Country singer Sturgill Simpson wins indie acclaim
Sturgill Simpson, the country singer who brings philosophical rumination to his twang, has proved his crossover appeal with wins at the independent music industry’s awards.
Simpson was named Breakthrough Artist of the Year and also won for Heritage Album of the Year on Thursday night in New York at the Libera Awards, the annual prizes of the American Association of Independent Music.
While the awards are open to any artist who is not on a major label, “indie” has traditionally been associated with guitar-driven rock without the gloss of commercial pop.
Amid a growing mainstream audience in the United States for country music, Simpson has been playing major music festivals including Coachella and Bonnaroo.
While his genre often focuses on base instincts, Simpson has described his latest album, “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music,” as a philosophical journey inspired in part by the writings of French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
Teilhard wrote of the concept of consciousness, a theme which the Simpson explores on the song “Just Let Go,” which is rooted in the Kentucky-born singer-guitarist’s embrace of Buddhism.
The Libera Award for Album of the Year went to “Lost in the Dream” by The War on Drugs, the Philadelphia band whose some- times melancholy psychedelic rock brings in country influences.
The War on Drugs won near universal acclaim for the album, which frontman Adam Granduciel spent more than a year tinkering with as he lived alone following a break-up.
Ironically, The War on Drugs won the Libera Award days after signing a deal with one of the major labels, Atlantic Records.
The War on Drugs had released three albums on the influential Indiana-based indie label Secretly Canadian.
The album beat out a crowd that included the blockbuster “1989” by Taylor Swift, who is one of the world’s top stars but remains technically an independent artist as she remains signed to country label Big Machine.
The Libera Awards started in 2012 to recognize the independent music industry, which has boomed in recent years thanks in part to the proliferation of online music platforms.
Country singer Sturgil Simpson performs at The Governors Ball Music Festival at Randall’s Island Park, New York on June 7.