CMA Awards 2020: Looking Back at Chris Stapleton’s Incredible ‘Friendship’ Performance with Maren Morris, Mavis Staples

by Jennifer Shea

Country music met gospel and soul when Chris Stapleton joined Maren Morris and Mavis Staples to perform “Friendship” at the 2018 CMA Awards.

CMA Harmonies

The trio sang it from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Stapleton, Morris and Staples each took one verse of the song. Then they harmonized together on the chorus.

The song is Stapleton’s take on Homer Banks and Lester Snell’s piece. It’s an ode to the bonds of friendship through difficult times. He included it on his 2017 album “From A Room: Volume 2.”

Moreover, Stapleton puts a lot of thought into his stage performances.

“What comes out on stage is always about what the music sounds like and creating the best environment,” Stapleton told the San Diego Union-Tribune that same year. “Even if we have to use (video) screens — it’s necessary to have lights and screens in big venues — the focus always has to be on the music. That’s always central for me. That’s the only thing that exists.”

The Whole Musical Person

Stapleton said he believes music should transport the listener, make them feel included in the song itself.

“The thing I like about music, and that most people like, is when it allows you to be a part of the song,” he added. “I think that, sometimes, it’s harder to explain because it’s so subjective. But, for me, it’s really a matter of leaving room for a listener to put their own personal feelings into it, attach them to songs, and leave that room so you have some kind of ambiguity in the words.”

And he told the Union-Tribune that singing for an audience is just as important to him as songwriting. Experiences like his “Friendship” performance feed his musical self, he said.

“Touring, making records, writing for other people or being on a TV show are all part of one whole thing for me, creatively,” he said. “I don’t try to put them in (different) categories… They all feed each other and all make each other better, I think, or make me more of a whole musical person.”