Country music sensation Chris Stapleton welcomed another giant in the music industry on stage in Los Angeles for a stirring performance of “Tennessee Whiskey.” Performing at the Kia Forum, Stapleton invited Justin Timberlake for a duet last Friday night of the Traveller classic.
“I guarantee that most of you probably know me because of this man I’m about to bring onstage,” the long-bearded singer told the crowd when introducing JT. “He’s one of the greatest musical artists that has ever lived.”
Timberlake, a Memphis-born megastar in both pop music and R&B, came out to a thunderous ovation and took a couple bows before singing alongside Stapleton. The pair had not publicly performed the 1980s country classic together since the 2015 CMA Awards. Stapleton’s soulful take on the song spent six weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2015, peaking at No. 20 that November and making him a bona fide star after many years touring with groups.
Three years after Tennessee Whiskey, Stapleton and Timberlake collaborated on a country-pop hit called Say Something. The song was released on JT’s 2018 album, Man in the Woods. Timberlake also spends much of his time in Nashville these days, so the duo’s friendship and partnership makes sense on many levels.
Chris Stapleton began writing Traveller during a road trip with his wife
Dean Dillon and Linda Hargrove wrote the classic song in 1981 for David Allen Coe; but the song eventually reached No. 2 on the Hot Country Charts in 1983 with George Jones on the microphone. Stapleton’s modern interpretation of the popular country song served as a nice springboard for him as a solo artist. It also really buoyed his album at the time.
“[Tennessee Whiskey] still stands the test of time,” said Chris in 2015. “I like to dissect the magic of what makes something timeless. The goal of every artist should be to make something timeless. I’m always looking for that. How great would it be to have one timeless hit like Tennessee Whiskey. It’s a great song worth listening to, still to this day. If you can just write one of those, that’s it.”
Stapleton first envisioned the Traveller album in 2013 while on a road trip with his wife, Morgane. His father had just died, and his wife wanted to do something to take his mind off the grief. So Chris and Morgane flew to Phoenix, where she bought him a gift: a 1979 Jeep Cherokee Chief S. They drove back to Nashville and saw the country together, and a classic album began to form.
“I wrote the album’s first song and title track, ‘Traveller,’ while I was driving back,” Stapleton told Outsider’s Jim Casey during an interview in 2015. “My wife was asleep. And it was either sunset or sunrise, going 60 down Highway 40 somewhere in Arizona or New Mexico. I just started singing and trying to record it softly so she wouldn’t wake up. The lyrics came beginning to end as I watched the sun over the mountains.”