Rising country music star, Sturgill Simpson, went on a tirade against the country music industry on his Facebook page recently.
The rant, which was unexpected by many of Simpson’s fans, was one of the rare times that the artist has been that vocal.
The ACM’s recently announced that Miranda Lambert would be the first recipient of the new Merle Haggard Spirit Award. Simpson, who was friends with the late country legend, did not approve of the posthumous award, and for good reason.
Simpson gave fans the details of an interview he and Haggard gave for Garden & Gun magazine, where they were supposed to be on the cover. Without notifying them, the magazine put Chris Stapleton on the cover. This was not the first time the industry has ignored Haggard.
Modern country star, Jason Aldean, disagreed with Simpson, saying he thought everyone in Nashville was aware of Haggard’s contributions to country music.
Is everyone in Nashville aware? Probably. Does awareness equal respect? Absolutely not.
Haggard received many ACM awards throughout his career, but I feel that most of the acknowledgements he recently got were for his older work, that’s already stood the test of time. Any time Haggard released a new album, it was given the cold shoulder by the industry.
There’s a bad pattern in Nashville of acknowledging artists, just so the industry can benefit from using their names. I feel that this is the case with the Merle Haggard Spirit Award.
I’m not saying anything bad about Miranda Lambert. I feel that she’s one of the few truly talented artists in the mainstream country scene.
I just think it’s disrespectful and unnecessary to use an artist’s name for this kind of purpose. Haggard’s gone. He has nothing to do with this award. He can’t choose the winners. If you want to give Miranda Lambert a similar award, great! You don’t need somebody else’s name on the trophy to make it valid.
My final thought on this is about the fact that the award is meant to recognize modern artists who are uncompromising, like Haggard was in his career. That uncompromising is why the industry began to distance themselves from artists like Haggard, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, etc. They like artists who are easily-controllable. That’s why most of today’s country music sounds so similar. They don’t want original artists who stand-up for their creativity. They want someone who will follow the crowd.
Simpson’s rant likely got him blackballed from the country music industry, but does that really hurt him? They never truly embraced him to begin with.
He’s always been an outsider. He built his career without Nashville, so they won’t be able to tear it down.