By Annie Reuter
Sturgill Simpson finds himself a Grammy nominee at the 2017 Grammy Awards for Album of the Year with his latest release, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Simpson produced the album himself as a letter to his first child who arrived during the summer of 2014. It is also his first major label release on Atlantic Records.
Simpson is nominated alongside Beyoncé, Adele, Justin Bieber and Drake for the night’s biggest honor and while country and Americana music fans are well aware of the poetic singer/songwriter’s work, many aren’t. Here are 5 things to know about Album of the Year nominee Sturgill Simpson:
1. Bluegrass roots
Sturgill Simpson got his start in a bluegrass band that he formed in 2004 called Sunday Valley. During a hiatus from music to focus on his job for the Union Pacific Railroad, Simpson’s family and friends convinced him to take his hobby as a songwriter and musician more seriously. Simpson eventually moved to Nashville, TN in 2010 where he met producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Brandy Clark, Jason Isbell). The two teamed up for his debut album High Top Mountain which was self-released in 2013.
2. Grammy recognition
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth isn’t Simpson’s first Grammy nod. The singer was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Americana Album in 2015 for his sophomore release, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, also produced by Cobb. He says his latest release A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is an exploration of all the different types of music that he loves.
“I listen to a lot of Marvin Gaye, a lot of Bill Withers. I like the way George Harrison sings and tried to incorporate that. Some people will say I’m trying to run from country, but I’m never going to make anything other than a country record. As soon as I open my mouth, it’s going to be a country song,” he says.
3. Americana Music Awards
Simpson is well-known and respected in the Americana genre where he swept the 2015 Americana Music Awards with wins for Emerging Artist of the Year, Artist of the Year and Song of the Year for “Turtles All the Way Down,” which the singer calls “just a very simple country ballad.”
While “Turtles All the Way Down” caught attention due to it’s drug mention of psilocybin, DMT and LSD, the song also includes lyrics about “reptile aliens made of light” that can “cut you open and pull out all your pain.” Meanwhile, the song title is based on an anecdote popularized by Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time.
4. He speaks his mind
Simpson isn’t afraid to tell people how he really feels, media and Nashville included. After learning he and Merle Haggard were bumped from the cover of Guns and Garden Magazine, he shared his opinion on the industry and people not keeping their word.
“We spent about two hours outside being photographed by a brilliant and highly respected photographer named David McClister until Merle had enough…he was still recovering from a recent bout of double pneumonia at the time and it was a bit cold that day on the ranch.
But then at the last minute, the magazine’s editor put Chris Stapleton on the cover without telling anyone until they had already gone to print. Don’t get me wrong, Chris had a great year and deserves a million magazine covers…but that’ s not the point. Its about keeping your word and ethics.
5. A-list fans
Country stars are fans of Simpson’s, too. Keith Urban and Jake Owen both were blown away by Simpson’s sophomore album, with Urban tweeting that Metamodern Sounds “will knock your #%^€ in the dirt – SERIOUSLY!!!”
Keith Urban (@KeithUrban) July 25, 2014
Dwight Yoakam, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Zac Brown Band are also fans and enlisted Simpson as an opener for their tours.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to go out and get in front of that many people,” Simpson told Radio.com of his experience playing on the Zac Brown Band tour. “Especially when you find out the other guy [Brown] pegged you himself just because he likes your music.”