With Adele’s highly anticipated 25 hitting stores (but not streaming services) today, the English-born vocal powerhouse is the hottest recording artist on the planet. Yet, still basking in the glow of his three CMA awards, country’s Chris Stapleton is sharing space with the “Hello” singer on Billboard’s Artist 100 list this week, where she’s Number Two (behind Justin Bieber). Stapleton is Number Four.
This isn’t the first time Adele and Stapleton have crossed creative paths. When the singer toured the U.S. in support of her 2008 debut LP 19, her smoking habit (which she has since given up) kept her at the front of her bus by an open window. According to musician Mike Henderson in an interview with the Nashville Scene, the driver asked her if she liked bluegrass music and played her the SteelDrivers’ self-titled debut album from 2008. That’s where she first heard “If It Hadn’t Been for Love,” which Henderson co-wrote with Stapleton while both were still members of that group (listen to the SteelDrivers’ version below). Stapleton left the band in 2010, and Henderson the following year, around the same time Adele released the tune as a bonus track on the U.K. version of her second full-length album 21.
After her initial exposure to country music, Adele had both the bus driver and her tour manager making compilations loaded with country songs. In December 2010, she joined Darius Rucker onstage for CMTs Artists of the Year special, where the pair performed Lady Antebellum’s mega-hit “Need You Now.” The track was offered on the Target-exclusive version of 21, which was released in February 2011 and has since gone on to sell more than 30 million copies worldwide. “Need You Now” was also the inspiration behind the 21 track “Don’t You Remember,” the last song Adele penned for the project. While recording in Malibu, the Lady A hit was an unavoidable fixture at country and pop radio stations and the feeling she got from that tune, she said in a CMT interview, gave her the courage to pen “Don’t You Remember.”
With cover songs the most public form of flattery in the music business, it’s no surprise that Adele’s own songs have been inspiring country covers. Cam’s chillingly perfect acoustic take on “Hello” was executed within a week of the original song’s release, and in 2012, David Nail took on 21‘s “Someone Like You” for an EP release. Still, it’s Stapleton’s connection with Adele that is most relevant today, as both artists transcend their respective genres with albums — his Traveller, her 25 — that possess mass appeal.