Why Chris Stapleton Isn't a Newcomer

I went to the CMAs, and I couldn’t fall asleep that night, because I could not stop thinking about Chris Stapleton

and Justin Timberlake’s performance, but not just because of the musical talent.

Yes, it was

epic

indeed, but what was just as powerful as

their performance

was what the cameras didn’t capture,

the community

. The air was thick with this support that was 

intangible, and hard to describe. 

It was

Luke Bryan

who called out Stapleton in his own acceptance speech noting the 37-year-old deserved every bit of recognition, that it was time. When Bryan faced his own personal family tragedy, it was Stapleton who wrote the song “Drink a Beer” along with Jim Beavers, which captured a very real and raw glimpse into losing someone. The song presented an opportunity to share the grief Bryan was experiencing. At the 2014 CMT Artist of the Year event, Bryan faced

another personal family tragedy, his brother-in-law suddenly passed away, 

and therefore Bryan had to cancel his appearance. However,

Lady Antebellum

and Chris Stapleton performed "Drink a Beer" in his honor. Charles Kelley i

ntroduced the song extending one arm out telling the camera 

“So, tonight we wanted to perform a song that’s very special to Luke with another of his good buddies that co-wrote the song. One of the best singers in the entire universe, Mr. Chris Stapleton right here.

This song is called 

‘Drink a Beer,’

 and if you’re watching tonight back home, this one’s for you, Luke, and your family. We love you so much and our thoughts are with you.” 

Stapleton and Lady A sat solemnly with heavy hearts and filled with emotion as they sang “Drink a Beer” on stage. I remember how worn in Stapleton’s guitar looked during that performance. Even though I had never seen him before that performance, I knew he had a story just by the look of his guitar. That guitar was not one of a newcomer.

At the 2015 CMA awards, the community and support that surrounded Stapleton each time he won an award was a true testament to the character and the man that Stapleton is. Stapleton took home three CMAs for New Artist of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year. 

At most award shows, and the CMAs are no exception, it’s the fans who are the loudest cheering for their favorite artists or screaming their favorite lyrics to the beat of the performances. However, when Stapleton’s name was announced as the winner, the first people out of their seats were the country artists sitting in the first 20 to 30 rows. It was that group that was the loudest, the group that hollered pointing at their friend, their co-worker, and buddy. Stapleton humbly accepted his awards with his cowboy hat pulled low on his long chestnut hair. Stapleton is no stranger to Nashville and he’s no stranger to the industry. Some might be just hearing his name, and to be honest, last year was the first time I heard his name, but this recognition has been a long time coming. 

Stapleton has been a songwriter in Nashville for over 15 years! What the camera captured was a performance that brought down the house, that subsequently trended on social media with it’s sheer power and force of talent. What the camera couldn’t capture was the community that supported one another. When Stapleton choked back tears in his acceptance speech talking about how the loss of his father had inspired his album,

Traveller,

you could feel the support for him as the entire artist section stood firmly. They stood tall, and they were a force. There’s something intangible about what occurred that night. Good things take time. Chris Stapleton is not a newcomer, he’s a humbled, seasoned professional, who’s just now getting exposure outside of the tight night country community. We're the newcomers. We're all just newcomers to the talent that Nashville has held on tightly to. A community that was unanimously proud. Proud of their friend, brother, and neighbor.