Ah, Chris Stapleton. He's one of those artists that feels like they random fell out of the sky one day and, at some point, became one of our favorite people almost overnight... which is partly true.
Stapleton had been in Nashville for several years before he hit it big, making his way around town as one of the many in-demand songwriters and amassing writing credits on over 170 songs. In total, he's co-written half a dozen No. 1s, including Kenny Chesney's five-week chart-topper 'Never Wanted Nothing More,' Josh Turner's 'Your Man,' George Strait's 'Love's Gonna Make It Alright' and Luke Bryan's 'Drink a Beer.'
After stints as a frontman for a couple of bands, he took a stab at a solo career and released his debut album, Traveller, in May of 2015. By November, he swept all three of his categories at the 49th Annual CMA Awards–winning Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year and New Artist of the Year–and, alongside pop star Justin Timberlake, performed a show-stopping medley of Timberlake's 'Drink You Away' and his own version of 'Tennessee Whiskey.'
Within two days, Stapleton's drinking anthem topped the Hot Country Songs chart and landed at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100. Following the fateful performance, Traveller also soared to No. 1 on both the Country Albums chart and the all-genre Billboard 200 chart. And it only grew from there.
Come December, he received the 2015 CMT Artists of the Year Breakout Award, and in early 2016, Traveller earned a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, as Stapleton emerged victorious in the Best Country Album and Best Country Solo Performance categories.
His debut effort, which has been certified 4x Platinum, eventually won the ACM Award for Album of the Year and was named the top selling country album of 2016.
Stapleton followed it up with a pair of successful albums – From A Room: Volume 1 in May of 2017 and Volume 2 in December of that same year. The former earned him a second Album of the Year trophy at the CMA Awards, as well as the Grammy for Best Country Album.
Three years later, 2020 brought the release of Starting Over, which debuted atop Billboard’s Country Album chart and nabbed him two more No. 1 singles – 'Starting Over' and 'You Should Probably Leave'. He also took home his second Grammy for Best Country Album.
Since 2015, he has been recognized with a plethora of honors and accolades, notching eight Grammys, 10 ACM Awards, 20 CMA Awards, five Billboard Music Awards and two iHeartRadio Music Awards, among others. In 2019, Stapleton was named the the inaugural ACM Artist-Songwriter of the Decade.
Consistently throughout his career, Stapleton has also stepped outside of the country format to collaborate with artists from across the musical landscape, including Timberlake, John Mayer, Rage Against the Machine, Adele, Taylor Swift, Stevie Wonder, P!nk, Kelly Clarkson, H.E.R. and more, making him the ultimate country music chameleon.
He's also achieved all of this while touring the globe on his All American Road Show, which has tallied nearly 200 stops since launching in May of 2017.
It begs the question, though, where did this guy come from?
To help bring a little clarity, background and context to country music's bearded wonder, we've compiled answers to some of the most widely asked questions about Chris Stapleton.
Christopher Alvin Stapleton was born on April 15, 1978. That puts our decorated entertainer at the ripe age of 45.
Stapleton was born in Lexington, Kentucky. He was raised in Staffordsville, which is located in the rural and mountainous Johnson County, in the eastern part of the state. Coming from a family of coal miners, he graduated from Johnson Central High School where he played football and was class Valedictorian.
Stapleton first moved to Nashville in 1996 and became a student at Vanderbilt University. Studying biomedical engineering, he soon found that he didn't have a passion for his studies and returned to Kentucky after his first year. Eventually dropping out of college altogether, he sold cars, drove an ice truck and worked at a pizzeria while also writing songs and playing in bars.
Come 2001, after collaborating with Nashville songwriter Steve Leslie, Stapleton gave Music City another try, but this time it was to pursue a career in music. With support from Leslie and Sea Gayle Music publishing executive Liz O’Sullivan, our future superstar signed with the publishing company and became a full-time songwriter. At the time, he had no aspirations to become a performing artist and, as we mentioned, the songwriting thing was kinda working out for him.
In 2006, Stapleton tried his hand as the frontman of two different bands, and was becoming a sought after background vocalist for Nashville recording sessions, including for Luke Bryan, Jake Owen and Thomas Rhett. By 2013, he had signed to Mercury Nashville as a solo artist.
Though his first single, 'What Are You Listening To?,' didn't get much traction upon release and the album it was meant to be on got scrapped, we think he's doing pretty well for himself nowadays.
Though it seems like a lot of our favorite artists nowadays were featured on one of the modern singing competitions, Chris Stapleton was never a contestant on shows like The Voice or American Idol. He did perform on The Voice back in 2017, though, bringing his acoustic guitar and his tender ballad, 'Either Way,' to the season 12 finale.
Just because he's never competed, it hasn't stopped contestants from using his songs along the way. In fact, the same year of his performance, Stapleton's songs were a popular choice for the contestants, with Casi Joy performing 'Parachute' and Jesse Larson singing 'Tennessee Whiskey.'
Most recently, Stapleton's influence was found in fall of 2022, when Morgan Myles performed Stapleton’s rendition of 'Tennessee Whiskey' in the Top 10. In this format, The Voice fans selected songs for each artist to perform.
Around 2006, Chris Stapleton joined the 3x Grammy-nominated bluegrass band The SteelDrivers as lead singer and guitarist. He ultimately left the group in 2010, but during his tenure, he contributed to a live album and two studio albums that both peaked at No. 2 on the bluegrass charts.
After leaving The SteelDrivers in 2010, Stapleton founded the blues-influenced southern rock band, the Jompson Brothers. Comprised of Stapleton on vocals, Greg McKee on guitar, J.T. Cure on bass and Bard McNamee on drums, they only ever released one album, but they toured regionally until 2013.
Chris Stapleton's style of music technically lives somewhere at the intersection of country, bluegrass, southern rock and Americana, but we've yet to find anything from our bearded genre-bender that we don't love.
Growing up, his parents listened to Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, as well as blues, soul and R&B music. That, combined with the rap songs of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg that he listened to in high school, all came together to influence the budding musician and its shown throughout his musical catalog.
Chris Stapleton is married to the lovely Morgane Stapleton, who is a singer-songwriter in her own right, with a co-writing credit on Carrie Underwood's 2006 hit 'Don't Forget to Remember Me'.
Having had a recording deal with Arista Nashville, Morgane met Chris in 2003, while the pair were working as songwriters in nearby publishing houses. They decided one night to write a song together and now claim that it was their first date. The pair of love birds tied the knot on October 27, 2007.
On Chris' tour dates, you will often find Morgane on stage with him, singing background, harmony and duet vocals in his band.
In total, Chris and Morgane Stapleton are the parents of five children.
In October of 2017, following the birth of their first two kids, the Stapleton's announced they were expecting twins. Just over a year later, at his concert at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 2, 2018, Stapleton announced that he and his wife were expecting their fifth child, whom they welcomed on May 12, 2019.
The Stapleton's generally keep their family out of the public eye, but every once in a while, you can catch a glimpse of their children on Instagram.
On February 12, 2023, at Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona, Stapleton was given the coveted honor of singing the National Anthem to kick off the annual American sporting event. Though some speculated that the country crooner would draw out the song, Chris Stapleton's rendition of the National Anthem only clocks in at about 2 minutes and 13 seconds.
His performance garnered widespread critical acclaim and has since been considered one of the best renditions of the 'Star Spangled Banner' in recent memory. In fact, Stapleton did so well that he released the live recording of his performance on streaming services before the July 4th holiday earlier this year.
Chris Stapleton has been criss-crossing the globe on his All-American Roadshow since May of 2017, and it's still going strong in 2023.
Kicking off at Luke Bryan's Crash My Playa festival in Cancun, Mexico on Jan. 19, Stapleton will be traipsing the country through the end of October with Allen Stone, Charley Crockett, Marcus King, Margo Price, Marty Stuart, Nikki Lane and The War and Treaty joining him along the way.
Stapleton generally takes the stage around 9pm each night and plays for a full two hours, showcasing his extensive songbook of hits, including 'Nobody to Blame', 'Parachute', 'Starting Over', 'Arkansas', 'You Should Probably Leave', 'Midnight Train to Memphis', 'Cold', 'Fire Away', 'Broken Halos' and 'Tennessee Whiskey', among others.
For more on Chris Stapleton, see below:
Featured photo by Sarah Cahill.