Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth was poised to be the #1 album in all of music for its debut week. And then in roughly 12 to14 hours of purchasing time on Thursday, two titles from Prince surged past Sturgill’s latest in the aftermath of the pop superstar’s passing. The Very Best of Prince sold some 96,000 estimated copies, and Purple Rain over 55,000 on the final day of sales tabulations. This puts Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth in third place with some 48,000 copies sold. Sturgill could still top the Billboard Country Albums chart as long as chart managers deem his album as country. But his bid for the top of the Billboard 200 is over.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth will still be the top debut album for the week, and according to Sturgill, it doesn’t symbolize a complete shift in his music career henceforth, just a “pause” in his country output. Speaking to KCRW where Sturgill performed the new album in its entirety (see below), he told the crowd how his son had inspired the album.
“I spent most of the first year of his life, year-and-a-half of his life on the road. So it was a lot of pictures; watching him grow up in pictures. Even at the risk of detriment to my career I decided I wanted to kind of say thank you to my family for at least getting me to this part of everything. It’s kind of a good little pause. But there will be more country records.”
Sturgill also spoke about his long winding road to finally deciding to pursue music full time after a stint in the Navy, and working for the railroads out in Utah. He also talked about how it’s actually his wife that picks his cover songs that have gone on to become a signature of his records.
“‘The Promise’ was her idea,” Sturgill tells KCRW. “I told her she just needs to pick out about fifteen 80’s songs and I’ll make a bluegrass record someday. But ‘In Bloom’ was her idea. I know what Kurt [Cobain] wrote the song about, but that wasn’t why I picked it. I guess certain aspects of that apply to my life depending on what town we’re in, and night to night. But it came to this point in filling in the narrative, and it reached that point in every young man or even woman’s life where you have this post-pubescent angst, and weird adolescent awkwardness and you’re trying to figure out where you fit in the world and your identity. And that’s just not a head space I occupy anymore. So I was taking to my wife about it and she was like, ‘What were you listening to when you were that age?’ Same thing everyone else was, Nirvana.”
The KCRW live session also gives Sturgill fans a window into what they can expect from the Sturgill Simpson live shows that starts in earnest in early May. Though horns only inhabit about half of the tracks on A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, you can expect to hear them on most or all of the songs live. You’ll also see Laur Joamets switch between lead guitar and steel guitar, and and Sturgill switch from not playing guitar at all to electric. Since A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is meant to be taken as one complete narrative, don’t be surprised if they play the record in its entirety at other shows, not just at KCRW.
The Sturgill Simpson band lineup for the upcoming tour appears to be:
Miles Miller- Drums, band leader
Laur Joamets- Lead guitar, steel guitar
Chuck Bartels- Bass
Bobby Emmett- Keys
Brad Walker- Saxophone
Jon Ramm- Trombone
Scott Frock- Trumpet