Today, Chris Stapleton's calling card is his voice: That rangy, raspy boom that effortlessly bounces between country, rock and soul, stamping everything he records with nuance and powerful emotion.

But Stapleton's voice wasn't always so renowned.

Before his now-legendary 2015 CMA Awards performance with Justin Timberlake, which launched him overnight into mainstream country stardom, he spent 15 years in Nashville as a working songwriter. At that point, he remembers in a new appearance on Today's Sunday Sitdown With Willie Geist, his voice wasn't necessarily his signature feature.

"I always sang. And then I think at some point, people only maybe regard it as special or something when you start to have some kind of notoriety with it," Stapleton relates. "Otherwise, you're a dude that sings."

The singer also points out that it took time for him to develop the voice fans know and love today. For a while, Stapleton says that he was preoccupied with sounding like other artists he revered, and didn't necessarily let his own voice shine through on recordings and in performances.

"I spent a long time trying to be other people," he admits. "Like, I love Vince Gill. I tried so hard to be Vince Gill and sound like Vince Gill. There's lots of demo recordings of me wishing I was Vince Gill."

"But I'm not any of those people, and eventually, you hopefully, through all those influences and also focusing on what it is that you do, you find out what that is," Stapleton adds. "And then you put that out there, and if that's something special that people think is special, that's great."

Stapleton's new album, Higher, is due for release on Nov. 10.

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Chris Stapleton has only released four albums, but paring down a list of his 25 best songs is very difficult. These hits and album cuts are sure to make you feel some kind of way.

Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes

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