By Shannon Frost Greenstein
Country artist Sturgill Simpson wasn’t at the 51st Annual CMA Awards.
At least, he wasn’t inside the building.
Rather, the GRAMMY winner spent the evening busking outside the venue, singing and chatting up Nashville residents as the stars of country music celebrated inside the Bridgestone Arena. Simpson won Best Country Album at the 2017 Grammy Awards for his album, “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth”.
“Finally made it guys. Big show. They’re all out of seats. I couldn’t get a ticket, so I thought I’d come out here and play country music since we’re celebrating it in Nashville, Tennessee,” said Sturgill in a lengthy Facebook Live post.
The evening was, it appears, a protest, as indicated by the signs set up by Simpson’s guitar case, open and waiting for any change which might be tossed his way. The first read, “I don’t take requests, but I take questions about anything you want to talk about … because fascism sucks”, while the other stated, “Struggling country singer … Anything helps. (All donations go to the ACLU). God bless America.”
It’s a likely guess that Simpson was referring to the CMA press regulations which came out before Wednesday’s show, quickly-rescinded after backlash from such stars as Brad Paisley. Media was originally instructed that they could not bring up the Las Vegas shooting, gun control, or other political hot button issues to the evening’s talent.
In case there was a question about Simpson’s stance on current controversies, he clarified in the Facebook video, touching on machine guns, marriage equality, free speech, and racial justice, to a digital audience of thousands over the course of the evening. He ended the evening with an announcement about the funds he raised for the ACLU from the dozen or so bystanders who seized the opportunity for a photo with the star.
“Well, we made $13 for the ACLU tonight, so it was all worth it,” he said.
The scene was captured for posterity on the Alfie the Americana Hound Instagram account:
Whether or not you agree with Simpson’s actions, I think we can all agree that, at the very least, that $13 for the ACLU will go quite far. Better luck next year, Sturgill!