Sturgill Simpson performs at Fair Grounds Race Course on April 27, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images

Remember When Sturgill Simpson Called Out the CMA Awards and the Academy of Country Music?


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Country singer-songwriter Sturgill Simpson (born John Sturgill Simpson) is one of the genre's most compelling and outspoken performers. Known for High Top Mountain, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, A Sailor's Guide to Earth, Sound & Fury and more, Simpson has earned a reputation as a Music City disrupter who values speaking his truth over appealing to the Nashville powers that be.

Here are 8 things you might not have known about the country artist.

He Previously Performed in a Band Called Sunday Valley

Prior to his breakthrough solo debut album High Top Mountain, Simpson released To the Wind and On to Heaven with the bluegrass band Sunday Valley.

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He Once Mocked the CMA Awards

 

During the 2017 CMA Awards, Simpson busked outside of the Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville, where the award ceremony was taking place. He joked about not being allowed at the ceremony (Simpson had recently won the Grammy for Best Country Album at the 59th annual Grammy Awards.) The "Turtles All the Way Down" singer put out a sign that read "Struggling country singer... Anything helps (all donations go to the ACLU). God Bless America."

"Finally made it, guys, big show," Simpson said during the livestream. "They were all out of seats, I couldn't get a ticket. So I thought I'd come down here and play some country music, since we're celebrating it this evening in Nashville, Tennessee."

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He's Appeared in Several Films

Sturgill Simpson attends the "Queen & Slim" Premiere at AFI FEST 2019 presented by Audi at the TCL Chinese Theatre on November 14, 2019 in Hollywood, California.

Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI

In addition to his music career, Simpson is a talented actor who's appeared in films such as Queen & Slim and The Dead Don't Die.

"Sturgill is a creative shifter," Queen & Slim director Melina Matsoukas told Rolling Stone. "I honestly was not familiar with his music when I was introduced to him. It was days after the birth of one of his children and he walks straight off a plane into our audition. Off of no sleep he channels all his frustration, exhaustion, excitement into one of the most powerful performances I had ever seen from anyone. And then I believe he was headed to a rehearsal or performance for a show at the Hollywood Bowl later that day. It was surreal to witness this elegant transformation from father to actor to musician. Although it probably wasn't transformation at all. These are just elements of his being."

He'll appear in Martin Scorsese's forthcoming film Killers of the Flower Moon.

He Dedicated an Album to His Son

On Simpson's album A Sailor's Guide to Earth, he addresses his then 2-year-old son through songs such as "Keep It Between the Lines" and "Brace for Impact (Live a Little)." He also sings to his wife Sarah Simpson on "Oh Sarah."

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In 2016, Simpson told Rolling Stone that it was Sarah who encouraged him to pursue music.

"She came to Utah, where she saw I was drowning in a sea of dark nihilism," Simpson said. "My grim attitude said that we're all just floating around on this f*cking mud ball, and someday you die, and it's like you were never here. So who cares? 'You care,' she said. She bought me a four-track and insisted, 'You care about music. Pursue your passion.'"

Simpson and his wife share three sons.

He Was a Close Friend of Merle Haggard

Simpson had a close bond with country legend Merle Haggard. The singer even blasted the Academy of Country Music after the organization launched the Merle Haggard Spirit Award.

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"If the ACM wants to actually celebrate the legacy and music of Merle Haggard, they should drop all the formulaic cannon fodder bull--- they've been pumping down rural America's throat for the last 30 years along with all the high school pageantry, meat parade award show bull--- and start dedicating their programs to more actual Country Music," he wrote.

Haggard, who penned "Hobo Cartoon" with Simpson, admired the young artist.

"I think he's about the only thing I've heard that was worth listening to in a long time, to be real honest," Haggard told Garden & Gun of Simpson's music.

He Served in the Navy

Simpson enlisted in the Navy before high school graduation. He was stationed in Japan with the US Navy's Seventh Fleet. He told Rolling Stone that "wanderlust" led him to join the Navy.

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"Aside from hearing the wrong kind of music too young, I also read the wrong books - like the novels of Jack Kerouac, who was a merchant marine," Simpson said. "The result was an over-romanticized view of the world. I wanted to sail the Seven Seas."

He Rides Horses

Before filming Martin Scorsese's new western Killers of the Flower Moon, Simpson began riding horses again. The experience on set actually inspired the singer-songwriter to write his album The Ballad of Dood & Juanita.

"So when we were filming I was definitely in the mind of this lone cowboy, and when I was off-set I was hanging out with these wranglers and ranchers in Oklahoma," Simpson said.

He's a Kentucky Colonel

Simpson is a proud Kentuckian (he was born in Jackson, Ky. and grew up in Versailles, outside Lexington) and in 2018 he was honored by his homestate. Simpson was named a Kentucky Colonel, an honor bestowed by the state's governor.

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READ MORE: Country Music's Rebellious Outlaws Back When They First Challenged Nashville

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