November 2015: Winners and Losers

Chris Stapleton’s big night at the CMA’s was a vindication for honest, hard-working, authentic musicians everywhere of every genre.  The overwhelming reaction by me and many other artists and pontificators signaled hope that we’d finally reached some long-awaited beacon.  But, why were we excited?  Why were we craving that legitimization by the industry and organization that really couldn’t care less about the artistic merits of music? Kelly Dearmore pointed out so eloquently in his piece that country music didn’t need a savior.  Music is more available than ever.  I can’t say for sure why Stapleton’s “wins” resonated so hard with so many of us.  Perhaps it just comes down to respect.  We felt acknowleged and respected after so many years of knocking on the door and being turned away.  Stapleton kicked down decades of frustrations, even if it truly means very little in the grand scheme of things.

The entire notion of winning awards for art seems cheap to begin with.  It’s a debate that rages each time there’s an awards show.  “Hey man, just dig what you dig…you don’t need some gawdy piece of metal and glass to confirm it.” While true, it still feels good to be recognized.  Art is so subjective though.  It is impossible to appease all tastes and grant awards based on what’s “good”.  There’s usually record label electioneering and tit for tat voting blocks that arrange most of the categories.  Not to mention the amount of jostling that goes into scheduling the top performance slots.  In the end, it’s all a giant commercial to sell ads and records and songs.  Thankfully, Chris Stapleton’s commercial was the best of the night.  It’s also cool that unlike in youth sports, not everyone gets a trophy.  Only the winners.  The losers just get the airtime of a fake smile and the knowledge that they’re still in the game.

Some years back, Jack Ingram was awarded Best New Artist at the ACM’s 15 years into successful career.  While it was part of an initial bump in his presence and radio persona, it really didn’t change or dictate anything he was doing or has done since.  He’s actually retreated a bit since reaching that mountaintop.  Sometimes you get to the top and realize it was all about the journey. Jack has just kept being Jack.  The award hasn’t changed him.  And that’s very cool.

Who knows where Chris Stapleton goes from here.  He’s got more ears and eyeballs on him than he probably ever imagined.  The cool thing is I don’t think he cares.  He’s just going to keep doing his thing.  If people dig it, great.  If people want to give him awards for it, even better.  But, that’s not his motivation.  He’s motivated by the song.  By the craft.  This is the common theme among all the artists we most dearly love.  They make music because they must.  It’s as vital to them as oxygen and water.  It pours from them.  It’s not, as one Texas chart-topper told me, “all about the marketing”.

It’s about the music.  Country music didn’t need saving.  Chris Stapleton isn’t the second coming.  But it still felt cool to see an underdog pull one over on the big guys.  It didn’t hurt that his record actually was the best of the bunch.  That was the reason for the insane online response.  The coolest part about all of it though?  Stapelton’s big night turned him on to many new fans.  Of those new fans, many will seek out similar styles and artists.  With today’s ease of music access and social networking, that means new fans for acts like Jason Eady, Adam Hood and Turnpike Troubadours etc.

Chris Stapleton is a winner.  Country music is a winner.  Music fans and appreciators are winners. Stugill, Isbell et al. It’s a great time to be a fan of music.  Labels be damned. The losers in this scenario are the ones not open minded enough to see the bigger picture.  Or the ones clinging to the 90’s model of business.  This wasn’t a savior moment.  This was a moment of hope.  Is it a paper tiger?  Do we throw the baby out with the bathwater?  Time will tell.  Until then, kudos Chris.  Kudos good music. Kudos for all the discussion this has spurred.  Viva la good music.


-Sorry to see Crooks breaking up.  It’s never easy to see a band disband, even harder when that band is truly original and unique.  Glad we had them on the Greenfest stage before it was too late.

-The College Football Playoff Rankings are a joke.  I’m with Nick Saban (something I never thought I’d say).  His point was that we don’t seed March Madness in February so there’s no point in ranking the playoffs in November.  It’s all a ratings/money thing.  I don’t blame the powers that be because it’s great marketing.  But it’s great marketing that doesn’t mean anything.

-Best tailgate food…and go.

-We still have another year of presidential politics.  Buckle up.

-Our annual Thanksgiving post will be up the week of.  Another great one headed your way.

-One of my favorite musical discoveries this year has been Lake Street Dive.  Cool to see Miranda Lambert throwing them some social media love.

-I don’t ever recall such a rainy fall.  It’s been a weird one to be sure.  Not certain what this means for our winter months.  But, in Texas…that can’t be good, right?

-This month’s recommended album:  Dub Miller’s lost live album.  There was no greater live show from 2000-2002 in Texas than Dub Miller and the Hwy 6 Band that featured such stalwarts as Adam Odor (who masterfully engineered this project), Brady Black, Les Lawless and Matt Skinner among others.  Recorded over two nights at Cheatham Street and The Firehouse, this collection definitely captures that moment in time.  I was transported back to those infant days of a scene we didn’t know was a scene yet.  For those of you too young to have been around then, it’s a great auditory tour through part of the blueprint that built what you love so much now.

-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain

Brad Beheler

Raised in Waco, refined in the Hill Country, escaped from DFW. I've worked in just about every facet of the music business for 20 years. I like to write about it all. e-mail Brad Editor-in-Chief

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