‘Flat-out like a lizard drinking’ has fast become two-time Grammy-winner Chris Stapleton’s default mode of living. In what has been a massive year for the hirsute Kentuckian, the 39-year-old guitar-slinging country-soul man has added several new feathers to the signature hat – with its shield of deer-hide and plumage studded with a nugget of turquoise – that has fast become both an emblem of his soulful, earthy style and a symbol of songwriting purity.
Making good on an uncommon promise in the Nashville of 2017, Stapleton is poised to release his second studio album this year with From A Room Vol. 2, tailing sophomore album and tearaway No.1 hit record From A Room Vol. 1, released back in May. The latter is 2017 CMA Album of the Year as of Nov 8th Awards ceremony, and Mr Stapleton Male Vocalist of the Year.
Two’s a charm beyond stage and studio, too, with Stapleton and wife of 10 years Morgane – herself an accomplished singer-songwriter whose silver-toned backing vocals have long featured in Chris’ recorded output and live show alike – announcing that they are expecting twins. The new arrivals will double the ranks of the Stapleton brood, joining the Nashville power couple’s son and daughter. In true Stapleton style, the pair shared the news with fans at a recent tour stop in Dallas.
While Morgane jokingly told Rolling Stone earlier this year that “Chris is a master, and I say this with all due respect, at messing things up,” the 2015 CMA-storming singer-songwriter’s inexorable rise since his breakout performance with Justin Timberlake at the 2015 CMA Awards and the subsequent success of 2x platinum-certified solo debut Traveller (2015) would suggest otherwise. For one thing, Stapleton’s single and album sales now number in the millions. He’s also been keeping some mighty fine company in the two years since Traveller stormed the charts.
Earlier this year, Stapleton joined George Strait, Lee Ann Womack, Toby Keith, and Kris Kristofferson in paying tribute to the inimitable Jerry Lee Lewis for Skyville Live, while a recent show at Bridgestone Arena saw Stapleton serenading Kenny Rogers with a live rendition of the latter’s signature tune ‘The Gambler’. He joined George Strait, Miranda Lambert, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen in San Antonio in September – looking back on his 2017, Stapleton said sharing the stage with George Strait live in San Antonio for the Hand in Hand hurricane relief benefit was among his top memories of the year.
“George Strait called me on the phone and said ‘Hey come down here to Texas and play this thing with me’ and I got up and sang some George Strait songs with George Strait,” he said. “Who gets to do that? Nobody! It’s like living in an alternate universe.”
He again performed at Country Rising, also staged to raise funds for Hurricane Relief, at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena in November, alongside Reba McEntire, Dierks Bentley, Garth Brooks, Jason Aldean, and Lady Antebellum.
His All-American Roadshow Tour has traversed a seemingly unending road paved in gold – Stapleton and band swinging from sold-out venue to sold-out venue across the United States. Through it all, he’s been able to enlist the support of opening acts including Americana icon Marty Stuart and rising star Margo Price. Add to that Stapleton’s sold-out three-night run at Nashville’s hallowed Ryman in 2016 (as The Tennessean reported, signing a page for the iconic venue, Stapleton wrote, simply, “I’m going to have to get a new dream”), and it’s easy to appreciate the scale of Stapleton’s draw.
“It wasn’t that long ago I played the Basement, and not the Basement East, the original one…” Stapleton told The Tennessean earlier this year, “…and the next thing you know we’re playing the Ryman, and the next thing you know we’re playing Ascend Amphitheater a couple of nights, and here we are at Bridgestone Arena playing a couple of nights.”
In what has been an exceptional year for left-of-centre country singer-songwriters – with Jason Isbell delivering another masterwork in The Nashville Sound in June – Stapleton has loomed larger than ever.
It’s a testament to the hard graft that has allowed Stapleton, across years spent fronting bluegrass band the Steeldrivers and roots-rock outfit the Jompson Brothers, while penning hit songs for everyone from Kenny Chesney to Adele, to polish his soul-steeped songwriting and live chops to a lustrous finish. In the space of just two-and-a-half years, he’s arrived at a place in which he is able to sell-out stadiums and arenas with nothing more than a three-piece band, a guitar, and the warm, familiar vocal support of Morgane – not to mention the aforementioned chieftainesque headwear.
…read the full story in Issue 87