We were talking about bluegrassers Steeldrivers with a mainstream Nashville producer recently when he remarked that the band's former singer-songwriter, Chris Stapleton, is "the most talented guy in Nashville."
Say what? In fact, unless you follow the doings of Music Row or you are one of the bluegrass cognescenti, it's doubtful you've ever heard of Stapleton. We recently caught up with him Nashville.
Lonesome Onry and Mean: Reckless is almost entirely you co-writing with Mike Henderson and that combination really seems to click. Now that you have left the band, will that partnership continue?
Chris Stapleton: Mike and I haven't written since I left the band, but that doesn't mean we won't, I think, we just haven't. But that's co-writing in general; you write with someone a lot, and then you don't for a while. That's just how it works.
LOM: How do you view the two Steeldrivers albums?
CS: I prefer Reckless over the first album. Musically, I feel it's a better representation of what the band is. It allowed the multi-instrumental capabilities of Mike and Tammy to be showcased because we overdubbed some parts, where the first record was mainly just live in one room. I think we were able to maintain that one room spirit, though.
To me, it's still a live-feeling record. My vocals and guitar were recorded on one mic, whereas the first record was two mics for me. And there are no click tracks. Also, I prefer the songs on this record, but that's just my opinion. My only regret is I wish we had played an instrumental. I would've liked that.
LOM: Are you doing lots of co-writing or working alone? Which do you prefer? Who are some of your favorite collaborators?
CS: My main job has always been commercial country songwriting. That being said, co-writing is generally the most efficient way of writing songs for me. I do, on occasion, write songs by myself, but 98 percent of the songs I write are co-writes. These days I'd have say my favorite co-writers are Lee Miller and Jim Beavers.
I feel like I can always come away with a pretty good song, or at least something I like, with either of those guys. Although, this week Casey Beathard and Darius Rucker are on my list of favorite co-writes for sure. We've got a No. 1 this week.
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LOM: Name one young talent that none of us have probably heard of yet.
CS: There's this guy from Australia named Joe Robinson who's like 19 or so. Incredible.
LOM: Your new band, the Jompson Brothers, is a radical departure from bluegrass and from commercial country, like Allman Brothers or Skynyrd meeting AC/DC. What's the plan with that band?
CS: The short-term goal for the Jompson Brothers project is awareness and finding an audience. From there, we hope to play more shows, write more songs and record more records. As far as it being a long-term thing, I don't spend time on things that I think aren't. That band was born out of writing songs.
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I had been writing with Greg McKee (guitar) and he and I had turned writing into all-night garage jams. We invited Bard McNamee (drums) to come hang one night because we thought it would be fun to write with a drummer. Not long after that we decided we needed a bass player. I called J.T. Cure who l'd played various kinds of gigs with back in Kentucky.
One time jamming with the four of us in my garage, and I'm pretty sure we all knew we should at least play some gigs together.
LOM: Will you guys be playing Texas?
CS: No formal Texas plans, but I have talked with Wade Bowen about maybe opening for him at some point. If he wants to make that happen, we'll certainly show up. We would love to play in Texas.