Sturgill Simpson - A Sailors Guide To Earth
A Sailor's Guide To Earth (2016)
Metamodern Sounds In Country Music (2014)

Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide To Earth is the rare album that traverses the entire world, both musically and lyrically. It’s dizzyingly diverse, jumping from one style to the next, with ports of call in Motor City and Music Row, Harlem and Stax, Berlin and London, yet it never leaves Simpson’s very specific point of view. It’s his most personal album as well as his most ambitious: a song cycle penned as a sailor’s poignant letter home to the wife and child he left behind.

 

Aptly, A Sailor’s Guide To Earth is all over the map, presenting Simpson as music’s most daring auteur. He combines the sophisticated soul of 70s Motown, the stomping r&b flash of the Dap-Kings, the reckless rave-ups of the Stones and the Clash, even the countrypolitan flare of legendary Nashville producer Owen Bradley. “I wanted it to be an exploration of all the different types of music that I love—a musical journey,” he says. “I listen to a lot of Marvin Gaye, a lot of Bill Withers. I like the way George Harrison sings and tried to incorporate that. Some people will say I’m trying to run from country, but I’m never going to make anything other than a country record. As soon as I open my mouth, it’s going to be a country song.”

 

For Simpson, who produced the album himself, country music is a strong foundation for heady experimentation and exploration. He’s been leading the charge to expand the genre’s reach, opening the doors for a new generation of rule-breaking musicians. His 2013 debut, High Top Mountain, introduced him as a bold and raucous innovator with a sharp burr of a voice and a rousing band behind him. He followed it up quickly with 2014’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, a headtrip album full of backmasked guitars, psychedelic Mellotron strings and heartfelt musings on the universe and his place within it. The album proved a surprise international hit, placing high on year-end lists of at array of publications, including The New York Times, Rolling Stone, L.A. Times, Vogue, Stereogum, NPR Music and the Village Voice.

 

But when his son was born around the time that Metamodern was garnering rave reviews, Simpson began to rethink his place in the music business machinery. “I really questioned whether I wanted to spend however many more years on this bus, not being there and seeing all that was happening,” he says. “That’s where this record came from, just processing all that guilt and homesickness. I had to figure out a way to put that into music, so I decided to write the whole record from the perspective of a sailor going to sea and not knowing if he’s ever coming home.” The idea has deep roots in the Simpson family: “I remembered an old letter that I read, written by my Grandfather Ora to my grandmother when he was in the Army. He was in the South Pacific during World War II, and he thought he was going to die. So he wrote a goodbye letter to her and their newborn son. He finally made it home five years later.”

 

To convey that deep sense of yearning that illuminates A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, Simpson drew not only from his life as a touring musician, but also from his own experiences in the U.S. Navy. He enlisted as a teenager and shipped out to basic training just two weeks after graduating high school. A few months later, he found himself on a frigate in Southeast Asia, spending ninety days at sea on a cramped, grey boat, then a few days at a different port. “I can’t even believe that’s the same person. We were so young, and we couldn’t comprehend the immense responsibility of what we were doing everyday. It seems like a lifetime ago.”

 

In some ways, however, he remains that young seaman, his life still defined by transience. “I’ve lived out of a bag my whole life,” he says. He had a lost year in Seattle, worked on the railroad in Utah, then hit Nashville and started playing bars and open-mic nights. It never bothered him until his son was born. “I had to go out on the road for a year and a half, so I watched him grow up in photographs. I wrote the lyrics on the road and figured I’d put them to music when we were in the studio. Everything came together on the fly.”

 

Once the Metamodern tour wound down, Simpson booked some time at the Butcher Shoppe in Nashville for what were intended to be laidback demo sessions with engineer David Ferguson (Johnny Cash, U2, John Prine). “The whole point was to go in and just woodshed some songs to get some demos down to see where I was.” He wanted the music to convey a sense of urgency, and a few days later, he emerged with a completed album: fully formed, remarkably focused, deeply personal and confidently self-produced to capture on tape the music that was playing in his head.

 

“I knew I wanted to make a concept record in song-cycle form, like my favorite Marvin Gaye records where everything just continuously flows. I also wanted it to be something that when my son is older and maybe I’m gone, he can listen to it and get a sense of who I was. I just wanted to talk as directly to him as possible.” He does just that on opener “Welcome To Earth (Pollywog),” which kicks the album off with a tense drone intro that relents to a Bowie-by-way-of-Bradley piano theme. Simpson sings like there aren’t actually thousands of fans listening in: “Hello, my son, welcome to Earth. You may not be my last but you’ll always be my first.” A few measures later, the song explodes into a stomping r&b coda that showcases his soulful vocals and the down-and-dirty flash of the Dap-Kings horn section.

 

The deeply intimate nature of the record demanded that Simpson produce it himself. He didn’t see any way to collaborate with anyone else, but knew he needed to make sure he could get what was in his head out into the world. He drew on his own experiences as a music listener: “I’ve never produced an album before, but I’ve spent a lot of time laying on the floor with headphones on, just listening and studying the music in terms of texture and space and movement.”

 

Side one ends with a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” rendered completely unrecognisable by a swirl of strings and horns. It’s a song that means a great deal to Simpson, who grew up in a broken home and found solace in Nevermind. “I remember in seventh or eighth grade, when that album dropped, it was like a bomb went off in my bedroom. For me, that song has always summed up what it means to be a teenager, and I think it tells a young boy that he can be sensitive and compassionate—he doesn’t have to be tough or cold to be a man. So I wanted to make a very beautiful and pure homage to Kurt.”

 

The world Simpson depicts for his son on the quiet lullaby “Breaker’s Roar” and the blazing rocker “Brace for Impact (Live a Little)” is immense and full of boundless possibility. Yet he realises “the world’s getting really scary—scarier than it’s been in a long time. And I’m scared for him. What is the world going to be like twenty years from now?” That concern pervades A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, especially the final song. “Call To Arms” surveys the evils of the world: terrorism, missile tests, oil wars, racism, all the bullshit that breeds on the nightly news. With its breakneck pace, the song sounds like an exorcism, evoking the worry that all parents feel about how the world will treat their children. “Son, I hope you don’t grow up believing that you have to be a puppet to be a man.”

 

On A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, Simpson comes across as a man torn between the lure of the road and the security of home, between his love of family and his responsibilities to them, to himself, to his art. “I know what music has done for me in my life in terms of offering some kind of direction and comfort,” he says. “I might be out there in the middle of tour wondering how I’m going to keep doing this when I’m missing everything at home. But it’s also making a lot of people happy that I’ve never met before. So it’s worth it. I think my wife understands that. Hopefully my son will too. When he’s old enough, maybe he can come with me.”

2015 GRAMMY NOMINATION – BEST AMERICANA ALBUM

2015 AMERICANA MUSIC AWARDS WINNER – ARTIST OF THE YEAR
SONG OF THE YEAR (Turtles All The Way Down)

2014 AMERICANA MUSIC AWARDS WINNER – EMERGING ARTIST OF THE YEAR

“The best country record of the year, hands down. That is, if you can even call it country. Frankly, I don’t know what it is, except for brilliant… Sturgill Simpson’s new masterpiece.”
ESQUIRE

“The great hope of outlaw country music”
★★★★
MOJO

“Best new country badass” – 5 MUST SEE ACTS OF SXSW 2014
“Picture what Waylon would have sounded like if he had taken Willie’s drugs” – BEST ALBUMS OF THE YEAR SO FAR”
ROLLING STONE

“His baritone singing voice is almost classic Waylon Jennings-style country but his lyrics are beguiling and powerful.”
★★★★★
THE TELEGRAPH

“Sturgill is a breath of fresh air”
★★★★
POPMATTERS

“delivers on the promise of his excellent debut”
THE GUARDIAN

“The hero of tasteful country”
VICE / NOISEY

“Country music’s most exciting new outsider… We’ll be lucky to hear a stronger album – country or otherwise – this year.”
THE WASHINGTON POST

“The cosmic cowboy of the digital age…here’s a man who understands the power of tradition, and who’s livening things up from the inside.”
FADER

“Sturgill Simpson Is The Radiohead Of Country Music”
SALON

“An outstanding new talent”
★★★★
UNCUT

“A master craftsman”
“One of the best albums of 2014”
STEREOGUM

“Even people who swear they don’t like country music love this.″
“one of the few albums in 2014 that nearly everyone on the NPR Music team agreed was pure genius.”
“A phenomenal guitar player, and universally loved on the NPR Music team.”
NPR

“One of the best albums of the year”
WXPN

“He’s an eccentric outsider in the very insider world of modern country music. I don’t know if he’s the future of country, but I sure hope he is.”
DAN AUERBACH – THE BLACK KEYS

“Metamodern surely ranks amongst the best in class”
★★★★
THE SUN

“Magnificent.”
★★★★
DAILY MIRROR

“a major talent”
★★★★
RECORD COLLECTOR

“Simpson comprehends the genre as a vehicle for big, unwieldy ideas about human consciousness and the nature of life”
★★★★
PITCHFORK

“ a shelf-worthy addition next to the greats… Here’s hoping his mind-expanding experiments will expand the minds of listeners as well”
★★★★½
PASTE MAGAZINE

“achieves majesty with just the barest of parts”
WALL STREET JOURNAL

★★★★
AMERICAN SONGWRITER

★★★★★
R2 MAGAZINE

★★★★★
MAVERICK MAGAZINE

“Sturgill Simpson is a breath of fresh air in Nashville”
VOGUE

“The jury is in: Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music isn’t just the best album to come out of Nashville in 2014, it’s quite possibly the most important album to come out of country music in the past decade… This album’s an instant classic.”
NASHVILLE SCENE

“With Metamodern Sounds, the world of country—and in many respects, the world of modern music as a whole—has opened up. As if it had always been that simple.”
RADIO.COM

“If there were one clear-cut favorite for album of the year, it would have to be Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. From beginning to end, Simpson brought something refreshing but classic to the table to fans on any spectrum with ‘Turtles All the Way Down’ and ‘The Promise.’”
SOUTHERN MANNERS

“the best country album of the year”
“…a revelation. The Kentucky native’s most recent album ended up on nearly every critic’s best-album list; he showed why: great stage presence, great songs sung by a great voice.”
BOSTON HERALD

“If this was country music, then by god it was the heaviest, scuzziest, most Dionysian incarnation I’ve witnessed”
“I wouldn’t be overstating it in the slightest by suggesting that Sturgill could have quite easily kept us rapt and dancing all night.”
THE 405

“From the moment Sturgill Simpson and his band walked on stage, there was an electricity in the room that was impossible to ignore…. There’s a reason why everyone is crazy about Sturgill Simpson. There are few performers who have as powerful and distinctive of a voice as Simpson. Along with this gift, he has an authentic natural talent for performing that rarely comes along these days.”
NO COUNTRY FOR NEW NASHVILLE

“Simpson’s ability to blend trad hillbilly and interstellar hallucinatory philosophizing is breathtaking, and his live shows, emboldened by Estonian-born Laur Joamets’ untamed guitar, are a joy to behold.”
LA WEEKLY

“a metamodern man for metamodern times… Sturgill attracts an intensely devoted fan base. And rightfully so.”
DAILY EMERALD

“It was nothing short of inspired and incredibly impressive. Stetson’s off to Mr. Sturgill Simpson for creating a genre of music which could not possibly have existed without him.”
GRATEFUL WEB

10 Country Albums for People Who Don’t Like Country
#2. Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
“Hailed as a savior of the genre by an ever-growing and emphatic cult following, Sturgill Simpson’s vocals conjure the ghost of Waylon Jennings while his lyrics pay homage to classic blue-collar country themes alongside psychedelic imagery.”
PASTE MAGAZINE

THE TOP 10 COUNTRY MUSIC RECORDS OF 2014
THE GUARDIAN

#20 – 50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2014
GUITAR WORLD MAGAZINE

#4 – BEST MUSIC OF 2014
WASHINGTON POST

#2 – TOP 10 SINGER/SONGWRITERS
MAGNET

50 FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2014
NPR

#8 – NATE CHINEN’S TOP ALBUMS OF 2014
NEW YORK TIMES

#1 – TOP AMERICANA & ROOTS MUSIC PICKS OF 2014
TWANG NATION

#12 – 20 SURPRISINGLY SWEET MUSIC VIDEOS 2014
VICE / NOISEY

#9 – BEST SONGS OF 2014
DAYTROTTER

#2 – THE TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2014
USA TODAY SPORTS

#2 – BEST COUNTRY ALBUMS OF 2014
WONDERING SOUND

#13 – THE 25 BEST SINGLES OF 2014 – Turtles All The Way Down
SLANT MAGAZINE

#7 – TOP 10 COUTRY SONGS OF 2014 – Turtles All The Way Down
COUNTRY WEEKLY

#1 – TOP 50 ALBUMS OF 2014
#2 – TOP 50 SONGS OF 2014 – Turtles All The Way Down
AMERICAN SONGWRITER

#1 – TOP 50 ALBUMS OF 2014 (READERS’ POLL)
NO DEPRESSION

#2 – TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2014 (CRITICS’ POLL)
NO DEPRESSION

#15 – 50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2014
MOJO

#18 – 50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2014
#2 – BEST COUNTRY ALBUMS OF 2014
ROLLING STONE

#39 – ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
ROUGH TRADE SHOPS

#33 – ESSENTIAL ALBUMS OF 2014
#6 – 20 BEST AMERICANA ALBUMS
UNCUT

#4 – ALBUMS OF 2014
THE NEW YORK TIMES

#15 – 50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2014
PASTE MAGAZINE

#44 – 50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2014
STEREOGUM

#2 – 20 BEST NEW BANDS OF 2014
PASTE

#19 – 80 BEST ALBUMS OF 2014
POPMATTERS

Click individual images to download hi-res version

Please visit press.atlanticrecords.com/sturgill-simpson for 2016 press releases.

LABEL
Atlantic Records


PRESS
UK (print): Tom Bridgewater | Loose
UK (online): Roz MansfieldAtlantic Records
US:  Asha Goodman | Sacks & Co.


RADIO
Atlantic Records


BOOKING
UK: Paul Fenn | Asgard
US: Joe Atamian | Paradigm