Sturgill Simpson

Combining a love of vintage outlaw country with a mile-wide iconoclastic streak, Sturgill Simpson became one of the most successful and subversive alt country artists of the 2010s. Born in Jackson, Kentucky on June 8, 1978, Sturgill served three years in the Navy before eventually returning to Kentucky. In the 2000s he formed the band Sunday Valley, and after the group broke up he relocated to Nashville in 2012 to pursue a solo career. The next year he released his first album, High Top Mountain, produced by Dave Cobb, who would soon become alt country's most in-demand producer. With his Waylon-Jennings like baritone, he won fans for his updated version of the '70s outlaw sound, and the record made it to 31 in the country chart. For 2014's Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, Simpson took things further afield, writing sometimes-surreal, philosophical lyrics and cutting a country version of When In Rome's '80s synth-pop hit "The Promise." His audience widened considerably, as he landed on the pop charts and reached No. 8 on the country charts. Consequently, Simpson was picked up by Atlantic for 2016's A Sailor's Guide to Earth. Even more unconventional than its predecessor, it became his big breakthrough, taking the top spot on the country and rock charts, and making it to No. 3 on the pop charts. The follow-up, 2019's Sound and Fury, turned out to be Simpson's most unexpected musical detour so far, consisting mainly of synth-laden hard rock leavened by a couple of funk tunes. Somehow this postmodern ZZ Top move still managed to make it to No. 3 on the country charts, and the track "Sing Along" was Simpson's most successful single up to that point.