Five years ago today, Chris Stapleton took the stage with Justin Timberlake at the 49th Annual CMA Awards, and since that moment, country music has never been the same.
Make no mistake, Chris Stapleton was well-known in the country music community. Writing songs for artists like Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, George Strait, Tim McGraw, Luke Bryan, and more, everybody in Nashville knew Chris Stapleton was the real deal. Dierks Bentley even called him “probably the best singer in the world,” all the way back in 2010.
But… he was still relatively unknown to the general public (unless you were a fan of The Steeldrivers or the Jompson Brothers). That all changed in 2015.
Chris released his stunning debut solo album Traveller in May of 2015, and while it did generate some good buzz, it fell off the Billboard 200 albums chart by September. But it was enough to earn Chris a trip to the CMA Awards, where he was nominated for Album of the Year, New Artist of the Year, and Male Vocalist of the Year. He won all three.
But then, he took the stage alongside pop superstar (and Tennessee native) Justin Timberlake to perform “Tennessee Whiskey,” along with Timberlake’s “Drink You Away,” and they blew the roof off. The world had finally been exposed to the magic of Chris Stapleton.
Traveller’s sales shot up over 6,000% and Chris has been on a rocket to the moon ever since. In fact, to this day, you can still find Traveller in the Top 10 on any country album sales chart at any given time. Even right now it sits at #7 on the iTunes country album charts, right there behind Luke Combs and Sturgill Simpson’s new records.
But more importantly, while we were neck deep in the pits of bro-country garbage, it set off a chain reaction that ultimately started to swing the pendulum back towards traditional country music. Now here we are five years later, and we not only have the emergence of neo-traditional artists like Luke Combs, Jon Pardi, Ashley McBryde and Cody Johnson in the mainstream, but they’re having a ton of success.
And turning point was right here… at the CMA Awards of all places.