He took home the Best Country Album award at this year’s Grammys, but Sturgill Simpson was nowhere to be found at Wednesday’s CMA Awards. Instead, the 39-year-old singer was spotted outside Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena—where the 2017 CMA Awards were taking place inside—busking on the sidewalk.
Rather than trying to raise extra income, the outspoken star is taking a public stand against the Music Row establishment. Last year, Simpson shared a lengthy post on Facebook outlining his strong disapproval with the Academy of Country Music for what he believed to be their exploitation of outlaw country icon Merle Haggard following his death that April.
“I called the ACM out directly because they are simply the latest in a long line of organizations that have done the same since Merle’s death…and even before. Showing homage and handing lifetime achievement awards to the greats of yesterday while claiming to uphold and hold dear the original values and integrity of country music’s legacy,” he wrote. “Yet these are just hollow words…One needs only to look glancingly at the majority of the music that they, along with the CMAs, predominantly choose to recognize and promote at their award shows.” Simpson was ultimately a no-show at the 2016 CMA Awards, but this year he got creative.
Fans strolling by were thrilled to be treated to a free show as he strummed alongside a sign reading “I don’t take requests but I take questions about anything you want to talk about..Because fascism sucks.” He announced the appearance a short time before on Facebook “So excited to be playing the #cmaawards tonight!!!” he wrote. “Gonna be doing a little busking out front. Come on down and join me!!!”
He streamed the performance on Facebook for any fans who couldn’t make the trip in person.
While he played for free, an additional sign announced that any spare change he received would be handed over to charity. “‘Struggling’ Country Singer…anything helps (All donations go to the ACLU),” it read. “God bless America.”