Music business

Sturgill Simpson on Navigating the Music Industry: “Just Make Art, Fuck The Rest”

I really enjoyed by Sturgill bluegrass albums, to the point that it was the final nail in the coffin of buying a record player so I could listen to them on vinyl.

Between Cut the grass, Tyler’s Childers Certified Gold Purgatory record, and Cody Jinks Red Rocks Live record, I finally pulled the trigger. And even though I’ve gotten my hands on a ton of other albums since…so far, I highly recommend it.

Anyway, back to Stu…

Sturgill sat down with producer Rick Rubin for an episode of his Scrached disk podcast and even though the whole episode is worth listening to, one thing Sturgill said about the music industry really stuck with me.

“Just make art, fuck the rest.”

And at the risk of grabbing an out-of-context, inflammatory headline for the clicks (which I know Sturgill hates), here’s a longer snippet from the conversation:

“I want to have something that I can look back on and know that I didn’t compromise, I did it the right way. And that was very important to me and still is.

And then somewhere along the line you get on the train and it’s hard to tell how fast the train is going when you’re on it.

You’re sucked in or manipulated, the music industry has a scientifically applied method of making artists feel like if they don’t keep walking on water, they’re going to drown.

And the next thing you know, you wake up and you’re completely exhausted.

He went on to explain the two instances where he found this to happen:

“I went to Merle Haggard for the very first time, and I think Merle has only won one Grammy in his career.

And when you walked into the house, it was sitting on the floor and acting as a door stopper to hold the screen door open, just scraped and kicked the hell out of it, and I was like “I get it”.

And the second time was when the Sturgill producer asked Rick himself if he was up for any awards this year.

“We were there in the room where you’re sitting right now and he asked you if you had any records for anything this year Rick, and you said, ‘I don’t know’, and I knew you weren’t bullshit.

And I was like, ‘that’s it, just do some art and fuck the rest.’

And I’ve been trying to engage and live in that headspace ever since. And just block out all the triviality and hegemony of the system that makes us think we all have to end up on these lists every year, standing on a podium giving little speeches.

Because it has nothing to do with connecting with human beings and making music.

Well said…well said.

You can always smell the bullshit coming a mile away. And while some artists may have immediate commercial success, great art stands the test of time.

I’m not an artist, I’m barely an amateur musician, but I can’t imagine the feeling of waking up in 30 years, looking back on your career and absolutely hating the music you made. What a nightmare it must be to feel like this.

Rick also said the project had the potential to turn people into bluegrass who wouldn’t normally check it out, and I couldn’t agree more.

For me personally, Cut the grass definitely sparked an interest in more bluegrass. Mission accomplished.