Point: Chris Stapleton Is Country Music’s Most Influential Artist of the Last 5 Years
Chris Stapleton‘s success hasn’t led to a revolution in country music just yet, but whether fans realize it or not, he’s been incredibly influential in recent years, even before that career-making performance at the 2015 CMA Awards. As an artist, Stapleton is a relatively new name — but as a songwriter and a force within the Nashville community, he’s quietly made waves for more than a decade.
As a songwriter, Stapleton earned his first No. 1 hit all the way back in 2006, with the platinum-selling Josh Turner song “Your Man,” co-written with Chris DuBois and Jace Everett. The song was Turner’s first No. 1 single as well, and earned Stapleton an ASCAP Country Music Awards honor for being one of the year’s most-performed songs; it’s also the song that helped Scotty McCreery earn his spot on American Idol Season 10.
Eleven years before he released his own solo debut album, Traveller, Stapleton had a No. 1 song — but it wasn’t the first of Stapleton’s songs to be recorded. On his 2003 album Mud on the Tires, Brad Paisley included a song called “The Best Thing I Had Goin’,” written by Stapleton and Jerry Salley; Travis Tritt‘s 2004 album My Honky Tonk History features the Stapleton-penned “Small Doses;” the title track of Lee Ann Womack‘s 2005 album There’s More Where That Came From is another Stapleton / DuBois co-write. Stapleton was long an artists’ favorite in Music City, even if the larger country music community didn’t know his name.
The hits have kept coming for Stapleton as a songwriter, too: Kenny Chesney‘s “Never Wanted Nothing More.” Darius Rucker‘s “Come Back Song.” George Strait‘s “Love’s Gonna Make It Alright.” Luke Bryan‘s “Drink a Beer.” Thomas Rhett‘s “Crash and Burn.” And those are just a few of the No. 1 songs, nowhere near the full catalog. When King George and Adele are in agreement that someone’s work is worth recording, that’s special.
And then there’s his career as an artist, both solo and otherwise. Pre-Traveller, Stapleton was an important factor in the bluegrass community, as part of the SteelDrivers. The band’s first two major-label albums both hit No. 2 on the Billboard Bluegrass Albums chart; the second one, Reckless, earned a Grammy Awards nod, as did two of the group’s songs. (Worth a note: The SteelDrivers’ two albums released since Stapleton left the band have both hit No. 1 on the charts; one of them won a Grammys trophy.)
As a solo artist, Stapleton’s ascent to the top was, to be fair, a slow burn: His debut single, 2013’s “What Are You Listening To?,” didn’t crack the Top 40 and never made it onto an album. To date, he has only one Top 10 single to his name (“Nobody to Blame,” though “Tennessee Whiskey” wasn’t a single and hit No. 1), and even though Traveller debuted at No. 2 on the country charts, Stapleton was a critics’ and artists’ darling with a cult following until the CMAs basically forced everyone to pay attention.
"As an artist, Stapleton is a relatively new name — but as a songwriter and a force within the Nashville community, he’s quietly made waves for more than a decade."
Have you noticed, though? Per Neilsen Music, Stapleton has 2017’s top two most popular country albums. His sophomore project, From A Room, Volume 1 — a record that wasn’t released until early May and has a second half that’s still TBA — is No. 1; Traveller — an album that is over two years old at this point — is No. 2.
Maybe you’re not hearing “Either Way” or “Broken Halos,” Stapleton’s two most recent singles, on the radio as often as you’re hearing Sam Hunt‘s “Body Like a Back Road.” Maybe Stapleton’s career didn’t take off right out of the gate like Florida Georgia Line‘s did. Maybe his biggest songs are still those that he’s written for other artists — that’s fine. Slow and steady wins the race, after all.
The Boot and Taste of Country’s collaborative Point / Counterpoint series features staff members from the two sites debating topics of interest within country music once per month. Check back on Aug. 21 for another installment.
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