A Few Minutes With Chris Stapleton

While working on Chris Stapleton’s HotStar article this week we got a chance to talk to the singer/songwriter/producer about his agent/management team and his philosophy when it comes to making plans in the music business.

Stapleton’s debut album, Traveller, was released at the top of the country charts in May but he’s been preparing for this career for a while. He was in a band called The Jompson Brothers, which had a sound that could easily find itself on a Sons of Anarchy soundtrack and was dubbed by No Depression “the future of rock and roll.”  Yet, Stapleton and his amazing voice fit in well fronting the Grammy-nominated bluegrass band The SteelDrivers, which has its own share of accolades.

Stapleton’s voice, which has been endorsed by everyone from Adele to Justin Timberlake, is not his only talent. The 37-year-old has more than 150 songs on albums including No. 1 hits for Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Darius Rucker and Josh Turner. He co-wrote Luke Bryan’s No. 1 single “Drink A Beer” – which was nominated for an ACM Award for song of the year – and he has writing credits with people like Sheryl Crow and Peter Frampton.

“As great as Chris’ record is, the real truth in the songs comes out in his delivery on stage,” his agent Jay Williams said. “He is one of the best performers I’ve ever seen.  Whether it’s walking out on stage to open an arena show or playing to a sold out big club crowd, the results are always the same: the audience is floored. 

“Most people are just discovering him through this record but there are die hard Stapleton fans that remember him from earlier projects like The Steeldrivers or The Jompson Brothers. Chris is without a doubt one of the most versatile artists in any format.”

Photo: Scott Legato / RockStarProPhotography.com
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Fairgrounds Racecourse, New Orleans, La.

So which came first? WME or Red Light?

Red Light came first.  I’ve been with them for, shoot, three or four years now?

How did Red Light come about? 

I had made another record for Mercury that never came out and my then-producer and dear friend Luke Wooten is also from Charlottesville, Va., where Coran’s from. He introduced us and that’s kind of how it came to pass.

How did they assist in bringing you to where you are now?

That’s a very large question! Coran [Capshaw’s] always there when you need him for guidance, and Zach [Peters], anytime I have questions or need to get something done that seemed impossible, he’s the guy who can make it possible, if it’s possible at all. Coran’s really handy to have around. He’s really smart and he knows his stuff. Zach, same thing. Zach worked under Coran for quite a while so he’s shifted into the role of a day-to-day management scenario.

Who did you work with prior to WME?

I was independent for a while. A long time before that, I was with Paradigm when I played bluegrass. 

So how did you hook up with WME?

I had known [agent] Joey Lee for years. … I had been doing bluegrass and rock ’n’ roll, and they were interested in me through the country things. So we decided to give it a shot. Because some of what I do is outside of that, Joey decided it would be better to hand me off to Jay [Williams], so we made that move internally. But now Jay and Kevin [Meads] are spearheading stuff for us.

But I’m very active, along with my wife.  We talk a lot. It’s not something we just hand over and say, “All right, tell me where to go.”

Sometimes management and artists lay down a “five-year plan.” Any predictions where you might be if we called you up next year?

Oh, I’ve been in the music business long enough to know you can make all the plans in the world but you can’t fully predict what you will do. It’s always a moving target.  I think we’re doing better than what we could have hoped for right now, putting out this record. We’re just going to keep walking through the doors that are open and keep making progress out there on the road.  I don’t have a crystal ball.

Having been around the business for a while, what are some of the things you’ve seen people do wrong?

Well, there are so many things that go into it. There’s timing factors and certainly the music has to be there – that has to be the most important thing. There are missed opportunities. Some people think they’re a little bit more important than they are. I don’t claim to know what makes one person work and not make somebody else.  I can only do the best I can at being me and hope it works out!

Not naming names but there was this one country artist that we put on the cover that apparently didn’t make it too far because of, well, women and booze, basically.

And that can be the story with some folks. Or it could be drugs. But that can be true of any business, not just our business. Anybody can get on a bad path and ruin their career and their life. Country music may be more in the public eye but I think that stuff can happen to people who don’t wind up on the covers of magazines.

Photo: facebook.com/chrisstapletonofficial

Upcoming dates for Chris Stapleton:

June 5 – Athens, Ga., Georgia Theatre          
June 6 – Macon, Ga., Cox Capitol Theatre    
June 7 – Birmingham, Ala., Iron City                  
June 11 – Winston-Salem, N.C., Ziggy’s      
June 12 – Charleston, S.C., Charleston Music Hall   
June 13 – Raleigh, N.C., Lincoln Theatre     
June 17 – Knoxville, Tenn., Bijou Theatre    
June 18 – Asheville, N.C., The Orange Peel  
June 19 – Charlotte, N.C., Amos’ SouthEnd            
June 20 – Charlottesville, Va., Jefferson Theater      
June 26 – New York, N.Y., Randall’s Island (FarmBorough Festival)       
June 27 – Dover, Del., Dover International Speedway (Big Barrel Country Music Festival)          
June 28 – Charleston, W.Va., Cultural Center Theater (Mountain Stage Radio Show)
July 2 – Houston, Texas, Warehouse Live – Studio   
July 3 – Fort Worth, Texas, Billy Bob’s Texas (appearing with Merle Haggard)
July 4 – Austin, TX     Austin360 Amphitheater (Willie Nelson’s Fourth Of July Picnic)    
July 10 – Prestonsburg, Ky., Mountain Arts Center  
July 11 – Prestonsburg, Ky., Mountain Arts Center 
July 12 – Chicago, Ill., Windy City Smokeout Festival Grounds (Windy City Smokeout BBQ & Country Music Fest)   
July 18 – Louisville, Ky., Louisville Waterfront Park (Forecastle Festival) 
July 24 – Huber Heights, Ohio, Rose Music Center At The Heights (appearing with Gary Allan) 
July 25 – Ashland, Ky., Paramount Arts Center       
July 30 – Kansas City, Mo., Kansas City Live (Kansas City Hot Country Nights)
July 31 – Tulsa, Okla., Cain’s Ballroom        
Sept. 5 – Seattle, Wash., Seattle Center (Bumbershoot Festival)
Sept. 12 – Beaver Creek, Colo., Strawberry Park (Rendezvous Music Festival)      
Sept. 26 – Panama City Beach, Fla., Aaron Bessant Park (Chasin’ The Sun Music Festival)          
Oct. 26 – Nashville, Tenn., Ryman Auditorium (appearing with Jason Isbell)
Jan. 31-Feb. 7 – Miami, Fla., Norwegian Cruise Line – Norwegian Pearl (Cayamo Cruise)

For more information please visit ChrisStapleton.com.