As we've comfortably moved in to the new year it's worth noting that we're a week away from the GRAMMY awards (Feb. 12), the night where artists and musical genres of all sizes, shapes and stripes will be honored. This year will be particularly interesting for Americana as an industry, as one of the genre's brightest stars is nominated for the biggest award of the evening, Best Album. It says here, that in a category where such music industry heavyweights as Beyonce, Adele, Drake and Justin Bieber are nominated, it will be Sturgill Simpson that wins the Best Album award for his outstanding project "A Sailors Guide to Earth."
This will not be an insignificant achievement, to say the least. You could float a battleship on the amount of records that Simpson's competition has sold, numbers which reach in to the tens of millions. Sturgill's effort, however, has sold just shy of 150,000 copies. Given today's market climate where few people are buying physical albums, this is a pretty solid number, given Sturgill's place in the music business. His competition fill arenas and stadiums, while Sturgill has only moved into playing 3,000 to 5,000 seat theaters in the past year or so. It speaks to the quality of his work to have been nominated in the Best Album category for "Sailor's Guide", the follow up to his breakthrough "Metamodern Sounds In Country Music."
While many people may have asked "Who the f**k is Sturgill Simpson?" (as quoted from Sturgill's new t-shirt), he has been a late-night media darling for the few of years. Appearances on virtually every late-night show from Letterman to Jon Stewart contributed to Sturgill's exposure in ways that the suits of Music Row in Nashville did not. Indeed, the executives of Music Row bore the brunt of an epic rant from Simpson last year following the death of Merle Haggard and the Academy of Country Music's subsequent naming of an award after Mr. Haggard. The hypocrisy, Sturgill rightly noted, was in the fact that Music Row and country radio had all but ignored legends like Mr. Haggard for many years, only to now capitalize on Haggard's name in his passing. Simpson is quite right when he says Music Row will have blackballed him because of the rant. But this is where the GRAMMY's often get it right. Projects that may not necessarily catch on commercially can still be up for awards. They view the quality of the project as a whole, as opposed to the quantity of product that is sold. A nomination on its own can lead to an increase in record sales for any given artist.