Don’t Compare Sturgill Simpson to Waylon . . . Unless You’re Merle Haggard. That’s probably okay.


The comparisons of Sturgill Simpson to Waylon Jennings never cease, even though in some instances they’re based on pretty shallow and misguided observations. That’s why it’s probably pretty understandable if Sturgill is tired of hearing about them at this point.

In a recent interview with Foo Fighters guitarist and Dead Peasants frontman Chris Shiflett (listen in full below), Sturgill once again answered the concerns about the Waylon comparisons.

“Maybe it’s an attitude thing more than a music thing,” says Sturgill. “Waylon really is a guy I probably discovered later on and listened to the least. Willie Nelson, Marty Robbins, Merle Haggard and Keith Whitley—guys like that were huge influences. I love Waylon. I like the funky disco kind of feel, and I incorporate a little bit of that in my music. But when I’m in singing, man if I’m imitating anybody, I’m trying to sound like three or four other people.”

Sturgill then goes on to say,

“You know what I honestly believe? I think it’s psychosomatic. I think people really want somebody right now to sound like Waylon Jennings. They want somebody to walk out on stage with a big, giant flag that says, ‘Fuck You.’ Believe me, it is frustrating, because it makes me feel like I haven’t done a very good job of really getting my voice down. It’s like, ‘Am I not very original in my approach?’ But there’s a hell of a lot worse things you can be told than, ‘Hey man, you sound like Waylon Jennings.’ I’ll take it a compliment, even when I’m burnt the fuck out hearing it.”

But there’s one person Sturgill’s probably not burnt out hearing about it from.

Sturgill Simpson and Merle Haggard were hanging out earlier this year at California’s Stagecoach Festival, and Merle had nothing but nice things to say about Sturgill at the time. “I think he’s just about the brightest ”Žstar around right now,” Merle said.

And in a recent interview with Billboard, Merle was singing Sturgill’s praises once again. When asked about new artists, Merle said Sturgill was “about the only one that I can tell you I’m excited about.”

“You hear a lot of Waylon [Jennings], a lot of George [Jones],” said Haggard. “He’s got something going energy-wise that I haven’t seen in a long time.”

Something tells me Sturgill doesn’t mind Merle’s Waylon comparison. If he does, he can bring it up to Merle when they play a show together with Kris Kristofferson in Moorhead, MN at the Bluestem Amphitheater on September 8th.

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