When determining who should win an artist of the year award, one of the biggest aspects I consider is the impact this artist has made on their genre. Did this artist’s music change the way people look at and listen to music? Well when looking at Country Perspective’s nominees for Best Male Artist of 2014, there was one artist that stood head and shoulders above his competitors. Derek and myself found this to be a pretty easy choice. The winner of Country Perspective’s Best Male Artist of 2014 award is Sturgill Simpson.
Simpson of course just won our Album of the Year award with his critically-acclaimed 2014 release Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. Now most people knew from the first listen that this album was fantastic. What nobody saw coming was how this album transformed Sturgill from unknown to one of the most well-known independent artists in country music. This album still sits high on the iTunes country albums chart. It’s won numerous awards from numerous outlets and entities. Not just country outlets either, but general music outlets that appreciated the great quality of this album. He’s of course performed on all of the major late night talk shows. But this isn’t just about accolades and television shows.
Beyond these accolades Simpson has caught the eyes of other country artists, specifically mainstream country artists. Stars like Jake Owen, Dierks Bentley and Keith Urban have all praised Simpson and his music. They would probably love to make the music Simpson makes, but they can’t because it wouldn’t be marketable enough for major labels and sponsors. Not to mention Simpson’s music subject matter would be considered by the soccer moms and other PC types to be too “controversial” (because every song is supposed to be happy and inoffensive). While they can’t make the music Simpson makes, I believe it has inspired some of them to dig deeper.
Jake Owen I think has certainly been influenced because he’s really been pushing his new serious single “What We Ain’t Got,” which was good enough to be nominated for Country Perspective’s Best Country Song of 2014 award. Dierks Bentley has always had a great balance between serious and fun songs of course. If you look across mainstream country music right now, yes there is still a lot of crap, but I think things have definitely improved. I think great albums in the independent scene like Sturgill’s have undoubtedly had a hand in making this improvement happen. The dialogue about improving country music and going back to a traditional sound has increased a lot in the latter half of 2014.
Sturgill Simpson says he doesn’t want to be anointed the savior of country music and I don’t blame him. Who wants that pressure? He isn’t the savior of country music either. You know what I would call him? A trailblazer. Simpson is living proof that if you are talented and dedicated enough to do what you truly want in life, people will pay attention. He’s an inspiration to aspiring young country artists everywhere. Not only has he inspired potential artists, but the fans. It’s amazing the amount of fans he has accumulated over 2014, many of them new. Simpson has reinvigorated disenfranchised country fans to believe in the genre again. It has made a lot of people realize they can’t rely on radio for their country music.
Simpson alone won’t save country music. But he has clearly planted the seeds to a potential revolution in the genre. He could be one of the pieces to bringing quality back to country music. And for that Simpson is clearly worthy of being named Country Perspective’s Best Male Artist of 2014.