Chris Stapleton Higher Album (Unofficial)
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'South Dakota' by Chris Stapleton - Lyrics and Meaning

November 30, 2023 6:30 pm GMT
Last Edited December 18, 2023 8:32 pm GMT

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Chris Stapleton - ‘South Dakota'

Label: Mercury Nashville

Release Date: November 10th 2023

Album: Higher

Producers: Dave Cobb, Morgane Stapleton & Chris Stapleton

Songwriters: Chris Stapleton, J.T. Cure, Derek Mixon & Dave Cobb

The Background:

In the better part of a decade, Chris Stapleton has established himself as the ultimate chameleon.

Effortlessly weaving in and out of genres and blurring the lines between country, rock, blues, soul and a plethora of other sounds and styles, our favorite Kentucky crooner has paved his own musical pathway, and notched plenty of milestones along the way.

This same genre agnostic sentiment is alive and well throughout Stapleton's highly anticipated 2023 record, Higher, which arrived on November 10 with 14 glistening tracks showing him at his very best and with his signature musicianship front and center.

Doused in a nasty cocktail of regret, desolation and paranoia, the second track on the celebrated album, entitled 'South Dakota', finds our bearded wonder sitting pretty between a bluesy guitar riff and a muddy, grungy jam session.

The Sound:

As with the rest of Higher, 'South Dakota' was helmed by the trio of Stapleton, his wife Morgane and his longtime producer Dave Cobb.

The track opens with a blues-driven guitar that stays with us for much of the song. Accompanying it are an equally groovy bass line and drum beat that remain relatively consistent throughout the song's more than four-and-a-half minute runtime.

Penned with J.T. Cure, Derek Mixon and Cobb, Stapleton's laidback southern drawl keeps everything paced throughout the verses, but as we arrive at the chorus', we get small, intensified bursts of energy that explode and recede in a matter of seconds, but keep us coming back for more.

During those short and sweet high octane moments, Stapleton's signature snarl come through but with great restraint as he holds back his full show-stopping power that we know so well.

Taking on the form of a true slow rocker, around the two minute mark, Stapleton and his band take off into a lengthy and altogether bluesy jam session with his whiney electric guitar taking center stage.

At times reminiscent 'Arkansas', a Stapleton cut from 2020's Starting Over, both songs serve as swampy, 70s-drenched rockers that blend seamlessly with Stapleton's bluesy sensibilities.

However, where 'Arkansas' is more lively like a lit stick of dynamite, 'South Dakota' provides a simmering jam that rolls along for just under five minutes.

The Meaning:

Lord this morning when I woke up
I wanted that whiskey in my coffee cup
Had last night ringing in my head
Telling me I oughta go back to bed

Higher as a whole seems to focus on three core pillars throughout its tracks, namely lust, love and heartbreak. From the first few lines of 'South Dakota', you can quickly tell that it falls under the heartbreak category.

Opening up feeling (and sounding) like a hangover from hell, we meet our narrator the morning after what seems like quite the ordeal.

Reeling from some series of events that are making his wish he had a bit of whiskey to help him wash down his cup of joe, we start to see that he's actively trying to avoid confronting whatever happened the night before.

I’m in South Dakota
I keep on staying behind
I’m in South Dakota
Trouble ain’t hard to find

A simple chorus, Stapleton sings that he's in South Dakota and "keep[s] staying behind". While we don't know exactly what this line entails, it could be interpreted as him staying longer in a city that he's meant to have already left.

As everything sonically intensifies around him, Stapleton notes that trouble isn't a hard thing to get into in South Dakota, bringing us to question just what kind of trouble he's finding himself in.

I thought I might go take a ride
Changed my mind when I looked outside
I can’t stay but I can’t leave
Or get myself away from me

Snapping back to the second verse, it feels like we're on board the narrator's train of thought.

Feeling like he's stuck at a fork in the road, Stapleton sings that he can't decide whether to stay or leave, and he surely can't get out of his head long enough to figure out the best choice.

Nights are long as the day is cold
Staying alive is getting old
Nothing is everything I got left
Staring down the devil but I’m scared to death

After sailing through the chorus once more, we arrive at the third verse, which doesn't really provide any more clarity on the trouble being had than the first two verses did.

One thing is evident, our narrator is drowning in paranoia, fear and hopelessness.

Making mention of how "staying alive is getting old" and that "nothing is everything I got left", you can hear the desolation in Stapleton's delivery as we coast to the chorus another two times before calling it a day.

I’m in South Dakota
I keep on staying behind
I’m in South Dakota
Trouble ain’t hard to find

What has Chris Stapleton said about ‘South Dakota’?

Clocking in at just 104 words, if you only count the chorus once, 'South Dakota' is remarkably simple structurally. As we learned, though, a lack of words doesn't necessarily mean that the meaning is lost.

This strategy of not utilizing a large swath of vernacular is a common thread throughout much of Stapleton's discography, and as he explained to Apple Music's Kelleigh Bannen, that's something that he often gravitates to.

"I'm a fan of less words mean more. I'm also a fan of not being too tricky," he noted. "My personal taste for songs and music is something hopefully a little more timeless in a way that it doesn't come from an era or a genre. It doesn't come from anything except something emotional.

"That connectivity is what I'm looking for in songwriting, something that can hopefully go out into the world and have meaning to somebody else. That's the most important part of songwriting."

For the full lyrics to Chris Stapleton's ‘South Dakota', see below:

Lord this morning when I woke up
I wanted that whiskey in my coffee cup
Had last night ringing in my head
Telling me I oughta go back to bed

I’m in South Dakota
I keep on staying behind
I’m in South Dakota
Trouble ain’t hard to find

I thought I might go take a ride
Changed my mind when I looked outside
I can’t stay but I can’t leave
Or get myself away from me

I’m in South Dakota
I keep on staying behind
I’m in South Dakota
Trouble ain’t hard to find

Nights are long as the day is cold
Staying alive is getting old
Nothing is everything I got left
Staring down the devil but I’m scared to death

I’m in South Dakota
I keep on staying behind
I’m in South Dakota
Trouble ain’t hard to find

I’m in South Dakota
Keep on staying behind
I’m in South Dakota
Trouble ain’t hard to find

--

For more on Chris Stapleton, see below:

Written by Lydia Farthing
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