When looking at who should be determined Country Perspective’s Male Artist of the Year, we look at a variety of factors. One of the biggest that can help an artist stand out is the impact they’ve made on their genre over the past year. In 2014 there was one artist who clearly had a bigger impact than his peers and he walked away with the win. In 2015 we have the exact same case. There was one artist who made a bigger impact than all of the other candidates’ impacts combined. It was pretty obvious to Derek and myself. The winner of Country Perspective’s 2015 Male Artist of the Year is Chris Stapleton.
Just like Sturgill Simpson in 2014, Chris Stapleton set the country music world on fire in 2015. Except Stapleton has managed to have an even bigger year and shows no signs of slowing down. When his long-awaited debut album was announced early in 2015, many critics, Stapleton fans and Nashville insiders were highly anticipating it to be something great. Stapleton’s album Traveller came out in May and immediately generated critical buzz in the country music community. It opened up at #2 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and for many it was a nice accomplishment to see. Little did anyone know that the big accolades would be coming months later.
When the 2015 CMA Awards were announced one thing that immediately stood out was the amount of nominations Chris Stapleton racked up, being nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year, New Artist of the Year and Album of the Year. It was great to see Stapleton get recognition and to be mentioned along the biggest names of country music because he was more than deserving. But we all told ourselves he had no chance in hell of winning all of these, giving only a slight chance with Album of the Year. Perhaps the first sign we should have seen Stapleton was poised for a big night was the announcement of him performing with friend and pop superstar Justin Timberlake on the show. This was enough to make me “boldly” predict Stapleton winning Album of the Year, but I wasn’t confident.
The 2015 CMA Awards arrive and one of the first awards given out is New Artist of the Year. Stapleton wins, much to all of our surprises. Stapleton beat out the likes of country radio favorites Sam Hunt and Thomas Rhett. There’s no way he could win another, could he? Stapleton then won Album of the Year, along with the hottest producer in country music right now Dave Cobb. Once again we all thought there’s no way he sweeps, does he? And he does just that by winning Male Vocalist of the Year, ending Blake Shelton’s long reign. To top it all off, he and Timberlake end up have the most exciting and eye-popping performance of the night, getting the entire crowd worked into absolute frenzy. The look on Jerry Douglas’ face was how all of us looked during it.
Ever since this historic night Chris Stapleton has been conquering the music world. His album Traveller sat atop the iTunes all genre chart for weeks, even beating out the best-selling album of the last decade, Adele’s 25. It’s still #1 on the country albums chart as of this writing, both iTunes and Billboard. Many publications and critics have named it the best album of the year, not just in country music, but in all of music. We had it as a finalist for our album of the year award. Even country radio, who has largely ignored critically acclaimed artists in recent years, is recognizing Chris Stapleton. His current single “Nobody to Blame” is in the top 25 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart and continues to make steady gains. Bill freaking Murray loves Chris Stapleton!
The sky is the limit for Chris Stapleton going into 2016. We all said he couldn’t win at the CMA Awards and we all thought he couldn’t make an impact on country radio and we’ve all been proven wrong. At this point it’s pretty obvious we need to stop doubting what Stapleton is going to do next. Thanks to the 2015 CMA Awards sale bump, Traveller has now sold over 500,000 copies, making it certified Gold. It will undoubtedly sell over a million and become certified Platinum, which is unheard of nowadays unless you’re Adele or Taylor Swift. Pretty successful company, huh? Stapleton has a chance to clean up even more on the awards circuit, as he four Grammy nominations for the 2016 Grammys, including the biggest award Album of the Year. He could win all four awards. This will take him to even higher heights. “Nobody to Blame” will be a #1 song on country radio. Tell me I’m wrong. But you can’t.
What makes this story even better is that while Chris Stapleton is a great artist, he’s an even better person. You could see the humility and look of shock on his face when he accepted all of those awards at the CMA Awards. He didn’t expect any of this either. Stapleton is just a guy who loves to make music and could care less about the accolades, radio or fame. It’s his genuineness and honesty that makes not only the man someone you want to root onto victory, but his music something you want play over and over again. Is he a country music savior? Is he the next Waylon or Willie? Is he traditional country? No, no and no. But that doesn’t matter. Chris Stapleton is Chris Stapleton. Stapleton is just a traveller taking this ride wherever it may go next. Wherever it goes you can bet Stapleton is doing what he does best and that’s making quality music.