Is Sturgill Simpson the savior of country music? (2023)

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in a recentShow it to MilwaukeeSturgil Simpsonhe found himself face to face with a strangely angry audience member. His problem: The Kentucky-born deep thinker tried to covertly propagate Gnostic beliefs through his upbeat but decidedly forward-thinking country songs.

"She really meant it. She sat through the whole damn show waiting for me to get to the merchandise stand only to come over and tell me that I preach Gnosticism and that she hopes her kids never come in contact with my music," Simpson says with the words. wide eyes like him. remember the effort the woman made to deliver her twisted message from her.

In the end, Simpson just smiled at his critic and decided it wasn't worth getting into a discussion about spiritualism while selling T-shirts and copies of his latest album, The Stellar.Metamodern sounds in country music.

"Honestly, the conversation was so awkward that I had to look it up on Wikipedia in the van after the show to really understand what Gnostics believe," he admits. “And they think that we are all stardust remnants of the one divine that was trapped in these physical bodies. I was like, 'Fuck it, I wish I was that smart.'

The truth is, Simpson, 35, preaches nothing, let alone the gospel, about what country music is and isn't. This may come as a disappointment to those who think of him as a country music Jesus who will beat down "nigga country" artists on the dirt roads they came from.

Sitting in an alcove of his favorite coffee shop in his still-up-and-coming neighborhood north of downtown Nashville, Simpson looks less like the modern Waylon Jennings he's compared to and more like a humble graphic designer. With his sneakers sticking out from under the table, Simpson, headphones on, has her face buried in his MacBook and is researching Martin guitars, which he fantasizes about but doesn't buy.

"It seems like a lot of journalists are trying to lure me into being the poster boy and talking shit about the modern country."

As a bottle of Mexican Coke is placed on the table, he shares a surprising rumor he heard about the Coca-Cola company urging Mexico to stop using sugar cane in favor of high fructose corn syrup in its counterpart. US. "Nothing is sacred," he sighs her.

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However, Simpson, who unravels her headphones and then meticulously wraps them up and puts them back in her bag, doesn't extend that comment to country music.

"It seems like a lot of journalists want to lure me into being the poster child and talking shit about the modern country, and I just don't have anything to offer there," he says. "Luckily, I've never followed that side of the industry, which means I've never had a chance to get screwed or listen to any of those horror stories you hear. So if I were to sit down and talk about these things, it would be an insult to the people who did and would be extremely naive.

“Nothing is really different from what it was. It's always been that way,” Simpson continues about the cyclical nature of the country's trends. "I think Tompall Glaser put it best in the '70s: 'If you don't have a solution or an alternative, shut up.' Because you're only part of the problem."

"I think it's as authentic as possible," he says.Proteger a Jenningsfor The Simpsons. Jennings, son of Waylon Jennings, has been a fan of The Simpsons' work since his Sunday Valley days and is impressed by the musical, if unintentional, resemblance to his legendary father.

"There are so many people who play the guitar like my dad and so many people who imitate that sound, but no one really understands it," says Jennings. "Sturgill doesn't imitate anything and sounds like my dad's favorite era, the '70s, when he sang lower and more colloquially. That impressed me from day one at Sturgill. And still does.

Simpson understands why disgruntled country fans have flocked to him since the release of his debut album in 2013.high mountain. With outlaw throwbacks like "You Can Have the Crown" and "Some Days," the album is the antithesis of today's country radio playlists. your classmate,Metamodern sounds in country music, released in May, based on favorites from The Simpsonsspoke headmiArroyo(also buys every album released by Tool) but remains rooted in traditional country. It's easy for fans to interpret both albums as a response to the mainstream.

"Not at all," Simpson replies. "They want someone to be that guy and I understand there's a lot of frustration, but I think there's a lot of negativity."


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In part, it refers to the vocal traditional country community online, which often criticizes artists like Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, and Florida Georgia Line for constantly corrupting the genre with hip-hop beats and party lyrics. The spikes are occasionally fun but often difficult.

"Brutally. Brutally, man," Simpson says of blogging. "These people [are selected], whether you like the music or not, they are human. And youmeetYou see that shit.

For him, the answer is simple: "Put it where it fits, and if you don't like it, ignore it."

Cook, live and let live is the motto ofMetamodern sounds in country music- Simpson jokes that it's his "hippy love record." The album and especially the opening track "Turtles All the Way Down" contains more cosmic theories than a Stephen Hawking lecture.

Simpson became obsessed with the origins of the universe and humanity's role in the bigger picture while writing for the project. He cites a list of books that have inspired him, includingthe human phenomenonby Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. "He was a Jesuit priest who was rejected by the Vatican because he accepted the fact that evolution and spirituality are symbiotic and that everything evolves towards a divine existence in consciousness and in the universe", he tries to explain. "That's where the tortoise comes in. The myth of the tortoise is now something of a comic expression in metaphysics. It represents a much grander idea than what is known as the unmoving mover, or that central divine source of all complex consciousness in the universe. And after theory, and I say theory because I never want to say that I agree, it's still a good idea that everything starts at one point and that we are all this universal common consciousness."

"Most guys like to talk about themselves, but Sturgill likes to talk about other shit. And I love it," says Jennings, who shares Simpson's interest in science and niche theories. "Conversations with Sturgill, he'll start talking about his own music, but end up somewhere far away. He's so much fun to talk to, smoke a joint, and just talk."

The turtle myth that helped give rise to "Turtles All the Way Down," for which Simpson directed a Ken Kesey-worthy psychedelic video, involves the belief that Earth rests on the back of a shelled, interstellar reptile.

"It's in Hindu cosmology and some Native American tribes have a similar myth," Simpson says. Now the theory is more commonly used to dismiss another theory as nonsense. “It's basically a weird or funny way of saying, 'What you're suggesting is interesting or not more or less complex or intriguing than what the Old Testament suggests, but none of us really know any better.'

"If someone says this is the truth..." Simpson continues, pausing deeply as if mentally reviewing the major religions' views of the afterlife, "no one will know until you die. So if you don't you die and come back to life, it's like Tompall said, "Maybe you should shut up. lots of uncertainties. And find someone in the world who will recognize and look past all your flaws and still love you. I think we could all use it okay a little more of that. I don't mean to sound like a cliché hippie and stoner, but fuck it, man. Just be easy. And one day we'll know. It's our turn.

Simpson grew up the son of a former undercover narcotics officer whose involvement in the drug war: "There were times he'd be gone for months and he'd show up, his hair's long, he's got a beard, he was driving a black mustang and I was like, 'Who the hell is this guy?'” Simpson remembers his father: he helped get his parents divorced.

“[His] work took him through a rather turbulent childhood. My mother spent most of her childhood in a prefab trailer along the highway in eastern Kentucky. I think at some point she basically told him it was work or us," she says. "From what I remember, it wasn't a very stable environment. How is that possible?"

Despite his father's anti-drug profession and worldview, Simpson conducted his own hallucinogenic experiments. One ofMetamodern sounds in country musicThe most studied text is the litany of mind-altering agents - marijuana, LSD, psilocybin and DMT - in "Turtles All the Way Down".

"I've had some very introspective, therapeutic and healing [experiences]," Simpson says matter-of-factly. “You see the fabric of reality unravel before your eyes, and you look at the ocean and you breathe with the tide, and suddenly you realize that you are reacting to things this way because something happened to you. When you were four years old, you buried yourself. You walk away from it, and if that doesn't give you a little break to try to be a better person, then you've been wrong.

However, his traveling days are over. "It's been years... and I really don't feel the need to do it again, honestly."

Instead, he's just trying to make sense of his newfound notoriety. A recent nomination for the American Music Association Award for Emerging Artist of the Year, alongside soul band St. Paul & the Broken Bones and folkie Hurray for Riff Raff, left him confused, perhaps even in handcuffs. He rolls his eyes when congratulated on the honor and gives little more than "No comment" when asked if he'll appear at the American Honors & Awards ceremony in Nashville this September.


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"I don't know where I fit in," he says, confused, "but I know that if I find out, it won't be because someone else did it for me."

He also does not want to be eligible for the crown of the savior of this country.

"I don't need that pressure," Simpson says. "And what does that actually mean? It's not like Clear Channel is waking up tomorrow and saying, 'Oh, let's play this guy for a bit and see what happens.' No. No wishful thinking about the changing tides. I'm just trying to do what I believe in and, more importantly, wake up in 20 or 30 years and still be proud. These records are perhaps the only semblance of who I ever was. For anyone who doesn't give a shit."

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