Chris Stapleton: Sad Songs Have ‘More Power’ Than Happy Ones
Chris Stapleton had no intention of releasing two albums this year, it just so happened that he had extra time in the studio during the winter of 2016 and finished with more songs than he bargained for. As he explained during a recent press event in Nashville, he called up his record label and asked if he could put two albums out and they gave him the green light.
From A Room: Volume 1, the first edition of Stapleton’s two-disc project, came out in May. Recorded at Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A, it was named Album of the Year at the 2017 CMA Awards in November. It became the singer’s second Album of the Year win following the success of his 2015 debut, Traveller. So, did Stapleton have any fears recording his third project, From A Room: Volume 2, following his previous two album wins? Not in the slightest.
“I didn’t feel any pressure,” he tells Sounds Like Nashville. “My goal with Traveller, I had hoped to possibly sell 50,000 records. I was going to make this record, and I was going to go out there and play music because that’s what I know how to do. Obviously, it did a little bit better than that. This time around, I tried to raise that to a degree.”
He adds that his goal each time he releases a new project is to sell enough records so that he can continue to play shows and keep making records. For country fans, this amounted to two albums in 2017.
“If that’s 20,000 records or 50,000 records, or getting to play a room for 300 people or 20,000 people, that’s the dream,” he admits. “I’m still making a living playing music.”
Stapleton wrote seven of the album’s nine tracks and says he organized the project in a way he would like to listen to it. Along the way, he peppered the album with personal songs and two covers that spoke to him, adding that he hopes each song has some truth to them.
The most honest song on the record is called “A Simple Song.” Stapleton penned the track with his father-in-law, Darrell Hayes, and the two songwriters were sitting in Hayes’ living room when the song came together.
“It was basically he and I taking things that were going on with both of us at the time and rolling it up in a ball and putting it in a song,” he shares. “We were sitting in his living room hanging out while the kids were at the pool. We were just trying to write about real stuff. There’s a line in there about trying to find time to go fishing with my dad. That was a real thing at the time and he’s no longer with us. That was a little heavier.”
Stapleton admits that in a strange way, sad songs make him happy and he’s not quite sure why.
“I think I like sad songs because when you sing sad songs or heartbreak songs, everybody has been there at one point or another and it makes everybody feel less alone if they are in that space,” he explains. “A lot of these songs are older songs and some of them are covers. There’s a lot more to sing about in that space. I feel like those songs have more power than happy songs.”
One sad song on the record is “Scarecrow In the Garden.” A farming and suicide song that has been in his catalog for years, Stapleton says it showcases his inner love for bluegrass murder ballads.
“It’s not happy faire at allm but it’s a fun story song. I love things with a story and substance. Lyrically and subject matter wise, that has all of that to me,” he says. “I love the imagery in that song.”
The two covers featured on From A Room: Volume 2 have come to be some of Stapleton’s favorite recordings. The Kevin Welch-penned “Millionaire” is a song that he lived with for years before deciding to record and he fondly recalls sitting around the house playing the song to himself on guitar. Meanwhile, “Friendship,” made popular by the late Pops Staples, is a song producer Dave Cobb brought in and Stapleton instantly fell in love with.
“I love the message of that song. I like what it says and it’s said in a way that, if you’re hanging out with your friend or you have a longtime friend, it’s a good thing,” Stapleton says. “I never heard a song about friendship quite like that. I didn’t write it but it’s probably my favorite song on the record.”
While Stapleton’s career has skyrocketed since releasing his first solo album in 2015, he says he’s still the same guy he was before being thrust into the spotlight.
“I’m still the same dude that I was,” he says. “I just want to make the best music possible.”
Chris Stapleton’s From A Room: Volume 2 is out now.