Like all great musicians who’ve been inspired by their predecessors, Chris Stapleton has been influenced by singers and songwriters from all genres.
Stapleton’s fourth solo album, Starting Over, was released today and has already garnished rave reviews, including a comparison to one of his favorite songwriters, Willie Nelson.
In a recent interview with Vulture, Stapleton was asked who some of his favorite singers and songwriters were.
Aretha Franklin’s Soulful Singing
When asked about his favorite singer, he replied, “Aretha Franklin”, as he uses the same form of soulful singing Franklin is known for. However, Stapleton will never compare himself to the Queen of Soul.
“I would never in a million years attach myself or compare myself to Aretha Franklin, just because she, to me, is the greatest vocalist I’ve ever heard,” he says. “It almost makes me cry to think about her.”
Willie Nelson and Tom Petty are Stapleton’s favorite songwriters. Accordingly, Stapleton combines both of the different musical styles of the two famous musicians.
Nelson is one of the original outlaw country legends, with a deep voice yet soft sound and hints of both redneck and hippie sounds. Petty is the essence of rock-n-roll, but with a firm folk sound in his performance and lyrics. The two have similarities in their styles and presentation of lyrics.
Tom Petty’s Indescribable Sound
Many compare the late Tom Petty to Bob Dylan as a folk-rock artist, but Stapleton feels differently.
“Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers — and Tom, particularly as a songwriter and as an entity — are kind of their own genre. ‘What kind of music is it? It’s Tom Petty and Heartbreakers music,’” he says.
“You could say it was rock, it was folk or it was Americana. I could say there’s country influences. It is its own thing to me. I think that’s the ultimate compliment to them and their music, that they have their own thing,” he adds.
Willie Nelson’s hippie-meets-cowboy musical stylings
When it comes to comparing Willie Nelson and Chris Stapleton, a review of his newest album by Vanity Fair states:
“You can certainly equate his appeal with Willie’s, though his inherent volume as a belter means the comparisons go only so far,” says Vanity Fair.
“At Stapleton’s best, sometimes you imagine you’re listening to a mythical ‘Gregg Allman Sings the Willie Nelson Songbook’ album. There are plenty of these moments in his fourth release, ‘Starting Over.’ He has Nelson’s tender touch, but his bluesy side is much louder; his is a part-acoustic, part-stinging approach in which Nelson’s ‘Trigger’ meets B.B. King’s ‘Lucille.'”
Stapleton Performs With His Heroes
Stapleton worked with two of the “Heartbreakers” on his new album and has previously worked with musicians who played in Willie’s band.
“Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are probably my favorite band of all time, number one. Number two, I kind of have a history of doing that a little bit, [recording with my] heroes,” he says of working with iconic musicians.
“I had Mickey Raphael on quite a few of our records; he plays in Willie Nelson’s band. [I played with] Robby Turner, who played with Waylon Jennings late in his career. I like to draw that bridge a little bit musically, and if it means I can coerce some heroes into participating in music with me… why wouldn’t you do that if you could?”
Stapleton combines the sounds and writings of the singers and songwriters who’ve inspired him, and his music represents each of them in their own way in his albums as well as live performances.