I first heard Sturgill Simpson my junior year of high school. My dad, an avid music listener, often checks out dozens of CDs at a time from our local library and keeps them stacked on his desk, cycling through them until he finds a record that sticks. Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music was one of those records. He hounded me for weeks, asking if I had listened to the record yet.
I didn’t completely get what drew my dad to Sturgill Simpson until I moved 400 miles away from home. Then I began to truly understand Simpson’s ability to tell a story through his songwriting, which extract a feeling of nostalgia that make homesickness bearable. If you ever need to clear your head, I suggest putting on “All Around You” and driving a few miles down the nearest low-traffic highway. Plus, his newest record, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, features a slower version of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” that convinced the angsty teen still deep in my soul that Simpson was an artist I should have been listening to much earlier than my freshman year of college.
A Kentucky native and Navy veteran, Sturgill Simpson is no stranger to making music. After playing small bars and open mic nights with his original band Sunday Valley, Simpson quit music professionally for a time in 2006. Instead, he managed a railroad freight shipping yard in Salt Lake City for four years. He returned to music after his wife told him to pursue his passion, he recalled in a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone Magazine. Simpson then made his first appearance as a solo artist in 2013. His debut record, High Top Mountain, was funded and recorded entirely independently by Simpson in Nashville.
Five years and two critically-acclaimed albums later, Sturgill Simpson has quickly become a big name for modern country music. He won a Grammy for Best Country Album for A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, his first major-label release.
After busking outside of the CMA Awards in 2017 with his Grammy award in tow, Simpson has made very few public performances and deleted all of his social media accounts; he stays mostly in Nashville to focus on his family. However this year, he adds The Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival to his growing list of shows, which also includes Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic and a headlining night at Radio City Music Hall in New York with Roots N Blues alumnus John Prine.
His set is sure to be a memorable one. To prepare yourself, check out his unique spin on modern country music from his Austin City Limits taping in 2015 here.