This year's country breakout reflects on his nominations, which include Album of the Year.

By Madison Vain
December 08, 2015 at 05:36 PM EST
Becky Fluke

The celebration of Chris Stapleton continues. The roots-rocker was honored by the The Recording Academy with four Grammy nominations yesterday: Best Country Solo Performance (“Traveller”), Country Song of the Year (“Traveller”), Best Country Album of the Year (Traveller), and the grand prize, Album of the Year.

Stapleton, for his part, was late to the party Monday morning as nominations rolled out. “I attempted to watch them,” he says, “but I guess we had the wrong channel on. People started saying congratulations and I was like, ‘On what?’ I don’t know what happened!”

The nominations come at the tail end of a banner year for the singer. Last month, he took home hardware during Country Music’s biggest night, the CMAs, for Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, and New Artist of the Year. (He and the Memphis-born multi-hyphenate Justin Timberlake also had all of social media talking with their electrifying duet.) As a result, Traveller spent two weeks as the No.1 album in the U.S. following the awards, though it initially peaked at No. 14 when i twas released back in May.

And still, Stapleton didn’t necessarily expect to see his name on the nominees list. “You never really expect anything,” he says. “I had a few people who thought I should watch [the nominations] this year instead of just driving my kids to school — but that didn’t work anyway.”

Speaking about the exceptionally stacked Album of the Year category, which includes Taylor Swift’s 1989 and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, Stapleton agrees 2015 has been a strong year for music of all genres. “To get to be in this mix is kind of crazy!” He says. But it’s also deserved, as Traveller is excellent.

Stapleton’s acceptance speeches were also some of the most quoted following the CMA evening. As one of Nashville’s premiere songwriters of the last 15 years, almost everyone in the first few rows of that show had worked with him. He thanked them all, for “helping me to support my family over the years.” He tells EW the moment was completely unrehearsed. “You have to assume you’re not going to win,” he says as to why he doesn’t prep a speech. “But if you do it’s a pleasant surprise and you get to be in the moment and enjoy the moment and hope that you make some kind of sense up there.”