For Sturgill Simpson, Grammy nomination is nod to ‘real music’

Sturgill Simpson
Sturgill Simpson’s album ‘A Sailor’s Guide to Earth’ (Atlantic) has received a Grammy nomination. Simpson released his first two albums himself. (Photo: Atlantic Records)

When news broke that Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth had been nominated for a Grammy, many people were surprised. I wasn’t. 

Simpson’s album is seamlessly constructed and very complex.

A Sailor's Guide to Earth cover
‘A Sailor’s Guide to Earth’, Simpson’s latest album. (Cover: sturgillsimpson.com)

Amid a sea of forgettable cookie cutter songs in different genres, this songwriter-performer’s country-Americana work declares individualism from the first note, all the while planting the artist smack in the middle of the universal human condition.

Obviously, I really like his work.

The nomination probably even surprised Simpson, but he’s learned something as he took his music directly to his fans, succeeding as an indie artist for a number of years:

“I think there’s obviously a huge, huge thirst and hunger for — I don’t want to say ‘real music’ — but just music from the heart, as opposed to music that’s meant for commerce. I’ve always believed that, and my career, I think, is a testament to that, because I’m not writing hit singles.”

Simpson released his first two albums as an indie artist; A Sailor’s Guide is his first album released by a major label. His work drew lots of praise, though, before the record label came calling. Even the urbanites at NPR, a way long distance from country living, praised Simpson’s 2014 album Metamodern Sounds In Country Music as a “fiercely independent, outsider album” with songsmore like existential meditations (along with a lot of drinking and doing drugs) than the typical blue-collar ballad.”

On his Facebook page, Simpson riffs on the shock response to his Grammy nomination with a new t-shirt bearing the slogan, Who the fuck is Sturgill Simpson? 

Simpson’s official website features a selection of videos with his music, and whatever else his songs might be, they put you in a ‘thinkative’ mood as my daughter the word coiner likes to say.

Simpson told USA Today he hopes to attend the Grammy event in February, 2017, but he and his wife are expecting a child that month. It’s not hard to guess which event is a priority for this down-to-earth songwriter-performer who succeeded on his own terms by creating art instead of a product based on mass marketing formulas.

(Filed by KBD/Dec. 9, 2016)

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