Chris Stapleton and his wife Morgane are the talk of the country music world.
Chris Stapleton is inescapable. His songs flood the radio, his earnest smile appears behind his trademark beard as he accepts yet another award, videos go viral online of him harmonizing with his wife Morgane — yes, she is talented and in the biz, too — on an old episode of The Late Show with David Letterman.
Longtime country music fans alienated by the recent ascent of “bro country” have heralded the return of Stapleton’s soul-country sound and rugged look. Born in Kentucky, Stapleton has been paying his dues as a successful songwriter in Nashville since 2001, writing hits for Kenny Chesney (“Never Wanted Nothing More”), Josh Turner (“Your Man”), George Strait (“Love’s Gonna Make It Alright”), and Thomas Rhett (“Crash and Burn”). Big names in other genres even turn to Stapleton for his poetic way with words, like Adele (“If It Hadn’t Been for Love”).
Stapleton is music’s triple threat: he is a powerhouse at writing, singing (he has some serious pipes), and playing guitar.
In addition to his songwriting, Stapleton had played with a few bands (bluegrass group The SteelDrivers, and Southern rock band The Jompson Brothers), but it was his debut solo album Traveller, released in 2015 by Mercury Nashville Records, that took the industry by storm. The album was inspired by a road trip he took after his father died in 2013 — you don’t get more country than that (forget hot girls in bikinis, big trucks and Fireball anthems). At the 2015 CMA Awards, he blew away the audience, performing his song “Tennessee Whiskey” with Justin Timberlake, and accepted three awards that night: Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, and New Artist of the Year. Traveller went double platinum.
But you really know you’ve made it as a country music artist when you’re invited to play the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (after all, the entertainment & concert production team for HLSR only book acts with enough commercial appeal and experience to fill a 72,000-seat capacity stadium). Stapleton’s draw proved to be immediately impressive — the show quickly went to standing-room-only once ticket sales went live.
And what better way for Stapleton to kick off his 2017 All-American Road Show Tour than with his first-ever appearance at the Houston Rodeo?
Stapleton opened with a cover of Larry Gatlin’s “Houston (Means I’m One Day Closer to You),” bridged into “Nobody to Blame,” which seemingly had all 72,803 fans (Thursday night’s attendance) belting along. Ever-humble, Stapleton marveled to the audience “Unbelievable — I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. Thank y’all for being here tonight. I’ll shut up and play some music.”
The evening had undoubtedly more jam sessions than typically seen in Rodeo shows (which are typically abbreviated sets wherein acts play their top hits), and a whole lot more soul, too. The way Stapleton harmonizes with and sings to his wife on stage is enough to make even the steeliest cowboys want to settle down.
Stapleton then revealed he would be playing a new song, for the first time ever, off of his new album (the details of which have been a closely-guarded secret, except for the release date of May 5). “Second One to Know” (presumed title) is a catchy, classic-Stapleton tune about a man who requests to be the “second one to know” when his lover decides to leave him. Judging by the crowd’s response — people were already singing along by the second verse — it’s sure to be the next huge hit in country radio.
Stapleton got sentimental for Texas with his song “Fire Away.” He revealed that the first time a crowd sang a song back to him happened in Houston, to that very song, at Warehouse Live (a quick fact-check online shows that Stapleton played there on July 2, 2015).
“We were playing a song and it almost knocked us down,” he recalled. After the HLSR rendition, he asked everyone to pull out their lighters or their cell phone flashlights and sing an acoustic verse of the song, which turned out to be one of the more poetic moments to play out recently in NRG Stadium.
Here is Chris Stapleton’s full Rodeo set list:
“Houston (Means I’m One Day Closer to You)” / “Nobody to Blame”
“Midnight Train to Memphis”
“Outlaw State of Mind”
“Second One To Know”
“Might as Well Get Stoned”
“I Was Wrong”
“You Are My Sunshine (with Morgane Stapleton on lead vocals)”
“Tuesday’s Gone” / “The Devil Named Music”
Don’t worry, there’s more Chris Stapleton to come. Ge recently received three nominations in the 52nd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards (Male Vocalist of the Year, Song of the Year for “Tennessee Whiskey”, and Video of the Year for “Fire Away”), which air on Sunday, April 2; his tour runs through August and includes 56 stops in the United States and Canada (although unfortunately this Rodeo stop in Houston was the only one in Texas); and his highly anticipated sophomore album (of which Houstonians got the first sneak peek) drops May 5.