Thirteen men have won back-to-back CMA awards for Male Vocalist of the Year. Chris Stapleton is now one of them, joining a club that includes singers like Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, George Strait and Charley Pride.
Still, for Stapleton, the best part of the show wasn't winning a trophy but getting to watch – and interact with – some of the musicians that shaped his world. That includes his new songwriting partner, Dwight Yoakam, with whom he and his wife Morgane sang "Seven Spanish Angels" in honor of Willie Nelson and Ray Charles.
"I looked at Dwight before walking onstage tonight, and he and I have gotten to know each other a little bit," Stapleton told reporters after the show. "We wrote a song a couple weeks ago and really hit it off. But I looked at him when we were walking onstage tonight, and I try my best not to be a fan and freak people out, but I looked at Dwight and I said, 'Man, I just want you to know you're a hero, and I really appreciate you doing this.' It got me, to get to do that.
"And it gets me, when we were sitting onstage with James Taylor [at last month's All for the Hall concert] and I'm looking down the row at the guys playing songs, and there's James Taylor, playing 'You've Got a Friend.' It's an alternate reality. My buddy J.T. Cure, the bass player in the band, we step off the bus sometimes, and we're looking around at what we're doing, and we just start laughing."
Stapleton felt something similar when he met Beyoncé the day before the show. "I did meet Ms. Beyoncé yesterday, briefly, and she was very kind," he said. "Everybody was running around, getting ready for the rehearsals and all that kind of thing. We didn't have a very long conversation – we talked about what food is good in town. She's everything you want her to be. She is a classy, classy lady, and I'm proud that she could take the time to come and show up."