Sturgill Simpson Biography
Simpson was born in Jackson, Kentucky a small town in Breathitt County in southeast Kentucky. He is the son of a secretary and a state policeman who formerly worked undercover narcotics. Due to his father's work, Simpson's family moved to Versailles, outside Lexington, where Simpson graduated from Woodford County High School. Simpson's mother's family were coal miners. After three years in the United States Navy, Simpson spent time in Japan and then moved back to Lexington.
He formed the bluegrass band Sunday Valley in 2004, which played at the Pickathon festival in Portland, Oregon. Simpson would later take a break from music, working a job in a Salt Lake City railroad freight-shipping yard for Union Pacific Railroad. After playing local open mics and gigs, Simpson returned to Sunday Valley. The band toured and made an album. He and his wife moved to Nashville when the group disbanded in 2012.
After going solo, Simpson released his debut album High Top Mountain in 2013, which he self-funded and self-released. The album was produced by Dave Cobb. Among the session musicians were Hargus "Pig" Robbins on piano and Robby Turner, a former guitarist for Waylon Jennings, on steel guitar. The record is named after a cemetery near Jackson where many of Simpson's family members are buried. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic rated High Top Mountain 3 and half stars out of 5, comparing its sound favorably to Waylon Jennings. The album's style has Erik Ernst of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel also compared it to Jennings, saying that it had "rich vintage sounds, heartbreaking ballads and juke-joint ramblers".
In 2014, Simpson released his second album produced by Dave Cobb, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music to positive reviews.The album's lead single is "Living the Dream". The record is described as a "deep and unconventional relationship between traditionalism and new ways of thinking," and deviates from Simpson's more traditional hard country debut. Simpson said that "recording and mixing was done in five and a half days for about $4,000. I was pretty proud about that." The album made two separate "Top Albums of 2014" lists in The New York Times (ranking 4th and 8th) and was also called the best album of the year by American Songwriter.
Simpson made his network television debut on July 14, 2014, on the Late Show with David Letterman, playing "Life of Sin".That year, he would go on to play "Living the Dream" on a September episode of Conan, "Turtles All the Way Down" on an October episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and "The Promise" on a December episode of Late Night with Seth Meyers. In 2015, he returned to The Late Show and Conan playing "Long White Line" in February and "Let It Go" in April (respectively).He has also played the Grand Ole Opry and at Austin City Limits. He has opened for artists like Dwight Yoakam, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and the Zac Brown Band.
His cover of "The Promise" by 80's band When In Rome was featured in the Season 2 Episode 9 of the HBO series The Leftovers in November 2015. Simpson also wrote and performed the theme song to the Martin Scorsese/Mick Jagger-produced TV show, Vinyl. The song is called "Sugar Daddy."As of July 2015, Simpson's songs are represented by Downtown Music Publishing — an agreement that followed his record deal with Atlantic Records.
In March 2016, Simpson released the first track from his third album, A Sailor's Guide To Earth, a song called "Brace For Impact (Live A Little)."The record is a commemoration of the birth of Simpson's son, and features work by The Dap-Kings from Brooklyn's Daptone Records, as well as a cover of Nirvana's, "In Bloom." Simpson self-produced the record himself – Dave Cobb, who produced his prior records, did not work on this record, marking a departure from prior efforts. Simpson also created the record with a focus on sequencing, and recorded tracks live.