2017, in many ways, belonged to Chris Stapleton. The singer-songwriter won two CMA Awards, both for Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year, for From a Room: Volume 1, with its follow-up, Volume 2, topping the charts like its predecessor.
Stapleton is capping off his year, which also included an arena tour and news that he and his wife, Morgane, were expecting twins, with three Grammy nods, making him the most Grammy-nominated country star of the year.
"I used to use the word surreal, but that doesn't even really scratch the surface of how it actually feels," Stapleton tells Nashville's Tennessean of his success "It's like if you won the lottery but also discovered unicorns. It just feels magic."
Perhaps the magic is more evident because Stapleton never set out to attain fame and accolades. Instead, he just wanted to make music that he liked, and hopefully would resonate with others as well. While an outsider might deem it a smart marketing strategy, to release From A Room in two separate parts, to focus on an entire record instead of a single, and to not try to conform to the mystery of having a hit on radio, the 39-year-old has been guided only by his love of music.
"You can live and die by one single, but if you have albums people want to listen to, you have a much more effective way to have an audience because they can invest in more than one song," Stapleton explains. "I feel like we go out and when we play shows it's like we have 14 hits, because that's what was on the record, instead of having one hit and 13 songs no one knew. I really like taking the time and thinking about the album and creating something I would want to listen to so hopefully someone else will want to listen to it, too."
With Stapleton's star rising higher and shining brighter than ever, even the most authentic artist might be tempted to find a way to keep everything in motion, maybe even shoot for new goals in the new year. But if Stapleton has proved anything since the release of Traveller in 2015, it's that he isn't most artists. Reminded of the difficulties of the year, including Tom Petty and Don Williams, the Route 91 Harvest Festival and other tragedies, Stapleton is far more committed to helping others than to patting himself on the back.
"When I think of 2017, (my mind goes) to how many people there still are that need help and recovery and direction," he says. "A lot of that takes money. I think of it as a reminder how fragile everything can be. We need to take care of each other as much as we can. Those things don't just go away because the new year rolls around."