Sturgill Simpson on Owning Record Label: ‘I Was Always Supposed to Be an Independent Artist’

by Quentin Blount

Sturgill Simpson is entering into a new phase of his music career. The singer-songwriter recently dropped his new bluegrass album, Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 1 – The Butcher Shoppe Sessions, and he did so as an independent artist.

“I’m starting back the way I started out, on my own record label,” Simpson said in an email to his fans. “I’m realizing more and more every day what I already knew, which is that I was always supposed to be an independent artist.

Simpson reveals that he was “burnt out” with making music leading up to the making of “Cuttin’ Grass.” He had a falling out with Elektra Records earlier in the year.

However, now back to working independently, Simpson has fallen back in love with music again.

In an Instagram post late last night, Simpson told his fans that he is releasing the new album and that he feels it’s his best work yet.

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Tonight/early morning Friday 10/16, 2020 midnight/24:00 hours, I am releasing what I feel to be the best work and truest representation of myself as an artist that I have ever created. It was the last complete album recorded at The Butcher Shoppe, the now non-existent studio once co-owned by John Prine and my dear friend and Producer David Ferguson. I cannot imagine a better final chapter to the legacy of what was my favorite studio on Earth. I am grateful beyond words for the time I was given with John and the love and wisdom he gave to me. I will always miss him and his smile. Always. I am equally as grateful for the friendship and mentorship I have received the last four years from Ferg. He has been a touchstone and a source of education that I will never be able to repay him for. The man has forgotten more about recording music than most will ever know. He helped me and gave me the confidence to self-produce and make “Sailors Guide”. He co-produced both of Tylers albums and Margo’s recent album with me and it has been a source of great personal frustration and pain to see his name as an afterthought to mine or sometimes even omitted in reviews of those bodies of work. He was hired by Cowboy Jack Clement as an engineer at 16 years old and worked for him for almost 30 years before going on to engineer albums for U2 and all of Johnny Cash’s Rick Rubin recordings. More importantly he has been a treasured and trusted friend to me in a town where I have had very few. So I turned myself and my art over to him completely for these recordings so I could focus solely on being just another “member of the band”. I am so proud of this album. I am so proud of all of you for your donations which directly led to the motivation and initiative behind its recording. I am in complete and total disbelief that I got to sing and record these songs with this group of incomprehensibly talented musicians and more than anything I wish both my Grandfathers were still alive to hear this album. But they are not, instead I offer it to you. Peace, hair grease, and above all else, immense thanks, healing, and eternal love. About to drop it like its hot. Dick Daddy out

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Album’s roots date back to Sturgill Simpson childhood

The album’s roots in bluegrass date back to Simpson’s childhood, when his grandfather introduced him to the genre – or at least tried to.

“My paternal grandfather was a bluegrass freak,” he said. “Every time he’d come to visit, he’d try to shove it down my throat. My palette wasn’t ready to absorb it at the time.”

Simpson recalled a time in his room as a youngster when his grandpa could tell he wasn’t into bluegrass quite yet.

“He could sense my rejection of what I was hearing,” Simpson said. “He looked at me directly and said ‘one day it’s gonna get in ya, and it’ll never get out.’ I wish more than anything he was still here and could hear this collection of songs.”

It wasn’t until many years later that Simpson had an awe-inspiring moment. Living out west, having just returned home from the military, Simpson was driving one day and the public radio station played an old Monroe Brothers song.

“It absolutely floored me – a wave of emotion slammed me in the chest and I had to pull over on the side of the road,” he said. “It sounded like home. Bluegrass music is healing. I truly believe this to be.”

Since then, making a bluegrass album has always been in Simpson’s heart and mind.

“Cuttin’ Grass” contains 20 tracks, all songs previously released by Simpson or Sunday Valley, the band he was in prior to his solo career. In another Instagram post, Simspon highlighted those he collaborated with on his new album.