Chris Stapleton: Format 'Traveller,' From Country to Pop, Rock & Adult R&B

Andy Barron
Chris Stapleton

His most recent crossover success is with Justin Timberlake on "Say Something," marking his first trip to the Hot 100's top 10.

While Chris Stapleton has emerged as a force on Billboard's country charts with his organic, Americana-flavored sound, he continues to achieve success at a range of other formats, from pop to rock and even adult R&B.   

As previously reported, Stapleton claims the top three spots on the newest Top Country Albums chart (dated Feb. 10), ranking at Nos. 1, 2 and 3, respectively, with From A Room: Volume 2, Traveller and From A Room: Volume 1. He's the first artist to triple up atop the tally in nearly 26 years, since Garth Brooks in April 1992.    

Stapleton also earns his highest career rank on Country Airplay, as "Broken Halos" (from Volume 1) ascends 11-9.

Meanwhile, and perhaps surprisingly – or not, given his high-profile rise; he won three Grammy Awards Jan. 28, upping his career total to five – Stapleton is increasingly making inroads at other formats.

'SOMETHING' FOR POP RADIO

Stapleton scores his first top 10 on the all-genre, streaming-, airplay- and sales-based Billboard Hot 100 songs chart, as Justin Timberlake's "Say Something," featuring Stapleton, soars in at No. 9. Stapleton bests his prior No. 20 Hot 100 high, set when "Tennessee Whiskey" hit No. 20 in November 2015.

Timberlake has been a good luck charm for Stapleton, as the pair performed "Whiskey" at the Country Music Assn. Awards on Nov. 4, 2015, a night that largely sparked the latter's breakout. Parent album Traveller, his first LP, had debuted at No. 14 on the Billboard 200 that May; following the CMA Awards, it became the first album ever to re-enter the chart at No. 1 (on Nov. 21, 2015).

Traveller has remained in the Billboard 200's upper half ever since, while both volumes of his From A Room series (released in May and December 2017, respectively) have reached No. 2.

"Say Something" is finding early support at pop and adult radio, as it climbs 26-20 on the Adult Contemporary chart and 32-22 as the Greatest Gainer on Adult Pop Songs. (It is not, as of now, formally being promoted to country radio.)

The song is one of three on Timberlake's new album, Man of the Woods, that Stapleton co-wrote. The set, released Feb. 2, is headed for a No. 1 debut on the Feb. 17-dated Billboard 200.

'TRAIN' RIDE TO ROCK

Concurrently, Stapleton makes his first appearance on the Mainstream Rock Songs airplay chart, as the driving, Southern rock-infused "Midnight Train to Memphis" (from Volume 2) rolls in at No. 35.

"We frequently look to alternative, adult alternative and, yes, even country for music that can fit," says Bill Weston, program director of Mainstream Rock Songs reporter WMMR Philadelphia. The station played "Train," which Stapleton performed on Saturday Night Live's Jan. 27 episode (with fellow Volume 2 track "Hard Livin' "), 17 times in the tracking week ending Feb. 4, according to Nielsen Music.

"Chris got our attention because of his outlier, non-conformist image," Weston says. "Plus, the song just rocks in a very cool ZZ Top, George Thorogood kind of way.

"We've gotten almost 100 percent positive reaction from listeners."

Adult alternative is also sampling "Train." The format's KCSN Los Angeles played it 17 times last week, followed by WRLT Nashville (16).

Stapleton isn't the only core country act to cross to rock radio fairly recently: Zac Brown Band earned two Mainstream Rock Songs entries in 2015, including the No. 1 "Heavy Is the Head," featuring Chris Cornell.

(Country-to-rock crossovers are much rarer than country songs making their way to pop and adult, with Sam Hunt's 2017 smash "Body Like a Back Road" being one of the latest notable examples of the latter segue. Meanwhile, Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line's "Meant to Be" is now scaling country and pop airplay charts simultaneously, as it tops Hot Country Songs for a 10th week and pushes 12-11 on the Hot 100.)

'SOUTHERN SOUL' IN 'TENNESSEE,' IN HOUSTON

Stapleton is additionally enjoying support at adult R&B radio, as the nearly three-year-old "Tennessee Whiskey" was KMJQ (Majic 102.1) Houston's second-most-played song last week, with 27 spins (tying Tank's "When We" and trailing only Bruno Mars' "That's What I Like," with 32).

"'Tennessee Whiskey' has caught fire here," KMJQ program director Terri Thomas recently told the Billboard Chart Beat Podcast. "Part of the musical culture in Houston is that bluesy sound, that Southern soul.

"One of our mixers, Walter D, [recently] came in and said, 'I bet you if you play this song, it's going to become a huge hit,' and he started to play it out of his laptop. I was like, 'I love that song!' I had never thought about it in the context of Majic, but once he said it, I could hear it. So, I said, 'Let's put it on,' and the airplay is giving new life to the song.

"Because of streaming and [greater] access to music, people are no longer, 'I only listen to this,'" Thomas mused. "They like what like, they want what they want, when they want it, and I think that provides opportunities for artists with different audiences."