Sturgill Simpson performed his bluegrass version of “Breakers Roar” and discussed his bout with Covid-19 and friendship with John Prine on The Late Show Tuesday, November 10th.
For the performance, Simpson was joined by the all-star band he assembled for his latest album, Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 1: The Butcher Shoppe Sessions, which features bluegrass renditions of songs from his previous four albums. For “Breakers Roar” — a sprawling, string-touched ballad from 2016’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth — Simpson and his band pick up the song’s pace a little without losing any of its lonesome twinge.
Along with the performance, Simpson sat down for an interview with Stephen Colbert, where he discussed coming down with the coronavirus in April after being on tour in Europe and why he chose to go back to his bluegrass roots on Cuttin’ Grass: “I’m probably closer to anything a bluegrass musician at heart,” Simpson said. “But you go to Nashville, you make country records, and I just wanted to rerecord my entire back catalog the way I always felt these songs were meant to be heard.”
Simpson also spoke about his relationship with the late John Prine, who died in April from complications related to Covid-19. He recalled meeting Prine for the first time while working on A Sailor’s Guide, saying he was hunkered down in the studio (which a friend of Prine’s owned), mixing the record, and when he eventually looked up and turned around, there was the singer-songwriter, sitting behind him in a chair.
“I had no idea how long he’d been sitting there, and I had vapor lock, I kinda freaked out, coming face to face with your hero,” Simpson said. “And he was just like, ‘That’s pretty good!’ He said, ‘You wanna go get some meatloaf?’ And we went and had lunch, and any time I’d come up to town, we’d go grab lunch… Along with myself and many others, he was a mentor and very giving with his time, and we’re all grateful to get to know him.”