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Alan Jackson Says Chris Stapleton Is the ‘Closest Thing to Country Out There’

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Anna Webber, Getty Images

Alan Jackson isn’t such a big fan of a lot of mainstream contemporary country music, but he is a fan of Chris Stapleton, who he was aware of years before Stapleton shot to mainstream superstardom.

Jackson recently sat down with GQ to talk about his classic flashy fashion sense, and in a wide-ranging interview to accompany the photo piece, the interviewer asks him about where he sees country music headed now.

“Aaaah, you probably don’t want me to get on my soapbox about it,” Jackson responds, but can’t hold back from doing just that.

“There’s some good music out there, but there’s not really much at all that’s real country music anymore on the mainstream country charts — what is nominated for awards,” he says. “It’s been going that way for years now, and I don’t know if it’ll ever come back.”

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That includes Stapleton, although Jackson clarifies he thinks he’s an excellent musician and writer. Stapleton opened for him before his popularity exploded.

“I’m a big fan of his. He was a bluegrass singer and has written bluegrass stuff. But what he’s making now really isn’t real country,” Jackson opines. “It’s more like bluesy, Southern rock kinda stuff. I love it, it’s great, but he’s the closest thing to country out there.”

As for ever seeing true traditional country music back at country radio, Jackson thinks that’s a matter of the right artists catching on, just like Randy Travis and the other Neo Traditionalists did in the late ’80s.

“I’ve got guys that work for me or young guys that I know in their 20s that listen to the old stuff, older than me, because there’s nothing new to listen to. It’s just sad,” he laments. “I’m not bitter and I don’t expect radio at all to sound like Hank Williams in the ’50s, but there oughta be room for all of it out there. Because there’s fans for it out there.”

Travis, Stapleton, Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, Jason Isbell and more also participated in GQ’s Sultans of Twang photo shoot.

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