Sturgill Simpson: Sea Changes

An intimate conversation with the country singer-songwriter about fatherhood, life on the road, and following up his critically-acclaimed sophomore album.

A former Navy sailor himself, Simpson spent time on several oceans during the late ’90s. A Sailor’s Guide draws heavily on those years at sea, with songs that read like love letters to those left on dry land. “Sea Stories,” in particular, moves forward like a biographical travelogue, with Simpson whisking his listeners from ports in Kawasaki and Yokohama to bars in Singapore. He describes the track as “a country song that sounds like Cheap Trick recorded it,” but “Sea Stories” — along with the entire album — is more personal than that. It doesn’t sound like Cheap Trick. It sounds like Simpson, a man who’s learning how to move ahead by taking a glance backward. “I left home two weeks after I graduated high school in the summer of 1996, and I got out in 1999,” he remembers. “Most of my enlistment was in Asia and in Tokyo. If we weren’t out at sea doing training exercises, we were in Roppongi or Shibuya, partying like it was 1999.” His unit spent a lot of time on the water, though. At 19 years old, Simpson found himself averaging two or three hours of sleep per night, then spending the daytime…

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