It’s hard to deny that it was one of the most earth-shattering moments in country music over the past decade.
Prior to the 2015 CMA Awards, Chris Stapleton was a household name in the Nashville music industry. Everybody knew how great he was, not only with his songwriting but his powerful, soulful voice.
But he hadn’t yet broken through to the mainstream, having just released his debut album Traveller just a few months prior.
All that changed when he took the stage with Justin Timberlake though.
Stapleton joined the Memphis native at the CMA Awards for a performance of “Tennessee Whiskey” and Timberlake’s song “Drink You Away,” and by the end of the song the entire music world was buzzing about the talent that was Chris Stapleton.
It was a breakout moment in his career, shooting his album to the top of the charts and making Chris Stapleton not only a household name but also one of the most sought-after voices in country music.
And if you ask HARDY, it was a moment that also changed the direction of country music.
During an appearance on the Ten Year Town podcast with songwriter Troy Cartwright, HARDY spoke on the performance and how it brought an end to the bro country era:
“Bro country was like a professional wrestler era, and every song was their – every single was their theme song walking out to the…you know what I mean?
And everybody was fit and good looking, and like, that was your thing.
And then the moment to me that it changed was when Chris Stapleton sang on stage with Justin Timberlake.”
And while HARDY also credits Luke Combs with changing the direction of country, he believes it was Chris Stapleton who really set about a course correction for the genre:
“I love Luke Combs. Everybody says it’s Luke but I swear to God, I think it was Stapleton before Luke because he was the first dude that was popping off and had a completely different sound…
It pivoted for the first time in, whatever, five, six, seven years.”
HARDY says that Stapleton not only changed how country music sounded, but also how it looked:
“It immediately broke the mold of what you have to look like. And then, two or three years later Combs came out, and then it just busted wide open with a bunch of normal ass looking dudes, you know what I mean?
And all of us were like, ‘F*ck yeah, I can get a record deal now.'”