Over the weekend, Chris Stapleton fearlessly tackled a classic Prince tune at one of his solo headlining shows. Days earlier, he was offering a tribute to another recently departed giant when he performed Merle Haggard's "Today I Started Loving You Again."
"Probably the greatest singer and songwriter that ever lived — we're gonna try to play a song for the Hag tonight," Stapleton tells the crowd at his April 14th show in Mesa, Arizona, before strumming the opening notes on his guitar. Though it foregrounds his electric guitar, Stapleton's interpretation of "Today I Started Loving You Again" is still relatively sparse — instrumentally, anyway — like Haggard's 1969 recording, his voice augmented by the harmonies of his wife Morgane.
It's not the first time in recent days that Stapleton has saluted Haggard in concert. "We've been throwing a few Haggard songs in, since Haggard passed away," Stapleton tells Rolling Stone Country.
"We went into Oklahoma, unannounced, Jamey Johnson was filling in for Merle on the dates with Willie that were booked," he adds. "Jamey asked us to, and we did a whole set of Haggard tunes with Jamey. We felt that was something we owed Merle for the music. We hopped up onstage with Jamey and his band and stayed up there signing harmony and backing up each other." They closed the show with a full ensemble performance of "I'll Fly Away." Watch it below.
Stapleton will resume his tour on April 26th, with a sold out show at the Santa Barbara Bowl in California.