Sturgill Simpson On Navigating The Music Business: “Just Make Art, F*ck The Rest”

Sturgill Simpson country music
Semi Song

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Sturgill’s bluegrass albums, to the point that it was the final nail on the coffin on buying a record player so I can listen to them on vinyl.

Between Cuttin’ Grass, Tyler’s Childers Gold-Certified Purgatory record, and Cody Jinks’ Red Rocks Live record, I finally pulled the trigger. And while I’ve gotten my hands on a ton of other albums since then… so far, I highly recommend it.

Anyways, back to Stu…

Sturgill sat down with producer Rick Rubin for an episode of his Broken Record podcast and while the entire episode is worth the listen, one thing Sturgill said about the music business really stuck out to me.

“Just make art, fuck the rest.”

And at risk of snatching up an out of context, inflammatory headline for clicks (which I know Sturgill hates), here’s a longer excerpt from the conversation:

“I want to have something I can look back on and know that I did not compromise whatsoever, I did this the right way. And it was very important to me and it still is.

And then, somewhere along the line, you get on the train and it’s hard to tell how fast the train is going when you’re on it.

You get sucked in or manipulated, the music industry has a scientifically-applied methiodal about making artists feel like if they don’t keep treading water they’re gonna drown.

And the next thing you know, you wake up and you’re completely burned out.”

He then went on to explain the two instances when he realized that this was happening:

“I went to Merle Haggard’s house for the very first time ever, and I think Merle only won one Grammy in his career.

And when you walked into the house, it was sitting on the floor used as a door stopper to hold the screen door open, just scratched and beat all to hell, and I was like ‘got it.'”

And the second time was when Sturgill’s producer asked Rick himself if he was up for any awards this year.

“We were there in the room that you’re sitting in right now and he asked you if you got any records up for anything this year Rick, and you said, ‘I don’t know,’ and I knew you weren’t bullshitting.

And I was like, ‘that’s it, just make art and fuck the rest.’

And I’ve been trying to commit and  live in that headspace ever since. And just block out all the trivialness and hegemony of the system that makes us think we all have to end up on these lists every year, standing at a podium giving little speeches.

Because it doesn’t have shit to do with anything about connecting with human beings and making music.”

Well said… well said.

You can always smell the bullshit coming a mile away. And while some artists might have some immediate commercial success, great art stands the test of time.

I’m not an artist, I’m barely even a hobbyist musician, but I can’t imagine the feeling of waking up in 30 years, looking back on your career, and absolutely hating the music you made. What a nightmare is must be to feel like that.

Rick also said the project has the potential to turn people onto bluegrass that would not have normally checked it out, and I couldn’t agree more.

For me personally, Cuttin’ Grass has definitely sparked an interest in more bluegrass. Mission accomplished.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock