Roots music aficionados pegged Chris Stapleton as a talent to watch when he stepped into the spotlight in 2008 as lead singer and chief songwriter for the Nashville-based progressive bluegrass band the SteelDrivers.
His raspy, Ray Charles-influenced vocals put a decidedly different patina on the group’s songs of characters who weather hard times than the “high lonesome sound” that has long characterized traditional bluegrass.
FOR THE RECORD An earlier version of this post misidentified the title of Luke Bryan’s hit single co-written by Chris Stapleton as “Have a Beer.” The song is “Drink a Beer.”
Rolling Stone Country has praised him as "The biggest, baddest country voice you’ve ever heard. No, really."
He’s been known chiefly for his songwriting, having co-written Luke Bryan’s hit “Drink a Beer,” an ode to a departed friend; Kenny Chesney’s No. 1 country hit “Never Wanted Nothing More;” “Love’s Gonna Make It Alright” for George Strait; and “Come Back Song” for Darius Rucker, among many others.
Now the 36-year-old native of Lexington, Ky., is about to enter the limelight on his own with the May 5 release of his debut solo album “Traveller,” from which Calendar is premiering “When the Stars Come Out,” a meditative tale of fame- and fortune-seeking in the City of Angels that Stapleton wrote with collaborator Dan Wilson.
Everybody’s, somebody, someday
Everybody’s got a part to play
Everybody’s trying to find a way
To say what needs saying
"I was in L.A. to write some songs with Dan Wilson," Stapleton tells Calendar. "The night before we wrote I was looking up at the sky from my hotel room and noticing how the city lights drown out the stars. I decided to take a walk down the street and find something to eat.
"As I walked, I noticed everyone looked like 'somebody.' They all looked famous. They all looked like stars. I began to toy with the notion that maybe all of the L.A. stars are walking around," he said. "And perhaps some nights, they shine brighter than the city lights. That was the thought I brought to Dan the next morning."
Country Weekly magazine has written of Stapleton: “Every once in a while, you run into a singer here in Nashville who just blows you away, an artist who can create sound in an effortless manner and transport your soul out of this world. This morning that someone proved to be Chris Stapleton.”
Fellow singer-songwriters Kacey Musgraves and Brandy Clark have recently expressed enthusiasm about Stapleton’s album, one that positions him among the ranks of a new wave of musicians who are mindful of tradition but who also are striving to inject fresh ideas and modes of expression into country and bluegrass.
He seems to hint at that community’s career goals in another section of “When the Stars Come Out” when he sings: “You and I, we’re gamblers holding cards that we can’t see/And I’m betting on you, you’re betting on me.”
Calendar will have a full profile of Stapleton closer to the release of “Traveller.”
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