Chris Stapleton doesnât have much use for beer.
The country singer was kicked back in a Beverly Hills hotel suite when his wife, Morgane, offered a round of cold ones to a small group of folks gathered on a recent afternoon.
âYou donât drink beer,â Morgane said, gesturing to her husband as she handed out bottles. Asked why in the world not, Stapleton shrugged.
âJust not into it,â he said, then he chuckled. âIt wasnât for lack of trying. But I like bourbon. Iâll stick with that.â
Clinging to the hard stuff after giving the softer stuff a try: The preference tells you something about this impressively bearded 39-year-old, who spent a decade writing hit songs for mainstream country acts â Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Darius Rucker, Lee Ann Womack â before striking out on his own in 2015 with âTraveller,â a solo album proudly modeled on the 90-proof work of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.
Those influences alone didnât set Stapleton apart. Even in its most pop-oriented eras, Nashville has always maintained a healthy traditionalist wing, one populated by artists like Jamey Johnson, another impressively bearded singer and songwriter whose 2010 album âThe Guitar Songâ was a favorite of critics and tastemakers.
But the success Stapleton found was unique. After being named album of the year at the 2015 Country Music Assn. Awards â a ceremony in which Stapleton performed a duet with Justin Timberlake â âTravellerâ topped the Billboard 200 on its way to sales of nearly 2 million copies, according to Nielsen Music.
Now Stapleton is back with his follow-up, âFrom a Room: Volume 1,â which came out this month and debuted at No. 2. On Saturday night heâll perform at the Forum in Inglewood â a dramatic step up from the El Rey Theatre, where he played just 18 months ago.
True to his steadfast tastes, though, Stapleton hasnât shaken up his style. If anything, âFrom a Roomâ â titled in honor of Nashvilleâs historic RCA Studio A, where he made it â is even more old-fashioned than âTraveller,â with songs about tough luck and broken love set against warm, rootsy arrangements that couldâve been crafted in 1976.
Though the renditions on the album were newly recorded, the tunes themselves predate those on Stapletonâs debut; they were part of a large stockpile he drew from too for âFrom a Room: Volume 2,â due later this year.
That approach was partly a matter of logistics. Given his busy schedule since âTraveller,â he simply hasnât had much time to write of late. But Stapleton also said that going back to older songs is a âgood litmus testâ for judging their quality.
âItâs easy to write something in a day and think itâs the best thing youâve ever done,â he said. âItâs…