In advance of the February/March 2024 edition of C&I, we look at the live performances that have helped cement Chris Stapleton’s legacy.
When applied to popular music, “iconic” suggests a sound that’s exceptional and distinctive. An iconic voice is instantly recognizable and appeals to the widest possible swath of listeners. It transcends genres, styles, and Billboard chart boundaries. It captivates the collective imagination.
There are but a few voices to reach iconic status in recent years, but Chris Stapleton’s is undoubtedly one of them. In the last eight years, his star has hit the stratosphere purely on the strength of his displays of talent … on awards shows, on talk shows, at live concerts, in collaboration with giddy fellow artists, and in stadiums for the biggest audiences in the world.
We could think of no better contemporary musical force to reckon with in the upcoming February/March 2024 edition of C&I, which is all about the icons and legends of the American West. As we look forward to that special issue hitting newsstands in the coming weeks, we retrace the steps of Chris Stapleton’s iconic journey since becoming a headlining artist. Read on and enjoy the sounds of a legend in the making.
SEPTEMBER 2015: NPR’S TINY DESK PERFORMANCE
After years of turning in beautifully written hits for other artists, Chris Stapleton joined his performing partner and wife, Morgane, to make his own tracks as a country artist. Coinciding with the release of the debut album, Traveller, the Stapletons took to NPR’s Tiny Desk set and caught the ears of a national audience.
DECEMBER 2015: CMA COLLABORATION WITH JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE
This is, by all accounts, considered to be Stapleton’s first huge breakout moment. He joined Timberlake for his now essential adaptation of “Tennessee Whiskey” before segueing into “Drink You Away.” The next day, Stapleton’s voice was all anyone could talk about, actual awards be damned.
JANUARY 2016: SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
It wasn’t long after the CMAs before Stapleton took his show to NYC for his SNL debut. It’s a rite of passage for any breakout crossover performer.
MAY 2017: HOWARD STERN INTERVIEW AND PERFORMANCE
Another rite of passage in entertainment, the long visit and mini-concert in Howard Stern’s satellite radio studio. Stern was particularly taken with “Broken Halos,” and it was a rare treat to hear such an intimate version of it.
FEBRUARY 2018: AUSTIN CITY LIMITS
Stapleton’s sound – a heady stew of country, soul, rock, and blues – seemed custom-made for ACL’s historic starry stage. And he wasn’t afraid to vamp a little at the end of “I Was Wrong.”
NOVEMBER 2018: CMA COLLABORATIVE PERFORMANCE
“Friendship” never sounded better than it did when the Stapletons teamed with Maren Morris and Mavis Staples. The country music awards stage got the biggest soul injection imaginable.
APRIL 2019: ACM PERFORMANCE
Chris and Morgane can certainly blow the roof off any venue, but it’s also nice to see them stripped-down and reflective, the way they were on “A Simple Song.”
NOVEMBER 2020: JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE
The pandemic was raging, we were all stuck at home and facing a potentially lonely and scary holiday season. We needed the kind of hope, love, and optimism found in “Starting Over,” which Chris and band beamed into Kimmel’s show to perform live. Still one of Stapleton’s greatest lyrics.
NOVEMBER 2021: CMA PERFORMANCE
He’s never disappointed on the CMA stage, but he managed to amaze even the converted with his performance of “Cold” in 2021. Underscored by moody strings, his vocal masterclass gave those listening actual chills.
FEBRUARY 2023: SUPER BOWL LVII
Stapleton on the National Anthem? Naturally. Can’t go wrong there. Notice how into it the players are.
And that’s how you become a music icon, folks. We’ll leave you with a bonus from Higher, the new Chris Stapleton album we recently reviewed. Here’s “White Horse” as performed at this year’s CMA ceremony. Headbanging is allowed.
Learn more at chrisstapleton.com.