As a superstar touring artist who logs lengthy stints on the road during a typical year, Chris Stapleton is far from a typical dad. And during the COVID-19 shutdowns in 2020, the father of five says he’s been grateful for every minute of a task that most parents consider more of a chore.
“Well, you get a lot better at changing diapers,” the singer laughs. “You get out of practice sometimes, when you only get two or three days a week of it.”
But all jokes aside, Stapleton says that spending more time at home with his kids, who range in age from babies to preteens, has been a bright spot during a tough year. “You get to really check in with — my older children are 11 and 10…so there’s all kinds of new personality and emotional space to explore with them,” he continues. “It’s really interesting to talk to them and hear their takes on things, their likes and dislikes, and they’re very opinionated.”
As for the younger kids? Stapleton says that they’re at fun, engaging ages, too. “I get ‘em all up every morning and make ‘em breakfast and watch ‘em run around, you know,” he recounts. “It’s a special thing to get to do. What a privilege and a gift, in a year that on the surface might seem very devoid of gifts.”
Stapleton seems to have been pretty comfortable to assume a (mostly) stay-at-home dad role during the pandemic, and that comes as no surprise: The singer is admittedly hesitant to share his personal life with the world, especially where his kids are involved.
In fact, he channeled those feelings, and the discomforts of his transition into superstardom, in “Nashville, TN,” the final track of his new album, Starting Over. The lyrics, Stapleton recounts, came from the time in 2015 when he’d just performed at the CMA Awards with Justin Timberlake, effectively catapulting him into the spotlight overnight. All of the sudden, buses full of curious fans were showing up at his house, strangers snapping pictures of the singer and his family.
“I’m a fairly private person,” he says of that time. “So we rented a house down the street, and put the other house up for sale, and didn’t know where we were going.”
Nowadays, Stapleton has set himself and his family out on their farm, at a comfortable distance from well-meaning but ultimately invasive strangers. The singer is a private guy with simple tastes, and he says that will be reflected in how he spends his holiday season.
“We’ll probably just stay at the house, put up a Christmas tree, eat too much and take a nap on the couch,” he says simply.
All that said, of course, Stapleton isn’t immune to a few of the perks of stardom. For example, a 2019 episode of HBO’s featured a sneaky cameo of the singer. He played a slain background Wildling warrior who was raised from the dead by the Night King, ultimately joining the White Walkers’ army.
“I kind of say it half in jest when I come up with those things,” Stapleton admits, saying it was simply a personal dream of his to have a small part in one of his favorite shows. He’s occasionally found other ways to fulfill personal dreams through his music, too, including transforming into a LEGO figure for the animated music video for his “Second One to Know.”
“I don’t know if it’s unfortunately or fortunately, but I’ve checked a lot of the impossible asks off the list,” the singer goes on to say. After some thought, he adds, “I still haven’t asked to be in Star Wars in some way…” before trailing off into a laugh.
“Those things are fun,” he shrugs. “And we don’t spend a lot of time tracking down extra parts in TV shows for me. But I do like to, you know, participate in things.
“If I use my stature as a known musician for anything, then — selfishly — it’s things like that,” he adds.