Wednesday night’s Country Music Association Awards were, like always, a night full of stars, fun and spectacular tunes. But beloved singer Sturgill Simpson wasn’t on the stage — instead, he was outside, busking for a few bucks and strumming along on a Facebook Live stream.
Simpson brought his trusty guitar to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena and, for an hour, played some of his favorites while fans mingled and chatted. The musician propped open his guitar case, and any money dropped into the pile, he claims, is going right to the American Civil Liberties Union. In a stab at the country establishment, Simpson even brought along his Grammy Award, which he won in February for “Best Country Album.”
To an audience of thousands on Facebook Live, the star announced, “Finally made it, guys, big show,” and joked, “They were all out of seats.”
He also propped up a sign saying, “I don’t take requests but I take questions about anything you want to talk about … because fascism sucks.” That remark was another stab at the Country Music Association, which initially told reporters that they might be tossed from the show if they asked musicians about politics or gun control — the association lifted those rules after a cascade of criticism.
When asked about Trump, Simpson didn’t hold back, calling the president “a fascist f*****g pig,” and added, “I’m not afraid to say that, because at this point, anybody that’s still supporting that guy can’t be anything, in my mind, other than an ignorant f*****g bigot.” And to his fans that might support Trump, he remarked, “Anybody that is surprised to hear me say that, that’s going to unfollow me or stop listening to my records, they probably weren’t listening that closely anyway,” The Fader reports.
Unlike the stars inside, Simpson laid bare his political views (which are a little left of center). In a brief speech, he declared:
Nobody needs a machine gun, coming from a guy who owns a few guns. Gay people should have the right to be happy and live their life any way they want to, get married to anyone they want to, without fear of getting dragged down the road behind a pick-up truck. Black people are probably getting shot in the streets and being enslaved by the industrial prison complex, and hegemony and fascism is alive and well in Nashville, Tennessee.
In spite of his Grammy win and the fact that his most recent record rocketed to the top spot on the Billboard country chart, you probably won’t hear Simpson on your local country station. Mainstream country critics generally see the star as more Americana or even folk than country. And he’s got a history of being vicious to the establishment. Last year, he threw grenades at the Academy of Country Music Awards for their Merle Haggard award, writing on Facebook, “If the ACM wants to actually celebrate the legacy and music of Merle Haggard, they should drop all the formulaic cannon fodder b******t they’ve been pumping down rural America’s throat for the last 30 years along with all the high school pageantry, meat parade award show b******t and start dedicating their programs to more actual Country Music,” the Washington Post noted.