While writing a recent New York Times Magazine article on Luke Bryan, journalist Will Stephenson asked Sturgill Simpson for a quote. That piece published with Simpson saying, “I don’t know Luke, I don’t think about Luke, and I’ve honestly never heard a single note of his music.”
The quote was perceived by many, including a number of country music outlets, as Simpson dissing Bryan. Simpson rarely holds back his thoughts on the music industry. Still, the quote raised eyebrows.
A few days after the Times article ran, Simpson shared the entire email exchange between himself and Stephenson via Twitter. In it, Stephenson offers Simpson a few questions that he hoped to fit into the piece.
“A more interesting piece would perhaps be how the Grammy winner for this year’s Country Album of the Year somehow doesn’t manage to get recognized/nominated (much less invited) by either the CMA or the ACM to their respective award celebrations,” Simpson says.
He also included a quote he gave from a Noisey article that offers a little more insight on his take on interviews. “Most of the time the conversation is me providing two or three sentences to fill in the blanks on a piece they’ve already written,” he says. He also tagged Luke Bryan in the post.
“Most of the time the conversation is me providing two or three sentences to fill in the blanks on a piece they've already written,..because when you say things in print it's so easy for context to get twisted.” #OnTheRecord @willstep_ @LukeBryanOnline pic.twitter.com/iojOKrkX4l
— Sturgill Simpson (@SturgillSimpson) December 10, 2017
While he notes the story is neither positive nor negative, he uses Simpson’s quote in a negative context here.
Simpson seems entirely uninterested in talking to Stephenson about Bryan. However, the article makes it seem like Simpson’s quote is a response to Luke Bryan saying he’d love to get coffee with Sturgill. All it does is reinforce a narrative.
In his email to Simpson, Stephenson wants to know if the “opposition” between country artists like Bryan and Simpson is real or fabricated. In the article, he answers his own question by fabricating a rift. Simpson has made pretty clear he’s not picking battles with artists, but with the industry as a whole.
In the end, the New York Times Magazine has an obligation to their readers to present the full context of Simpson’s quote. Or to not include a quote at all. Not doing so is a disservice to journalists and his own hard work on an otherwise compelling article.
Maybe he could make amends by writing that story about Simpson not getting an invite to the CMAs or ACMs. Of course by not inviting Simpson, the CMAs gave us one of 2017’s best Sturgill stories yet.