Went to the sold out Sturgill Simpson show at Stubb’s BBQ in Austin on Easter Sunday, April 5.
I first heard of Sturgill because of a Rolling Stone article that touted him as the next savior of country music? I looked him up on Spotify and listened to Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and some of his other stuff. I remember thinking, “yeah, that’ll never play on country radio, the soccer moms’ll not dig the weird drug reference crap and the retro production and all that.” I have to say I dismissed him as “too country for country radio” at first. But then something made me want to go back and listen to him again. And again. And again. Maybe it was hearing the 127th bro country bullshit song on my local station. I don’t know. But Sturgill is the real deal and needs to be on mainstream radio NOW. I’ve heard him on a few stations that mix country and Red Dirt music here in central Texas, and it sounded great to me.
Sturgill is not a good looking dude and he doesn’t dress cool. At the show at Stubbs he had on New Balance sneakers and a haircut that would make you want to get your money back at SuperCuts. And he hardly talked to the audience much. But that voice. Holy crap, that voice! It’s like Waylon Jennings came down from heaven and took over the body of an average mortal.
The crowd was a real mix of people and ethnicities. There were young and old, college kids, black, white, Mexican, you name it. And almost all of them seemed to know the words to all of his songs, in spite of almost no radio airplay.
So here’s my advice to the people programming country radio:
if you think hearing one song that’s out of the norm is going to lose you a listener for life, have you heard your morning show? Most people have the choice of 2 or 3 country stations in their market, but also the choice to listen to GooglePlay, Spotify, iHeartRadio, their iPod, SiriusXM, Pandora etc etc. You need to step up your game or you’re gonna lose the already-leaving-the-building listeners you are trying to hold onto. Personally when I scan across the dial in the morning, and all I hear is your morning show crew laughing at their own stories and not playing or talking about the music, I check out and opt for one of the other aforementioned options.
Your typical listener probably goes to see both Rascal Flatts and George Strait. These two acts are totally different, yet still on the same station. So why wouldn’t a Luke Bryan fan dig Sturgill? And I’m sure the die hard fans of Eric Church are already listening to him.
If Sturgill Simpson was on the New Faces Show at the Country Radio Seminar, it would be like the second coming. And while we’re on the topic, how about throwing in Texas country artist Aaron Watson, who “doesn’t exist” according to recently ousted Music Row bigwig Gary Overton, yet has the number one country album on Billboard and doesn’t get played on mainstream radio.
Remember when the Kentucky Headhunters burst onto the scene in the early 90’s? Hell, our band covered at least three of their tunes. They were different. And interesting. And people dug ’em big time.
C’mon country radio, we need you! We want you to survive! Take some chances!