Charles Kelley Sees Justin Timberlake as Hype Man to Nashville’s Best-Kept Secret, Chris Stapleton

Capitol Nashville

Maybe Charles Kelley said it best. After last week’s electrifying performance with Justin Timberlake and unexpectedly nabbing three coveted trophies at the CMA Awards, one of Nashville’s best-kept secrets is now officially out of the bag. And with Chris Stapleton’s Album of the Year winner Traveller now eyeing the top spot on the Billboard 200 all-genre chart, the only way to go is up.

“I love music and I love when real true musicality wins out,” Charles says, as he embarks on his own solo career himself. “And Chris Stapleton, the funny thing is…you could feel that every artist in that room, they know what Chris Stapleton is and what he means, you know, to music. I feel like he just hasn’t reached critical mass yet. But we all know in this town and are intimidated and blown away by the guy. And pretty much every artist has either written with him or heard him sing or [was] touched by his music in some way. We feel like he’s always been our little best-kept secret and here’s his chance to reach the masses.”

What you may not realize is that Chris has already reached the masses as a songwriter, kicking off a string of six number ones so far that started with Josh Turner’s “Your Man” in 2005 and culminated most recently with Thomas Rhett’s “Crash and Burn.”

The Lady Antebellum vocalist adds we shouldn’t necessarily assume that Chris’s sudden mass appeal is due solely to his musical union with a certain actor and musical superstar from Memphis. 

“It was just electric. I don’t know if it would’ve been just the same without Timberlake but either way I think it would’ve been just a huge moment for [Chris] and Timberlake just brought this, almost like this hype man to it when he was singing. It was an electric feel. It was amazing,” he says.

Charles made the comments this weekend at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House during the taping of this year’s CMA Country Christmas special. You can watch his performance December 3 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

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