Chris Stapleton on How He Became a Lego
Chris Stapleton takes his music-video game to the next level with the Lego-animated clip for “Second One to Know.” Fusing the gritty, fire-breathing track from his Grammy-winning From A Room: Volume 1 with a wildly imaginative story and a big dose of childhood nostalgia, the hitmaker managed to include everyone from his wife and kids to Hollywood star Chris Pratt in the finished product — plus a bunch of hidden Easter Eggs for hardcore fans. But he admits the long-in-the-works project wasn’t easy.
“We had a lot of fun doing it, but it took maybe two years to get through all the approvals, and then a whole year on top to work on it,” he says. “So it’s been a long road, but in the end I think it’s something really unique. Certainly there’s never been an officially licensed Lego video before, and that’s kinda fun.”
That’s true, but this first one might end up being hard to top. The concept finds Lego Stapleton and his band rocking out during a stop on his just-finished All-American Road Show Tour, when an unruly fan gets kicked out and inadvertently causes a fight with some ne’er-do-well ninjas. Things actually get more outrageous from there, culminating with an epic battle with a dragon. Rolling Stone Country talked to Stapleton about how the one-of-a-kind clip came about and what keen-eyed fans should look for.
This video is awesome, but unexpected. How did it come to be? Are you a Lego fan?
Well, I grew up playing with Legos as a kid, but my kids like Legos, too, so I was trying to dream up a video for this song — and this all started like three years ago, mind you. This song always sounded like a fight scene to me, and I was like “Well, what could we do?” I went through some iterations in my brain, like “Do we hire Steven Seagal or something like that?” I’m not sure if one of the Lego Movies was out at the time or what, but I always like to swing for the fences idea-wise and was like, “Well, what if we just call the Lego people and see if they would make us into Legos?” Then it turned into something crazy.
What was the original idea you approached Lego with?
It was a lot of what you see. But it grew and developed as the Pure Imagination folks — who were the animators working on it — got in the mix. [Producer/director] David Coleman spearheaded this thing, and it seemed serendipitous because when we finally got to talk, it turns out he grew up in the same town I did, his parents knew my parents, it was really strange and super wild. He’s working out in L.A. now, but he had been over to my house when we were kids once or twice, and here we are 25, 30 years later working on this.
I wonder if you guys played with Legos …
I hadn’t even thought about that, but it’s possible!
So the idea changed a lot over time. Were you hands-on with the way it evolved?
Of course, yeah. Every boat or figure or outfit or hair color, anything that’s in the video required an approval — and a discussion and revisions, editing — everything down to the tambourine and getting the right drum kit. We had to get approvals from Lego to make guitars that were the shape of the guitar I play, because there were some things they already had in the Lego databank, so to speak, but some things we had to create. And I say “we,” but by “we” I mean them, because I certainly don’t have the technical prowess or ability to do … well, none of the things they did. (Laughs)
It culminates with a giant Chris Stapleton Megatron. Where did that come from?
That was an idea we had because the stage we’re currently using kind of looks robotic. So we’re like “What if we disassemble this thing and use it to fight this giant thing that comes out of the lake?” I’m not sure how all these ideas happened (Laughs). It was a lot of sitting in a room and bouncing crazy ideas off each other. Somebody was like, “What if the lake monster turns to stone like the Kraken in Clash of the Titans?” We put every pop culture reference we could think of in there … all kinds of little Easter Eggs in it that Lego likes to put in … and Chris Pratt is the fan that gets thrown out and starts the whole thing.
I know you guys have done things together in the past, but how did he get involved?
It was really another one of those discussions like, “Who can we get to be this guy?” and he was the obvious choice. I love what he does so much and he’s so good at those kind of things — I mean he already existed in that universe — so it seemed natural. I just called him and asked him to do it, and he did it in an afternoon on his phone.
He claims to be your Number One fan in the video. Do you think that’s true?
Well, he is an actor, so I can’t fully trust that. But he certainly has been kind enough to me both in words and action to at least throw his name in the hat for like, Top Five.
Can you give any hints about the Easter Eggs hidden in the video?
Probably my favorite one, and this is something that came from the guys at Pure Imagination, came from a line in a different song [“Up to No Good Livin’”]. It goes “People call me the Picasso of painting the town,” so there’s a scene with a guy painting a tiny Picasso-ized version of me. It’s great. They throw some ninjas into the merch booth and fall over, and right there is a guy painting a Picasso of me — that cracks me up. There are tons of things like that if you wanna look for them.
Are your kids old enough yet to think this is cool?
Well they’re in it, so yeah. I only had two kids when I started this video and I now have five, but the other neat thing about this is my oldest two got to participate and approve in the creation of themselves as Legos. [Producer] Dave Cobb’s daughter is in it, too, and so is my drummer Derek Mixon’s daughter, so they’re the four kids that are driving the robot. A good portion of my crew is in it — the back line guys, the monitor guys, lighting, audio crew people. I Lego-ized a real portion of what’s out on the road … and I said it again. I said “I,” but I don’t do any of that work. They know that.
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