasons he’s been so successful, and one of the reasons other artists have failed, because they try to appeal to people instead of being themselves.

            Despite all the love Sturgill gets here, he’s a strange bird, and I am far from saying he’s flawless. In fact I may have written the most harsh review for “Metamodern Sounds” that you will find in the internet.

            I hope you don’t think I’m coming across as saying you’re too judgmental, but I do think perspective is important. Id I went to see Sturgill hoping for a hardcore Outlaw show, I would probably be disappointed too.

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    • I believe a more similar parallel exists with The Derailers back in the late 90′s early 2000′s. They were huge in Texas and released the album “Full Western Dress” on Sire records. They got some national play and even had a couple of videos on CMT. At that point I think they were signed to Sony Nashville and released “Here come the Derailers” with a big time producer. Although still good, and very traditional country, the sound did change some, and the album didn’t really make much of a splash. They then released “Genuine” which was pretty good, but you could see the influence of the big label mainstream producer. They performed one of their songs on national TV at the Daytona 500. I even heard the single “Genuine” on the local mainstream country station a couple of times. But the record went nowhere and they kind of faded back to Texas, the lead singer Tony Villanueva left the band and now they’re a local Austin act again. Not to throw cold water on your expectations of Sturgill Simpson, but, we just need to appreciate the chance to here some new taditional country music from this man and be grateful for that.

      Newt

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  • I think Sturgill Simpson has what it takes to take it to the next level. I am kind of shocked at the success and visibility of Metamodern Sounds In Country Music all over the place. It’s got him on NPR, in the New York Times and even on stage at the Ryman (although, not with the Opry). I think he’s got the potential to bridge the gap from Americana into mainstream country because his sound is 100% country and while it has some things they won’t allow on radio, it’s not offensive turned to 11 like Hank III’s music can be. He needs that big selling record though I think, something that pushes him to the top of the charts and is big enough to get him noticed beyond the fringes of mainstream music press.

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    • Good stuff Joshua.

      Just to clarify, Sturgill has officially played the Opry at the main Opry house, I think a couple of times at this point. He played the Ryman recently as well.

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      • I think I remember that actually, though I was referring to his more recent appearance at the Ryan as part of the Prairie Home Companion show promoting Metamodern Sounds.

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  • Money talks. I’ve been just as guilty as everyone else when it comes to downloading music illegally, but it’s important that we put our money where our mouth is when it comes to supporting these independant artits. We need to be encouraging others who aren’t familiar with Sturgill’s music to purchase the album as a whole to get the full experience of what this guy is all about, much like a Jamey Johnson album.

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    • Every year I send out comp CDs I make to relatives, especially my young cousins and nieces, one set is for Women’s History Month which focuses on a certain genre or era and showcases the great women and many often overlooked women. At the end of the year I give a set of my favorite discoveries of the year. Sturgill will be on their along with Lindi and many other I come to discover through SCM. I did it last year and it was a huge hit with people.

      Most people tell me they are stuck with radio and don’t have the time to scour the web for good stuff. They just are not that musically devoted as I am so they really like getting a heads up on great new and even old sounds (I mean if I discover an old Merle tune that is new to me I may include along with new stuff).

      So I think one thing to do is to play these acts and their music all over the place, at work, at school, on your portable at the park… People are buying only what they see right in front of them because that is the least amount of work. But we are not those people we have the power to spread the word, like when an indie film gets big by word of mouth.

      Whether Sturg gets big or not doesn’t matter to me really as long as he keeps true to his musical vision and makes great sounds. Though I do recall some of his lyrics from ‘Some Days’ being, “I’m getting pretty tired of being treated like competition…”

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  • Well said, Trigger. I enjoyed reading this. I know I’m going to keep doing my part by buying his music, merchandise and going to whatever concert nearby that he’s playing at. Along with sharing his music with anyone I can. It’s interesting how those artists you mentioned came so close and fell. I think he’s different from them though because he’s smart and his management team is smart too. It’s going to be fun watching him grow over the next few years. I dream of a day where I can see him, Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Morgan and Jason Isbell are all playing at the CMA and ACM shows.

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  • While anything can happen, it’s hard not to be cynical about this whole endeavor. I don’t love him as much as many of the other readers of SCM, but I still count myself as a fan of Sturgill Simpson and his music. But when it comes right down to it, no matter how successful he is, I don’t think all of these pop fans that are diving into bro-country are ever going to embrace his music. The whole reason that Music Row keeps selling out harder and harder is because it attracts fans from outside the genre who have little to no knowledge, understanding or affection for the country music genre and offers them sugar-coated substitutes to what they hear on other radio stations under the guise of a different genre. But, you all know this by now, hence Trigger’s theory of the Mono Genre.

    The thing is, mainstream music fans have little to no loyalty to genre or artist; they simply pick up on something they find “catchy” and no sooner have they downloaded the song are they finding another and moving on. Obviously, Sturgill doesn’t fit the pop format. His music isn’t “catchy” in the traditional sense, and isn’t nearly as flavored-up as Florida Georgia Line and the like. When it comes right down to it, your average music fan only wants a distraction from daily life from music, not substance, so they might not even have the capacity to appreciate it. I myself have trouble at times enjoying a song that others rave about simply because I came up during the ADD generation where everything is superficially coated. Again, Sturgill lacks this coating. I sincerely doubt many FGL fans are going to hear one of his songs and suddenly start dropping needles on Waylon and Cash records or even Sturgill’s own. They’ll here the slow tempos, lack of pop hooks, twang and lack of party-based cliches and hit a 180 in the other direction.

    Let’s say I’m wrong; let’s say that Sturgill gets CMA, ACM and Grammy nominations for his contributions to the format with Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. And let’s also say, as a result of this exposure, sales hit an uptick as with Kacey Musgraves and suddenly Sturgill is on everyone’s radar, regardless of whether they’re fans or not. I think that enough of the pop fans, who don’t really like or care about country but are seeping into the format because it’s basically just pop/rap, will jump ship for the labels to take notice. Call me crazy, but I see them selling out even harder as a result and going even more pop in an effort to draw that money back in. Of course, there might be momentary lapses into real country based on Sturgill’s success; as with country rap, all of the followers would see the potential dollars and start aping the sound in an attempt to cash in. Unlike Kacey, who is distinctly modern country, Sturgill has a more classical sound and that in my mind makes him much less accessible to the pop country fan.

    As I’ve mentioned before, Jamey Johnson’s success was a huge deal but there weren’t a whole lot of artists that followed his example, hence why we’re where we are today. Kacey Musgraves is also drawing attention, but that means little without a radio presence in the face of the remix trend that’s about to hit the airwaves in full force. I’ll admit that I’m a cynic, but I just don’t see it ever getting much better in the mainstream. I hope it does and will continue to support those independent and mainstream artists that I like and think put out quality music. And believe me, I hope I’m wrong, but time will tell.

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    • “The thing is, mainstream music fans have little to no loyalty to genre or artist; they simply pick up on something they find “catchy” and no sooner have they downloaded the song are they finding another and moving on.”

      I have felt this way about mainstream music for as long as I can remember. Substance has never, and will never be as important to the passive music consumer as a catchy hook.

      Part of the reason I love the underbelly of the music world so much is because you almost feel like you’ve stumbled upon a secret when you find an artist who’s music speaks to you. Almost like its your little secret, and it’s a great feeling when you can show someone else this secret who will also appreciate it. That’s not to say that mainstream music hasn’t produced some timeless songs, but as a whole it is full of cookie cutter artists under the control of what sells.

      As selfish as this sounds, I don’t know if I’d pay to see Tom Vandenavond play a show if he were selling out stadiums. I’m not sure I’d be okay with Wayne Hancock giving his creative rights to a major label. I also don’t think that these artists could keep up with their style of music if they were to get that big. Fame, for the most part, changes people, especially at the Clear Channel radio play level.

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      • I agree with what you’re saying, but it’s a two-edged sword. It’s easy for us music fans to sit back and criticize the industry and those therein, but when it comes right down to it very few of us know what it’s like to be a part of it. I can’t imagine the stress of having an entertainment-based job where one dud of a work or a wrong word on CNN can affect your livelihood (no that it wouldn’t for a regular joe, but most of us don’t get such a chance). I also can’t imagine the stress of having a job in which standards change constantly; styles, sounds and trends die out and are born like clockwork. Is it really fair for us to sit behind our keyboards and complain about an artist “selling out”? Don’t they have a right to try and maintain their job by changing their musical approach, even if it’s crappy? That’s not to say that I support such endeavors or that I’ll cease to criticize them, but it’s a thought-provoking issue. If the standards of my job changed overnight, I’d probably change with it to keep the pay coming in. Granted, someone who earns a decent wage is quite a bit different from an entertainer, but not all entertainers are filthy rich so I consider it the same principle with notable exceptions. And not everyone can be an outlaw these days and continue to make a living.

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        • “Is it really fair for us to sit behind our keyboards and complain about an artist “selling out”? Don’t they have a right to try and maintain their job by changing their musical approach, even if it’s crappy?”

          I really don’t use the term sell out anymore. I did when I was a snot nosed teenaged punk without any real knowledge of what its like to work for a living. I really wish an artist like Sturgill Simpson could make it big. Most of the artists I pay money to see are playing in small time juke joints and bars, because that’s the kind of atmosphere I like and it fits within my budget.

          But, you’re right. Musicians have to pay the bills just like the rest of us, and if it means catering to their audience, who are we to judge? Some artist manage to hover between underground and mainstream their whole careers. Those are the ones that maintain their artistic freedom while making enough money to live a decent life. I don’t think I’d be able to live that life. It’s a hard road, and I don’t blame anyone for becoming successful at it.

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    • I am not as “cynical” as Acca Dacca when it comes to mainstream music listeners. In my opinion, just because some people are willing to abide low quality music in some circumstances, doesn’t mean they aren’t ultimately hungry for more substantive music, or that they can’t recognize or don’t care about substantive, creative music when they are presented with the option for it. I *am* cynical about the radio and music industry side of things, but not completely so when it comes to the listeners themselves. Looking back in history, there was a time when “Red Headed Stranger” by Willie Nelson was a platinum smash hit and the number one album in the country. There was a time when guys like Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard were having number one hits, etc. And of course, the same thing is true in rock, and other genres. Unless you believe that people are fundamentally less intelligent now than they were in the past, I don’t think you can assume that the mass of music listeners have a total disregard for quality and substance in music. People’s attention spans may be shorter, but I don’t believe people are less intelligent, at least not to any meaningful degree. What has changed is that the system that dictates what options mainstream music listeners are presented with has become ultra-consolidated and corrupt. And the most passionate and / or resourceful music fans have turned off the radio, and moved online and elsewhere.

      People have mentioned Sturgill Simpson, Kacey Musgraves, Jamey Johnson and so on. There is so much talent out there, it is hard to think there is no hope for country music. Why can’t “independent” country music build an infrastructure like the one Americana is building? I want to be able to flip on the TV and watch the Independent Country Music Awards.

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      • I don’t think that people are less intelligent, just that the majority of them don’t seek out music for music’s sake as much anymore, if they ever did. Yes, there was a time when Willie Nelson and the like were huge, but that time is obviously past. But they were also new and fresh, just like these pop country performers on the radio now (well, “fresh” might be a stretch but you get the point). In all likelihood, Waylon, Willie, George, Johnny, Merle, etc. were all popular because they were the new thing in country music, with the fact that most of their music was qualitative being a side effect. I don’t mean to discredit any of these performers or their accomplishments, but as well all know popularity and quality do not typically go hand-in-hand. I don’t think that mainstream music fans were much more discerning back in the day than they are now, there just wasn’t as much media oppression to shove certain music down their throats. A lot of mainstream music fans that I know (of varying ages) simply seek out music purely for entertainment purposes, not for some substantive experience. In my experience, most people listen to music for fun, and fun tends to be found in the top 40 (regardless of how superficial it might be). Many of these same people act like I’m a fanatic when I want to focus 100% of my attention on a song or am emotionally moved by one. To them, music is just a distraction. I believe that it’s like this for a lot of people, both now and in the past. Granted, back in simpler times with less technology, it was probably more meaningful, but I think that classical appreciation of music is mostly past. One thing I WILL say about modern music fans is that most of them don’t want to focus on the music AT ALL. It’s simply background noise to them or something, which probably has to do with the odd looks when I’m getting into a song.

        (Sorry about the rambling, but I’m tired and having a bit of trouble formulating my thoughts at the moment).

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        • I get what both of yall are saying, however to discredit willy (et al) as being simply famous for being the flavor of the month is somewhat hard to believe considering he is actually on tour right now! (With devil makes three and some other great talent)

          Do you really think that FGL & co. Will be selling out huge venues 10 years from now? Much less 60? I get what you’re saying but think that’s kind of apples and oranges. ….which, in my opinion, is due in no small part to the sincerity of his (& others) songs – they didn’t become famous 100% because of how infectious / catchy their songs were (like 110% of what’s currently played on the fm
          Radio)

          and I truly believe that people want something better but it just has to be put in front of them…nine times out of ten when I play some good / real music for people not familiar they’re blown away, it happened last night actually at a friends bar – some of them even being musicians / fairly knowledgeable about music. …

          FYI none had heard anything about sturgill, and they play fairly country music….so I think it might be a little early to be making all these predictions etc….

          don’t know what it will take but something will have to break….sorry for rambling

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        • I was listening to the lyrics…”I got my chainsaw, y’all…”

          Cause I got my chainsaw
          It’s got to go, it’s such a shame doll
          But I ain’t gonna be happy ’til those names fall
          And I’m sittin’ on a stump…

          I was visualizing an out-of-breathy, live performance. I could see the chainsaw motions in my mind’s eye and karate kicks. I was pondering if jogging on the treadmill would improve the out-of-breathy performance. The song was over.

          From first success ’til present day, I can hear how they’ve fallen victim to the gimmickry. When I really listen to the regurgitated themes…I do not hear anything that will ever define a moment in time for me.

          I will never remember any of these songs or what I was doing on their debut.

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    • I think you’ll enjoy the NPR linked article, “The Good Listener”, up above.

      I’ve learned a great deal from this site…How to temper my passionate views as not to offend and tick off those who love someone’s music.

      “I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties.”

      “Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me.” —Dave Barry

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  • yeah, but when are we gonna get the next Nirvanna?

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    • Hopefully never. One was enough, and unfortunately conversation about the band will never die. The irony is that Nirvana started out as an anti-establishment endeavor in which Kurt Cobain did everything in his power to maintain by shunning the limelight, attempting to “purify” their fanbase by constantly changing styles and just generally trying to be rebellious. Now, his band has quite literally become an establishment in an of itself, with second and third generation fans buying up t-shirts, video games and all sorts of memorabilia that has been put out since Kurt’s suicide in an attempt to reign in the doe. It’s sad, really. On the other hand, it’s darkly amusing how Nirvana and Cobain have so many fans, yet so few of them really understand what the band actually represented.

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  • The answer to “where does sturgill go” is obvious… he should come on up to Alaska.

    Since that’s unlikely to happen, he should keep doing what he does.

    (Sturgill, if you like fishing, come play at Salmonstock and I guarantee someone will offer to help you catch a King)

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    • I noticed that the indie rock website Pitchfork posted a review of “Metamodern Sounds.”

      It’s doubtful that they would have bothered if the record didn’t have “psychedelic” or “experimental” elements, as indie rock-oriented publications are typically tone deaf to any kind of country / Americana unless it appeals to certain kinds of aesthetics.

      Though, for what it’s worth, they gave it a pretty good review.

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      • Speaking of Pitchfork, here’s one of my favorite tweets from Jason Isbell:

        “If you can’t think of something bad to say about a record, don’t say anything at all.” -Pitchfork’s mom

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    • That’s cool to see. At this point, I think almost every news outlet has covered him. I knew it already, but I like how he says he isn’t in it for fame and just does what he wants. That leads to the best results. Any chance you see his album make the top country albums chart?

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      • I definitely expect Metamodern Sounds to chart. Where exactly we’ll have to see. Rascal Flatts released an album the same day, so that will be #1. I expect it to show up somewhere in the teens.

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      • I am interested to see if and when Rolling Stone reviews the album.. Seems like they are sitting on it.. After SXSW it was evident that they were all about him and what he represented.
        Saw him at house of Blues last night really fun.. Although they mispelled his name on his dressing room door..
        SIRGIL SIMPSON.. Pretty funny he was pretty comedic about it.. Still Humble

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        • Rolling Stone is gearing up for the launch of their new, million-dollar country music website on June 1st, so all their country writers may either be gearing up for that, or waiting until the launch before they post something.

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          • Yeah I was wondering that.. I was kindof hoping for a straight up RS spot or review.. Seems more legitimate. Or if they are rolling out the Country version hopefully it will be more of a feature. #wishfulthinking

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          • Dont take this the wrong way at all Trig I love the article just wandering what pushed you to address fan rumor and speculation. Ive not seen you do a spot quite like this.. again its MONEY BABY I was just curious

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          • I agree this is sort of strange fare from what I’ve been posting recently, but a few years ago I would spend more time really zeroing in on certain artists and philosophizing about their role and where they may be headed. With all the interest around Sturgill, it felt like an important thing to do. It was mostly just an excuse to post Sturgill’s note at the bottom, and maybe elaborate on some of the things he touched on.

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  • Sturgill must have some serious muscle behind him, he is everywhere. I dig his music, seen him live a few times and would love for him to break through but I don’t see his new record being as great as everyone else seems to. I’ll take Daylight and Dark as the modern day classic with exceptional songwriting and production. I just can’t see any of the songs on Sturgill’s new record being so good that they can’t be ignored by the mainstream.

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    • I feel the exact same way about Daylight and Dark. Reading about Sturgill on various forums I frequent, I’m always surprised that no one mentions Eady or that record in comparison.

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  • Great piece, Trig.

    I was thinking along similar lines this week. I hate to sound negative, but as good as Sturgill’s new album might be, I don’t know that there’s a place for it, or him, in the current commercial country environment. Things are so bad that the potential audience for a landmark release like this one don’t have the ability or experience to recognize its attributes. I think the audience for this music might be with the Alt Country/NPR/roots music world that exists outside of the crap currently considered country. I’d love to be wrong. But, either way, I think Simpson is so good that he will find a much larger audience, even as most of Nashville remains clueless.

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  • I agree with Wayfast on this one. I like Simpson’s music, but he’s more Waylon and Jason Eady is more Merle (two favorable comparisons, just speaks to your personal taste). I think acts/bands/artists like Jason Eady, Sturgill Simpson, Ashley Monroe, Turnpike Troubadours, Jason Boland and Cody Johnson all prove that country music is alive and well out of the mainstream. The ACM and the CMA can give George Strait a tip of the hat, but (to every country fan’s detriment) his style of music has sailed out of the mainstream. Nevertheless, we’ll still hear good steel guitar, fiddle and two-stepping ballads from younger artists in years to come in smaller venues and music markets (Texas especially).

    I don’t think even on a major label with bundles of awards you’re ever going to convince the key demographics listening to country radio that Sturgill Simpson (or any of the others mentioned) is the next big thing. Seems like you’re waging a battle to force feed a dumb (if not dumb then lazy) audience intelligent music. Probably not sustainable at the end of the day. Hard to blame the mediums for what is ultimately the consumer’s failure in recognizing artistry vs. marketing/pandering. Brings to mind the way politics are being run these days: broadly lazy or apathetic constituencies beget lousy leaders.

    Having said all of this, some of my favorite songs from the 80s and 90s that were mainstream hits weren’t exactly the most cerebral of songs (I’m looking at you “The Fireman”). At the end of the day, I’d settle for mainstream country radio finding its way back to the instrumentation that defined the neo-traditional sound with a strong emphasis on creative melodies. Having an occasional peppering of steel or banjo under 1,000+ layers of rock guitar will never hold my attention. I might not feel so compelled to run my car into a concrete barricade every time I hear “Cruise” if the production were more similar to “I May Hate Myself In The Morning” with a remixed version by Vince Gill and The Time Jumpers.

    Last thought before I hop off my soapbox: whatever happened to the “Western” part of Country & Western music? Seems like you take off Blake Shelton or Chris Young ‘s hat and they immediately start to sound like rappers or 80s soft rock. I am an ardent supporter of bringing cowboys back into the fold and kicking the bros off the metaphorical tailgate. I think Farce the Music should do a piece showing Alan Jackson, George Strait, Clint Black etc. in backwards snapback baseball caps instead of 10-gallon cowboy hats – would really lend perspective on how far we’ve regressed.

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  • I did just notice that High Top Mountain is receiving the natural uptick in sales due to the success of the new album. It was #52 on the iTunes sales charts anyways.

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  • I wish Sturgill all the success in the world and I hope we get a new album each year. Everything he does is great.

    One point from the article needing further review – why is it Leroy Virgil can’t keep any bandmates and why did he lose momentum?

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  • Trigger, thanks for taking the time to lay out your thoughts on this subject in a formal way. It was a thorough, informative article and I enjoyed reading it.

    Not to beat a dead horse, but yeah, it has been exciting to see Sturgill take off like he has recently. It is a new phenomenon for me personally to see an independent country artist succeed in this way, as I was not paying a lick of attention during the rise of Hank 3 and other artists. As a fan of Sturgill, it’s a cool feeling, and I gather it is akin to how people were feeling about Hank 3 about the time this website was created.

    I hope Sturgill doesn’t see the hopes and expectations of disgruntled country music fans as burdensome. In my experience, when people place high expectations on an individual to be the savior of a particular belief system, tradition, type of entertainment, or whatever, it can lead to a burnout, or a desire to rebel against what is expected, kind of like the “preacher’s kid” phenomenon that happens all the time down here in the Bible belt. I know Hank 3 bristled at the expectations placed on him by Curb and the mainstream country music establishment, but I can’t help but wonder if he felt unnecessarily pressured by the underground country music community to be a “savior.” It’s almost as if he consciously stepped back from all the momentum he had built.

    By the way, I’m not saying that Sturgill is going to drift away from the country genre, but you honestly never know these days. Ultimately, I think Sturgill has a good head on his shoulders, and thank the Lawd, he does not have the puppet master Mike Curb breathing down his neck. The Thirty Tigers label sounds great, and I would guess that Sturgill will be really cautious about jumping ship for a major label.

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    • If I wanted to be really abrupt and dramatic, I would say that underground country community killed Hank3. In truth, that’s probably not too far off. Somewhere around ’08, he turned his phone off and stopped talking to anyone beyond his mom, his girlfriend at the time, and a few select friends, aside from shaking hands after shows, and he and his music haven’t been the same since. All the underground wanted to do was take from Hank3. So many wanted to ride his coattails to the big time, and they gave little in return. When he stopped talking to the takers, they abandoned him and bad mouthed his name.

      Someone above asked about Hellbound Glory. It is almost a similar tale. A lot of folks got mad Leroy toured with Kid Rock, and that he won’t kiss their ass. So they bad mouth him and say his music sucks. Underground country these days is a network of friends, and how much you can lie about how much you love each other’s music, the bigger you are in that scene. There’s still some AMAZING music in the underground, but that’s where it will stay because they won’t listen to criticism or put together any real plans to launch artists, only to look cool for each other.

      Something similar is going on with Shooter Jennings right now. He’s having to pull back from paying favors to people who will never pay him back, and simply want to ride off of his name. I tried to tell him this would be the case before he got so wrapped up in it. But of course, I was portrayed as a negative asshole, and he didn’t listen.

      One of the reasons why Sturgill is exploding right now is because he avoided the country music underground. As I’ve been saying for a couple of years: my best advice to any underground artist is to get away from the underground so they can grow, and Sturgill Simpson is a PERFECT example of why that advice is sage. In truth, in the early Sunday Valley days, Sturgill did try to court the underground a little bit, but they ignored him. Now he’s having the last laugh. I tried pitching Sturgill and Sunday Valley to festivals. The only one that listened was Pickathon in Portland, and now they look like geniuses for booking him way back in 2011, and again in 2013. Even last year, a lot of big underground entities were like “meh” on Sturgill, and they have missed the opportunity to grow with him. XSXSW 5 in 2012 was the only real underground show Sturgill ever played.

      So back to your point, can expectations from fans kill an artist? You’re damn right they can, and that was one the primary reasons I posted this article. If everyone expects him to win CMA awards, and by proxy, shine a bigger light on other independent artists that are struggling, we are creating an unrealistic environment for Sturgill and ourselves to be let down by. So that even if he grows astronomically from where he is, we still feel disappointed because he didn’t do something he probably had no chance of achieving anyway. That’s why I enumerated the specific points above.

      Artists like Hank3 have failed us in the past, but as fans, we have failed them as well. That is why it is so important for us to read what Sturgill said, and simply support him in real, substantial ways. Recommend him to a friend. Write a blog about him. Post a video on Facebook. Don’t foist all the burdens of country music on his back, and get ready to dismiss him when he doesn’t deliver. And then, he just may.

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  • When I listen to Metamodern, it makes me wonder how Music of Big Pink (The Band) was received by the average listener wjen it was released. It was an incredibly influential album, historically important if you ask most musicians. It defied radio formats of the time, blew the critics away, but never catapulted the Band into the mainstream. I think Sturgill’s work will challenge and inspire others, it will quietly mark a shift in the consciousness of those who care about substance and artistry. I don’t claim to be friends with Sturgill but I’ve had several conversations with him and I don’t think his goal is to be a household name. He wants to make music that matters to him, and make a living doing it. He is Levon and Richard rolled into one – the muse and the composer and cut thru your heart vocalist in one man. He will make history, but it will not follow the machine’s path. Eric Claptons of our day will be challenged to create as original and soulful as Metamoden for decades to come.

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  • It’s the 80/20 rule: 80% of what’s on the radio has always been crap, in any genre, but then occasionally, something of real quality busts through, new and innovative, or old school and classy. Different genre, but look at g’n’r, (and not the bloated crap pile axl rose is now, but the young vibrant mysteries they were as a band at launch). Man, when appetite for destruction hit, there was nothing like that tour de force on rock radio for years. As dirty and violent as that album was, it made it against the odds, because it was too good to hold back. Whether it’s Sturgil or someone like him, something god and real will surface through this pail of poop on the ration now, but really, if one or two songs of every 20 that gets played is good, count ourselves lucky, it’s always been that way and always will.

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  • I’m glad you wrote this. For people expecting this to make a huge difference in the direction of country today, it won’t. At least not anytime soon.

    I finally got around to giving the album a good listen. It is so far removed from what is being played on mainstream country today, it has almost 0% chance of ever seeing the light of day on mainstream radio.

    A lot people looking for a country music savior will be very disappointed when this receives no radio airplay. They shouldn’t be. The best we can hope for is that the album does well, word spreads and the fan base grows. Nothing is going to magically happen.

    To answer the question in the article’s title, where does Sturgill Simpson go from here? That’s easy. On the road to promote the record, connect with fans and put on great shows.

    If his fan base continues to grow, his next album should be the most important of his career.

    Everybody just tap the brakes a bit and enjoy this record.

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  • I thought your moniker said The Cheap Shots at first glance. :-D

    I refuse to kick anybody around who’s out there giving it their all or give them a back-handed compliment.

    Nope. I’m not busting my hump, traveling from venue to venue, eating crummy food along the road….tired and road weary.

    Good review, Triggerman.

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  • First off, what a hell of an article. Secondly as someone else pointed out, there is a huge difference between Sturgill Simpson and Hank3. Hank’s music was never going to be anything more than it was because it was so vulgar, and I think he wanted that way. Some of his songs have more akin to David Allan Coe’s underground albums than anything else. Sturgill Simpson is a whole hell of a lot more accessible. This album may be Sturgill’s “Shotgun Willie” with a “Red Headed Stranger” still to come. Who the hell knows, he’s making great music and that’s all that matters.

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    • Thanks Matt.

      I don’t know that Hank3 was ever going to become mainstream, but he could have challenged the mainstream, and that would have been a start. Everyone likes to bring up Nirvana when talking about underground artists breaking through, and they had some pretty offensive material. Nine Inch Nails and Marlyn Manson were mainstream at one point, with songs being played on pop radio. But you’re right, Sturgill is certainly more accessible, and may have a better chance.

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      • Country’s different from Rock when it comes to offensive material. I actually think we’re closer to a revival than we think, people are going to grow tired of this new country stuff really quickly. The most important impact of this record may be its potential influence. Maybe it motovates Jamey Johnson to do…something, or a mainstreaam artist like Jake Owen to go a different direction. Speaking of Hank3, I think a non-bootleg live album would be sweet. If that energy could be captured on a record…wow.

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        • One of the pitfalls I see from commenters on this site too often (and maybe even Trigger himself) is the belief that hope for good country music rests in only 2-3 upcoming artists. I don’t think the landscape is that bleak. There are dozens and dozens, probably hundreds, of artists out there touring, making high quality country music who aren’t in the mainstream. Keeping that in mind, it’s not what Sturgill Simpson needs to do to single-handedly change the landscape of mainstream music, but rather how is he a part of a possibly larger trend? How does he fit within the catalog of artists making quality country music who currently have little hope of national airplay? Which artists are doing similar things in their work? Metamodern Sounds and Sturgill are no doubt worthy of praise, but don’t be so pessimistic to think that others aren’t worthy of a chorus of praise as well.

          I’d implore readers of Saving Country Music to do the work sifting through artists and albums until you find the artists you think can save country music as you know it, and then go out there and promote the heck out of them in your own lives. Because there are a lot more out there than we could possibly hear about on this site alone. Trigger does a good job, but like he says, he is just one guy!

          (Note – this comment wasn’t so much directed at you, but your comment was a good jumping off point for something I had been thinking).

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          • I agree, and this is something I tried to allude to with one of my comments. When you stop and think about all the artists out there making quality country music today, it isn’t just one or two, there are a LOT of them. That’s one of the main things I’ve learned from reading this site. Everybody walks around saying things like “country music sucks these days,” but actually, underneath the veneer of the crap that appears on corporate radio, county music is a thriving genre with a wide variety of sounds and artists, many of which could *easily* be commercially successful, popular artists.

            I half-facetiously referred to wanting to watch an Independent Country Music awards show on TV, but why couldn’t that happen? There is so much under-exposed talent out there. I feel like there needs to be a organized infrastructure that serves as a middle tier between the quicksand of the underground country scene, which is probably more of a niche interest anyway, and the artificial bottleneck of corporate radio, which is clearly corrupt, and which probably is going to continue on the way it is now until it eventually dies a horrible death. The success of Sturgill Simpson kind of serves as a weather balloon to show that, if you’re smart and play your cards right, and if you’re a reasonably accessible artist, you can be a success as a true country artist in the broader music world without being part of the establishment.

            As you say, James, as fans it seems like what we can do is try to support worthwhile artists in small but tangible ways.

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  • I hope Sturgil hits mainstream and hopefully the industry will open doors for other artists. I recall several years ago traditional country artist Bradley Gaskins came in swining hard with Mr. Bartender. He also had heavy backing of John Rich who was a major player at that time. The song garnered some airplay but went away as quickly as it came.
    Regarding Kacey I wonder if she will face the double edge sword by working with Katy Perry. Will she gain new Katy fans but lose loyal supporters who may see her as selling out?

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    • How can anyone be mad at Kacey for touring with Katy Perry? Her awards were great and all, but she still barely has a fan base and doesn’t get half the airplay she deserves. She hasn’t found a real audience in mainstream country and honestly you would be hard pressed to find mainstream country performer that desrves her as a supporting role on tour.

      I, for one, couldn’t be happier. I’ve always been a fan of Katy Perry and love that I’ll get to see Kacey Musgraves with her. I’m sure there are plenty of people who, like me, find all genres of music enjoyable to some extent.

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      • I am not disagreeing with you but you are answering my question you are a fan of Katy Perry’s and Kacey touring with her is not that big a deal. You may get a traditionalist who may say, well she just jumped the shark.
        Personally I am not a fan of her music. It did not do it for me so who she tours with is neither here nor there. What I don’t want to see is Katy saying Kacey is a good friend she is country so I think I will try my hand at country.

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    • Very few fans care about who is touring with whom. The important consideration when it comes to determining whether an artist is “selling out” is the songs put out by the artist.

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      • Good one, Taylor…I mean Eric. :-D

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  • Very Interesting.

    This album is different from high top mountain. The next one will be different from either of those.

    That’s very unusual these days.

    Whatever happens, and whatever he does, I can easily see Sturgill Simpson walking away from the music business.

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  • The time is right for him. The conditions are in his favor and he actually does have that Kurt Cobain aura going on I think as well. Hope he bust through just like Nirvana did and kill “Pickup Country” like they killed Hair Metal.

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  • Hey Trigger,
    What’s Sturgill Simpson’s connecting to Loose Records? I seem to remember some mention of them recently with regard to his new album.

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    • I believe that Loose Records is for distribution in the UK, and possibly Canada and other parts of Europe. Thirty Tigers distributes there as well, but a dedicated company that is based in those locations will always be better. How did Sturgill get on the BBC multiple times and Jools Holland? My guess it is because of his partnership with Loose. This is part of these wise moves I’m talking about. Sturgill is blowing up in the UK just like he’s blowing up in the States, and that cross-Atlantic support is going to be huge for him moving forward.

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  • Sturgill Simpson has the honest-to-god talent and ability to be what Eric Church wishes he was.

    I agreed with Eric when he said we needed a “Country Music Jesus”, but Eric wasn’t and isn’t it. Sturgill just might be.

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    • I give this comment a big AMEN!

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  • Saw on his Facebook today he is actually in the studio working on the next album. That ridiculous. He’s awesome

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    • Saw that too BrettS, un-freaking believable. Excited does not begin to describe.. for me its not too early to start throwing the word legacy around if he keeps this up. I gotta think there is something going on here that is larger than we can wrap our heads around right now.

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      • we’re going to end up with 20 albums over 10 years and he will ride off into the sunset and have a peaceful life with his family, meanwhile the rest of the world will wake up and start covering all the amazing songs he wrote. talk about a hard reset for the industry!

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        • Personally that’s just amazing to me that he already possibly has new material to already work on for the next project

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  • When I listen to rough cuts of his songs or the striped down versions I can’t help wonder if maybe Dave Cobb isn’t the guy to help Sturgill and the band capture their sound. Anyone else thought about this? http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YvoVMtzof4U#

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    • So I’ve read the accolades and praises for Sturgill’s record and let me just say I’m glad I’m not in the same room as all of you folks when I say what I’m about to say .

      I hear a potentially good singer with some great song IDEAS and honest performances all undermined by an amateurish -sounding band with licks that would have been considered tired even in the 60′s or 70′s ( what the hell kinda boutique pedal is that guitar whining through ? ) ,a pseudo-throwback production so muddy and under-thought-out ( is that a phrase ? ) that it seems to serve only to make a listener work harder than he should have to in order to get to the meat of things and a singer who seems to be everywhere in the room but in front of the microphone ( sometimes a compressor is a singer’s best friend …not a producer ) . Ok …maybe a bit harsh …and maybe I just expected more than this having read the comments . Or maybe SOMEBODY has got to be the one to point out that the emperor has no clothes. I like Sturgill . I think there’s lots of promise here . I just resent having to work this hard at discovering it .

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      • I kind of understand where you’re coming from Albert, not everyone is going to have the same reaction. As far as the potential to be a good singer, I’m not sure who to compare him to because I think he does a pretty good job. Let’s remember that Willie still can’t sing too good and he’s probably the most revered living country singer, I know I have been hearing and enjoying his music since before I could feed myself. You may be a bit confused by the musicianship of the band because they actually are quite good at playing their instruments and they play real music, not something that is widely seen in this genre these days, so it makes sense that it sounds a bit off to you.
        I hope the sarcasm comes off as good-natured and not mean-spirited, I mean no disrespect.
        The whole point of me responding was to make the point that I think the fuzzy-ish sound of the new album was intended, I heard SS say one time that he remembered his forbears listening to the Opry on AM radio and felt a lot of nostalgia for that sound. I hope you keep listening even if you don’t think its as good as all of us other posters who are crazy about it!

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        • Hey Will . I will certainly keep a close ear on SS . As I said , I do hear something there worth paying attention to . How often can you say that about a new artist ?

          With respect to his musicians and the production….I’ve been around since Jesus was a cowboy . I’ve heard so many musical ‘eras’ I’ve lost count …and I hear what they seemed to be looking for with this production . I’m just not convinced they found it and I’m not sure that burying SS lyric in that mix was the most effective way to garner a listener’s attention . Sometimes things evolve for a reason . I will be very curious about his next outing and , no doubt , the one after that and the one after that and the one…..

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          • Great stuff Albert! I almost lost a mouthful of coffee on the ‘since Jesus was a cowboy’- I may use that line in the future (duly credited) if you don’t mind. You certainly sound like a true and fair music fan! I have only been around probably half as long as you so much respect; I wanted to stick up for SS and the boys because I have had the opportunity to see them perform and speak to them on a number of occasions, comparing them to the overwhelming majority of bands I worked with in my 6 years in the industry they are far and above anything I have ever heard before.
            One of the things I found so refreshing about this site and its commenters is the level of discourse; it is a good thing for people like me (and the bands) to hear the thoughtful criticisms raised here, and I feel privileged to be part of the discussion that refines and promotes the conversation.
            Sounds like SS has a fan who is appropriately skeptical with you, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and I hope you are able to see him play live someday!

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  • […] over at Saving Country Music, who does call for a “savior,” throws some cool water on all that for now. He loves Simpson – his 2013 co-artist of the year – as much as I […]

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