Don’t count on Sturgill Simpson to do anything by the book.
Ten months after the independent release of Metamodern Sounds in Country Music — an album that was recorded in less than a week, with a budget of $4,000 and an Estonian lead guitarist who’d grown up playing blues and rock & roll instead of country — the singer has signed a major-label deal with Atlantic Records. The news arrives on the tail end of a busy year that also included a surprise Grammy nomination, multiple late-night TV appearances and a win at the 2014 Americana Music Awards. Not to mention acclaim from virtually all corners of the music-loving public, from cowboy-hatted country fanatics who herald Simpson as the next Waylon Jennings to psychedelic hippies who are familiar with the “reptile aliens made of light” mentioned in Metamodern‘s lead-off track, “Turtles All the Way Down.”
While Simpson’s publicist confirmed the signing to Rolling Stone Country today, country-music blog Saving Country Music began putting the pieces together last night by pointing out a list of Atlantic artists on the label’s website, Simpson among them, slated to play Coachella. Then Simpson’s Facebook page made it official by uploading an image of an old-school 45 record with the artist’s name printed beneath the Atlantic logo. The image also included a list of icons who’ve recorded for the label, including the Rolling Stones, Ray Charles (another artist who explored modern sounds in country music) and fellow country rule-breaker Willie Nelson.
Simpson will spend much of 2015 on the road, playing a handful of festivals — including Coachella, Stagecoach and Bonnaroo — and, in the final show currently listed on his website, opening up for the Avett Brothers at Red Rocks Amphitheater this summer. In the meantime, he’s already begun working on a new record with Dave Cobb, who produced Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and 2013’s High Top Mountain.
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“Sturgill is in his prime and we’re going to capitalize on that,” Cobb told Rolling Stone Country last summer. “We’re already doing something totally different, and it will probably make a lot of people mad. It’s already crazy. We’ve already plotted it and started it.”