Chris Stapleton is one of the most critically acclaimed singer-songwriters in country music right now, but in a new interview, he says he doesn’t want to be characterized as saving the genre with his back-to-basics approach.

“I don’t think country music needs saving from anything,” Stapleton tells the Nashville Scene in a wide-ranging conversation. “Whether you like modern incarnations of what country radio hits are, or you like what I’m doing, or you like something really off in folk, poetry Americana land, it’s all just music, man. If you like one of them, great, go buy it.”

That’s why he didn’t think twice about it when he agreed to perform a duet with pop superstar Justin Timberlake at the 2015 CMA Awards in November. That performance turned Stapleton into an overnight sensation after years of being one of Nashville’s best-kept secrets. Critics have been hailing him for returning country to its roots, but Stapleton says that’s not really his intention.

“I like all kinds of music. But I would rather people stop caring about lines,” he states. “Nothing gets on my nerves more than somebody else spending all their energy and time talking about something that they don’t like, and trying to convince you [that] you shouldn’t like it, and this thing over here is better. … I don’t like sushi. In fact, I kind of loathe sushi. But I don’t go around trying to convince my wife or any of my friends, “Oh, you shouldn’t eat sushi, it’s terrible.'”

“It’s the dumbest thing ever,” he continues. “It doesn’t make sense to me why we do that with music. We don’t really do that with anything else. … I think it’s OK if somebody likes my music and likes Sam Hunt's music too. And I think if we’re both selling records, it’s good for everybody. I think it allows other records to get made.”

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