Country musician Sturgill Simpson published an addition to a controversial Facebook post he made in an attempt to clarify his feelings concerning the Association of Country Music and the late Merle Haggard. In his original post, Sturgill invoked the strained relationship between Haggard and the country music industry, saying he found it “utterly disgusting” how Nashville was attempting to yoke itself to the icon’s memory despite his animosity toward the town. His post stemmed from news that the ACM Awards had created a Merle Haggard Spirit Award to honor the singer-songwriter’s legacy.
When it was announced that Miranda Lambert would be the award’s inaugural recipient, Simpson updated his post to ensure his words couldn’t be misconstrued as a personal attack against her:
Shortly after I initially posted this it was announced that Miranda Lambert would be the award recipient. Before people start chasing clickbait by putting words in my mouth I feel the need to clarify that I was not aware of this at the time of my original post and my words were in no way directed at her. I know that Merle liked and respected her so it’s good to see there is at least some blue sky in all of this. I don’t know Miranda nor have I ever met her but something tells me that in her heart, she knows I’m dead on. I am also aware that the ACM is a West Coast organization originally created to recognize West Coast artists like Merle and they have handed Merle many trophies over the years… even in the last 15 or so mind you.
It’s also worth noting that the last one was handed to him by none other than Miranda Lambert herself. But all of this is irrelevant as none of it has anything to do with the original point I was trying to make. My point was that all of these organizations don’t walk it like they talk it. I called The ACM out directly because they are simply the latest in a long line of organizations that have done the same since Merle’s death… and even before. Showing homage and handing lifetime achievement awards to the greats of yesterday while claiming to uphold and hold dear the original values and integrity of Country music’s legacy. Yet these are just hollow words… merely empty semantics. One needs only to look glancingly at the majority of the music that they, along with the CMA’s, predominantly choose to recognize and promote at their award shows.
Simpson went on to predict his alienation from Nashville due to his outspokenness. “I fully realize that as I type this, meetings and conversations are taking place on Music Row to ensure I am blackballed from the industry and that’s perfectly fine with me. I’m not sure how you can blackball somebody you don’t acknowledge in the first place anyway,” he says, referencing his lack of visibility in mainstream country music while also mentioning Jason Isbell, another borderline alt-country singer with a cult following:
Yet, even though they mostly go out of their way to ignore artists like myself and Jason Isbell, I assure you they are more than aware of our existence. They are also well aware that we don’t need them. Our last albums went to #1 without any help from the Mainstream Country Music establishment… and our next albums will too. With that said, I have no more need to make enemies with these people than I have a need to be their friends. If anything I’m trying to help them. Because more and more everyday, people are waking up to the situation and they are pissed. Perhaps Country Music, especially Nashville, should wake up too before it’s too late.
Isbell voiced his support for Sturgill — first in a joking manner, and then later more seriously — via Twitter:
But Simpson had other stories to share as well. He added that Garden & Gun had planned a cover story featuring him and Merle Haggard right before the late country singer’s death, and that they pulled it at the last minute to put rising country star Chris Stapleton on the cover. Even Stapleton was apparently disgusted by the sudden shift (him and Simpson share a publicist) and Simpson said Stapleton called him to say so.
UPDATE: Garden & Gun‘s editor-in-chief Dave DiBenedetto responded with this comment about the story:
“The Merle Haggard/Sturgill Simpson interview was not pulled from the magazine. It ran as a 4 page feature in our music package in the Apr/May 2016 issue along with stories on Chris Stapleton and a number of other musicians.”
Finally, Simpson let everyone know that he won’t be able to attend this year’s CMAs due to a sold out show, and finished off the post by borrowing a line from Haggard:
I should also go ahead and add here that whether or not I am nominated for a CMA award this year, I will not be attending the ceremony for no other reason than the fact I already have a sold out show scheduled in Des Moines, Iowa on the night of the awards ceremony and I have no plans to change that. Mostly though, I just wish Merle was still alive. I’d love for them to all hear his thoughts on the matter. P.S. Fuck this town. I’m moving.
Never change, Sturgill. (Oh, and I hear LA is nice this time of year.)
If you came to this post for the drama and haven’t heard Simpson’s excellent new album A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, you can stream it below.