What Does It Mean?


Last month, country music writer Grady Smith posted some astonishing sales numbers with regard to critically acclaimed artists, of which one was Chris Stapleton.  Those numbers were:

Sturgill Simpson – 151K

Kacey Musgraves – 127K

Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard – 106K

Jason Isbell – 97K

Chris Stapleton – 88K

In light of last night’s triumph, one has to think that Stapleton’s numbers are going to grow rapidly.  But does it have legs?  Will the masses support it over the long haul?  Not that it matters to Chris as he continues to do things his own way on his own terms.  But, as he mentioned in one of his speeches last night, he doesn’t take this lightly.  He understands he’s now the torchbearer for so many hopes and dreams.

Shannon Canada posted this relevant information this morning:

We are all aware of this list right?
New Artist of the Year 2008 Lady Antebellum
New Artist of the Year 2009 Darius Rucker
New Artist of the Year 2010 Zac Brown Band
New Artist of the Year 2011 The Band Perry
New Artist of the Year 2012 Hunter Hayes
New Artist of the Year 2013 Kacey Musgraves
New Artist of the Year 2014 Brett Eldredge

It takes more than posting about it on social media to support an artist’s efforts. GO BUY TICKETS, buy his albums, buy his merchandise and SPREAD the music. ‪#‎stapletonisnotnew‬


The inevitable backlash has already begun with fans that were unaware of Stapleton prior to last night bemoaning his victory, saying he isn’t country (foolish), hating on Justin Timberlake, and generally ignoring the larger picture.  This was an industry acknolwedgement that what Chris Stapleton is doing is better than what they’ve been putting out.  Will it make them more money?  Probably not. But it’s undoubtedly better.  Whatever the word better means in a subjective art argument.  Point being there is no doubt that Stapleton’s music has loads more authenticity, realness, emotion and grit than what has been on country radio the last decade or longer.

Where will this thing lead?  Only time will tell.  But, we as a music community are willing to follow wherever Stapleton, Isbell and Sturgill want to lead.  It feels like the pendulum we’ve been coaxing for years is finally swinging in the right direction.

This was a victory for good, honest music.  A triumph of doing things the grassroots and bootstraps way.  The artists we love down here in the Texas/Americana scene are cut from the same cloth as Stapleton.  2 weeks ago he played at River Road Icehouse in a flood to a small crowd that will certainly grow in number as time goes on.  He’s written songs with many of our favorite acts.  He’s been out there grinding in a van for years.  He’s been taking the same path but using a different vehicle.  It’s thrilling and inspiring to see Chris Stapleton’s journey rewarded in such a large fashion.  You may not have known Chris Stapleton before last night (even though you should have), and you may not even dig his music that much (for some crazy reason), but you know Chris Stapleton (via his story) and you do dig his music (if you dig Texas/Red Dirt/Americana).

What does this all mean?  Nobody can say for sure, but it’s definitely an exciting time to be a fan of good music.

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

3 thoughts on “What Does It Mean?

  • November 5, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Interested to see how his career goes from here. It just feels like we have been down this road before and quite recently.

    Pat, Jack, Hayes, Bingham, Stoney were all our saviors too. Maybe because Stapleton ain’t Texan and he has insane writing credits he can do it.

  • November 5, 2015 at 11:07 am

    “This was an industry acknowledgement that what Chris Stapleton is doing is better than what they’ve been putting out.” You do realize Stapleton is signed by Mercury Nashville (since 2013), which is part of the Universal Music Group Nashville. He’s a product of the industry, not something counter to it.

    Sturgill Simpson recently signed with Atlantic, so I assume his next record will receive more acclaim than his previous two (even those were great). He may even be on that stage next year.

    Jason Isbell, who released by far the best album of the year, in my opinion. Still isn’t on the radar for these type of awards – largely because he publishes on his own label.

    It’s good that the industry may be trending to acts such as Stapleton and Sturgill, but make no mistake, nothing happening on stage at the CMA awards is going against the will of the industry itself.

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