Sturgill Simpson: “I Have Never Played A Note Of Americana In My Entire Life”

Sturgill Simpson playing a guitar
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Cuttin’ that GRASS.

Sturgill Simpson shared a picture (which will probably be deleted soon) featuring himself, along with and his gang of all-star bluegrass musicians: Mark Howard, Scott Vestal, Mike Bubb, Sierra Hull, Tim O’Brien, Miles Miller, and Stuart Duncan with the caption:

“The Hillbilly Avengers inside their undisclosed top secret headquarters.”

And along with a great caption (Hillbilly Avengers is GOLD), Sturgill added a couple hashtags that sparked some comment-section conversation including #bluegrassmusic, #dontcallitamericana, #noseriouslydontcallitamericana, and #countrymusic.

Which prompted this follow up question:

“Does this mean you dislike Americana music (everything under the umbrella of American music styles) or are you just trying to define the differentiation?”

And similar to the way Tyler Childers did during his 2018 Americana Awards acceptance speech, Sturgill laid waste to the term “Americana.”

“No. It means the last thing music or musicians need is another “genre,” … especially one defined by empty semantics that throws us in an industry gutter appropriating any and everything with the slightest amount of steam for its own self-promotion/membership fees all while simultaneously placing a glass ceiling on our careers.

It also means bluegrass music is bluegrass music… otherwise known as “your papaws country music.”

I love all types of music and I mostly sing and play country, bluegrass, & rock n’ roll music… but I have never played a note of Americana in my entire life.”

And I gotta say, I love it.

Some might call Sturgill a bit of an asshole and he might even call himself one at times, but I love his unapologetic honesty when it comes to making art. He doesn’t mince words when it comes to country music, or music in general, and given the way this industry tends to operate, it’s incredibly refreshing.

And let’s be honest, Americana has become a bad blanket term for actual country music that doesn’t get played on the radio. These days, most of mainstream country music is just bad pop with a twang, so now artists that make actual country music are supposed to be relegated to the term Americana? It’s not hard to see why people like Tyler and Sturgill don’t want anything to do with it.

Not to mention, every time Sturgill makes a record there seems to be this unrelenting need to categorize it into a genre. The first two records were country as dirt and yet they called it Americana, Sailor’s had a lot soul elements to me and they called it country, and Fury… I think they’re still trying to figure out what to call that one.

But more importantly, as Sturgill points out, bluegrass music is bluegrass music. Country is country, rock is rock… where’s all the confusion?

Either way, as long as Sturgill is still making music, I’m going to keep buying it. Country, rock, soul, bluegrass, whatever… he could start the world’s first polka/ska/rap metal fusion band (maybe there already is one somewhere in Russia, who knows) and I’d be first in line.

Here’s that speech one more time…. from Tyler “Child-ers.”

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock