"We've always talked about finding a reason to do something together," Chris Stapleton tells Rolling Stone Country of buddy Justin Timberlake. And what better reason than the CMA Awards?
Actually, the country and pop/R&B sensations started plotting their CMA duet before Stapleton was even nominated. Once the "Traveller" singer heard he was predicted to be honored in a category or two, the creative wheels started turning on a possible performance slot.
"[Timberlake] is obviously one of the greatest musical talents in the world, maybe ever, that we have," Stapleton says.. "I called him up with no thought of him agreeing to it, and he was ready to start planning it right then. I said, 'Well, I think maybe we should wait, and if we get nominated they'll let me have [a slot].' He was so gracious and kind to want to do it and was so excited about it, and I'm excited about it. It'll be something I've never done before for sure."
The guys' song choice is still under wraps, but with as much as Timberlake has been hinting about cutting a country record, it will likely be something with country flavor.
"That's part of the reason he was keen to do it, aside from the fact that [he and Chris] are friends," says Morgane Stapleton, who performs in her husband's band. "He did the thing with Reba ["The Only Promise That Remains"], he hasn't branched out into country too much and he has a love and appreciation for country."
Stapleton and Timberlake join a list of crossover duets on Wednesday's broadcast that also include John Mellencamp with Keith Urban and Fall Out Boy with Thomas Rhett. Of course, stars from the rock and pop worlds are nothing new for the CMAs, but country traditionalist Stapleton is ready for the inevitable backlash — armed with a good sense of humor.
"Some people might want to burn me at the stake for it, or burn him at the stake for it," he says with a laugh. "Who knows? But we're going to have a good time."
"It just stems from a love of great music, a love of people who are passionate about what they do," adds Morgane. "That's what I call music I like: good music. It's good or it's not, that's the category."
Stapleton is up for Male Vocalist of the Year, New Artist of the Year and Album of the Year, for his stellar solo debut, Traveller. The CMA Awards air live from Nashville this Wednesday, November 4th at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.