Nominations for the 58th annual Grammy awards were released Monday morning, and consisted of the usual mix of shoe-ins, surprises, and shuns. One pleasantly shocking moment of the Grammy nominations announcement was the inclusion of country singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton and his record Traveller in the Album Of The Year category. Stapleton goes up against Alabama Shakes with Sound & Color, Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, Taylor Swift and 1989, and Beauty Behind The Madness by the Weeknd for the award. Stapleton arguably has the least mainstream name recognition of any of the competitors in this, one of the most prestigious and high-profile categories of the bunch. But the nod itself should do a lot to change that. Stapleton's soulful music forced the Recording Academy to stand up and take notice, and it's time that audiences beyond the country music world pay attention too.
His inclusion in the Album Of The Year category proves that Stapleton's work stood out from the pack this year, but the musician also pulled a number of nods within his chosen genre. Traveller is also nominated for Best Country Album alongside records by Sam Hunt, Little Big Town, Ashley Monroe, and Kacey Musgraves; and the title track from the album will vie for Best Country Solo performance and Best Country Song. Here are four things you need to know right now about four-time Grammy nominee Chris Stapleton.
1. He Blew The Audience Away At The CMAs With The Help Of A Special Guest
In a performance that quickly went viral, Stapleton teamed up with fellow Tennessee boy Justin Timberlake at this year's Country Music Association Awards. The two dueted on Timberlake's "Drink You Away" (his most country track) and Stapleton's "Tennessee Whiskey." Beyond the actual sonic magic that's happening on stage, the best part of this clip is the reaction from the other artists in the audience, who clearly recognize that they're witnessing something special. (Keith Urban records it on his own phone!)
2. He's A Blockbuster Songwriter
As a songwriter, Stapleton has penned hits for artists like Tim McGraw, Allison Krauss, Luke Bryan, and even Adele, among many others. It's a story similar to Taylor Swift's, though Stapleton's solo breakout came later in his life.
3. His First Bid To Be A Solo Artist Failed
In 2013, the single "What Are You Listening To" was meant to herald a Stapleton solo album. The song was critically praised but unfortunately didn't find an audience. Plans for the record were scrapped, though the success of Traveller supports the thesis that even failure happens for a reason.
4. Traveller Was Inspired By The Death Of His Father
Traveller is a musical travel log inspired by a journey that Stapleton took after the death of his father. "After my dad passed away, I took a trip to the desert, really rebooting and trying to figure out what I was supposed to do," Stapleton told Radio.com. It's safe to say that he figured it out, creating a piece of work that's destroying genre barriers and piling up honors.
Will Chris Stapleton take home any awards on Grammy night? The nods alone are another huge boost to the country musician's solo career.