UPDATE: Jason Isbell has responded to Sturgill Simpson's incendiary comments on Facebook, in which he criticized the Nashville country-music industry and the two major country-music organizations and referenced Isbell's success without industry support. "They are well aware that don't need them," Simpson wrote. "Our last albums went to #1 without any help from the Mainstream Country Music establishment...and our next albums will too."
Alerted to his name being included in the controversy by a Twitter follower, Isbell tweeted, "I don't know what [Simpson] said but I agree 100%." Then, after apparently reading Simpson's Facebook posts, the Something More Than Free artist seconded Simpson's statements, tweeting, "Ok now I know what Sturgill said and I still agree."
Sturgill Simpson is clarifying and expanding on controversial comments he made Monday morning about the country-music establishment and Merle Haggard. In an update to his first Facebook post, Simpson makes clear that while he takes offense at the creation of the ACM's Merle Haggard Spirit Award, he has no issue with its recipient: Miranda Lambert. He even believes Lambert would second his original sentiments.
"Shortly after I initially posted this it was announced that Miranda Lambert would be the award recipient," Simpson wrote. (As with most Facebook and social-media posts, Simpson was not concerned with punctuation and we have left his original thoughts intact.) "Before people start chasing clickbait by putting words in my mouth I feel the need to clarify that I was not aware of this at the time of my original post and my words were in no way directed at her. I know that Merle liked and respected her so it's good to see there is at least some blue sky in all of this. I don't know Miranda nor have I ever met her but something tells me that in her heart, she knows I'm dead on."
In light of the buzz generated by Simpson's first post, he writes that he is sure to be unwelcome at any mainstream country-music events. Not that he's worried: Simpson points out that he and Jason Isbell have succeeded on the charts without either the support of the Academy of Country Music or the Country Music Association.
"I fully realize that as I type this, meetings and conversations are taking place on Music Row to ensure I am blackballed from the industry and that's perfectly fine with me. Im not sure how you can blackball somebody you don't acknowledge in the first place anyway," he says. "Yet, even though they mostly go out of their way to ignore artists like myself and Jason Isbell, I assure you they are more than aware of our existence. They are also well aware that we don't need them. Our last albums went to #1 without any help from the Mainstream Country Music establishment...and our next albums will too."
Simpson's name has landed on the ballot for the first round of CMA Award voting, but he says that even if he's nominated at the 50th annual awards, he'll be a no-show at the big night, set for Wednesday, November 2nd, in Nashville.
"I will not be attending the ceremony for no other reason than the fact I already have a sold out show scheduled in Des Moines, Iowa on the night of the awards ceremony and I have no plans to change that," he writes.
But Simpson, whose latest album A Sailor's Guide to Earth debuted at Number One on the Billboard Country Albums chart in April, says that for all the vitriol, he's actually trying to help the country-music gatekeepers reconnect with the genre's roots.
"I have no more need to make enemies with these people than I have a need to be their friends," he says. "More and more everyday, people are waking up to the situation and they are pissed. Perhaps Country Music, especially Nashville, should wake up too before it's too late."
Sturgill Simpson has called out the Music Row establishment over what he believes is the exploitation of Merle Haggard.