Sturgill Simpson recently appeared on the Trillbilly Workers Party Podcast, a Kentucky-based leftist podcast that touches on art, culture, organizing, and politics. During a loose, wide-ranging 90-minute conversation, Simpson riffed at length on the corrupt machinations of the music industry (“there’s less fucking politics in politics”) and shared his thoughts on a host of topics, from Bernie Sanders and Kanye West to the music journalism industrial complex (Rolling Stone surely included) and his upcoming Good Look’n Tour supporting Sound & Fury.
Simpson opens up about his Kentucky upbringing, his opinion on J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy (or “Tuesdays With Meemaw,” as he called it), and his own political philosophy (“I don’t consider myself a socialist; I’m probably an anarchist”). Here are five things we learned from the freewheeling interview.
Simpson’s upcoming tour may be his last for a while.
Simpson is excited to spend much of 2020 on the road with Tyler Childers for his upcoming Good Look’n arena tour, but the songwriter indicated that he has no interest in maintaining a regular touring schedule in the future. “I don’t wanna put too fine a point on it, but I’m ready to go home and be a dad,” he said of his desire to one day step back from the road. “There will be a day when I will disappear like David Copperfield and none of you motherfuckers will ever hear from me again.”
Simpson thinks successful country radio stars may be trapped by their own success, unable to make more traditional music — or speak their minds.
“You don’t want to be the Nissan commercial song guy, and I haven’t been, but those are tough decisions when they offer you more money than my grandfather made in his life for 45 seconds of some jingle. You gotta wake up and look at yourself…How much do you need, man? I don’t need that,” Simpson said. “In the mainstream country world, there’s guys that for all intents and purposes have the talent and ability to make the most beautiful traditional country music you’ve ever heard, but they keep pumping out formulaic horseshit to sustain a lifestyle, or I don’t know, maybe it’s to pay the people they’re now responsible for with their giant careers, I don’t know,” he continued. “How much do you need? You know, how much do you need to where when 50 people get shot to death at a music festival and your string pullers tell you you’re not allowed to answer questions about gun control, that everybody’s too afraid to say shit. You’ve got 45 million fucking dollars in the bank. What are you scared of, man?”
He is skeptical of all politicians, including Bernie Sanders, but he does like the idea of socialized health-care.
Simpson discussed politics at length with the Trillbillies, who are all avowed Sanders supporters. The singer-songwriter was open to the idea of supporting Sanders for the presidency and praised his consistency and straightforwardness (“you know exactly what he’s feeling and thinking, and that, to me, is refreshing in a politician”)and also offered up a personal tale that sold him on socialized medicine. But ultimately Simpson, a self-described “cynic,” appeared distrustful of electoral politics at large. “Just tell me what’s the fucking point in a broken system to think any of this shit is going to make a difference?” he asked.
Simpson thinks Kanye West is seriously prepping for a future presidential run.
A huge fan of West’s music up to 2013’s Yeezus (“probably the most punk rock record of the last 30 years”), Simpson says West’s recent turn to religious music and Make America Great Again talking points is pure politics. “I think he’s really running for president,” said the singer. “He knows he’s gonna get all the Coachella vote, so he’s like, ‘How can I get the right wing vote? I’lll start a church and go around with a MAGA hat and build a constituency.’ I don’t think anything that man does is an accident.”
During the Metamodern Sounds in Country Music era, Simpson furthered his own artificial public image once he realized he had no control over it.
After it became clear that Simpson was going to be branded as an artist who stood in opposition to mainstream country music during the height of his Metamodern myth-making, he simply played along. “If they’re gonna make me be that guy, then I’m just gonna fucking be that guy,” he said of the type of mainstream-bashing rebel character Simpson found himself painted as earlier in his career. “Because there’s money to be made there too. So I did, I just started taking pisses and shitting every time I opened my mouth, really out of self-amusement. But I got bored with that so fast.”
Simpson’s Good Look’n Tour with Tyler Childers begins February 21st in Birmingham, Alabama.