After the #1 success Chris Stapleton had with his previous single “Broken Halos,” his camp has called an audible last minute, and decided to switch up the next song they will send to radio. The rocking and heavy “Midnight Train to Memphis” from his latest album From A Room: Vol. 2 was supposed to be first single from the 2nd From A Room installment. The song was co-written with Mike Henderson and was originally featured on the SteelDrivers self-titled 2008 album when Stapleton was still with the band. “Midnight Train to Memphis” was also featured on a full tilt performance with Sturgill Simpson on Saturday Night Live in late January.
Instead though, Mercury Nashville has decided to go with the much more sedated “Millionaire” as the next radio single. The opening song to From A Room: Vol. 2 was written by well-respected songwriter Kevin Welch. There certainly is a change of pace between the two songs, but the performance on the radio for either one is anybody’s guess. With the fickle way radio has dealt with Stapleton’s singles previously, and with the lack of a solid strategy from Mercury Nashville, who knows how “Millionaire” will be received.
The song will be sent to country radio on April 23rd, along with an add class that also includes the very circumspect “Hotdamalama” from Parmalee, and the Walker Hayes song “Craig.” Hopefully “Millionaire” will find some success, and cancel out any harm the other two singles do. And if nothing else, if the single finds traction, it will be a healthy payday for Kevin Welch who recently was dealing with financial issues after having to take time away from writing and touring to help with his daughter Savannah who lost her leg in an auto accident in November of 2016. Savannah is also a performer, known for her work with the Texas music supergroup The Trishas.
It will also be interesting to see if Stapleton performs “Millionaire,” or a different song when he appears at the 2018 ACM Awards on Sunday, April 15th. Stapleton is up for a field-leading eight awards on the night, including Entertainer of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song and Single of the Year. Award shows have been very kind to Stapleton over the last few years, as have album sales, with his 2015 Traveller still regularly lingering in the Top 5 on the Country Albums chart.
Radio has been the last holdout to the effort to return more substance to country music. But with the success of Stapleton’s “Broken Halos,” and a slew of more quality singles from some of mainstream country’s biggest names—including Luke Bryan who holds at #1 for a 3rd week with “Most People Are Good”—there are beginning to be glimmers of hope. The success or failure of “Millionaire” may be a good bellwether for where the country radio format might be heading in the second half of 2018.