2017 has been another landmark year for Chris Stapleton, and the enormity of his rapid rise to success hit him hard as he walked off the 2017 CMA Awards stage last night.
"It's kind of a whirlwind," he told Wide Open Country. "It's an unimaginable fairytale. We're so proud just to make music and go out and play for people. That's the dream. When people are nice enough to give you things like these," he said, motioning to his arm full of CMA Awards, "That makes the dream an even larger dream. That's the only way I can describe it."
Although Stapleton lost the Entertainer of the Year Award to Garth Brooks, he did walk away with Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year for From a Room: Volume 1. Stapleton told a room full of media backstage at the awards that he strives to always create a great record, from top to bottom.
"No song on a record should ever be a throwaway," he said. "Just play songs that you love."
Stapleton says that viewpoint was inspired by countless listens to his favorite record of all time, Tom Petty's 1994 LP Wildflowers. Petty passed away earlier this year, marking another tragic day in a year full of devastating news events.
During the ceremony, the deaths of Troy Gentry, Glen Campbell and Don Williams were noted with special musical tributes. Carrie Underwood also performed a moving hymn halfway through the show to remember those killed in the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting. Although Stapleton's performance of "Broken Halos" was not publicly described as part of the tribute, he says it was the only fitting choice for the night.
"In light of the tragic kind of year we've had, that was the only song we could play," he noted. "It wasn't much more than a two-second discussion."
Over the past few weeks, there has been much discussion over CMA's plans to mark the Route 91 shooting. Many stars burst into tears during Underwood's heartfelt tribute. TJ Osborne of Brothers Osborne also told press he broke down while walking the red carpet while thinking about the shooting that killed 58 country fans.
Stapleton, also clearly moved by the night's tributes, said he was honored to be a part of the ceremony.
"It's a proud thing to be a part of a show that does something that well in a sensitive time," he explained.
Stapleton is less than a month away from releasing his next record, From a Room: Volume 2. That release may very well land him back on the CMA stage next year, trophies in hand. But he's not worried about accolades.
"I've always only ever been able to be me, and I always try to make it about music first. Everything else will kind of fall wherever it will."