Amber Stoklasa-Smith / Facebook
Abe Stoklasa, renowned for crafting songs for artists like Tim McGraw, Charlie Worsham, Chris Lane, and Lady A, has sadly passed away. Billboard confirmed his death, revealing he died on Nov. 17 from undisclosed causes.
The Princeton, Missouri native discovered his love for music at a young age, joining his father’s band by the age of six.
“I have always been a musician,” Stoklasa previously told The Shotgun Seat of his musically formative years. “My dad had a little ransom-style show in the midwest — we did like 70 shows a year — so from two years old I was singing on the stage. At like six years old, my dad threw me in the band as the keyboard player, sink or swim. So that’s how I learned to play music.”
Beyond possessing a lovely vocal tone reminiscent of Paul Simon, Stoklasa was a skilled instrumentalist. Immersed in keyboard playing since the age of six, he also mastered pedal steel and saxophone, achieving professional proficiency in both.
Having dedicated his teenage years to playing music, Stoklasa pursued studies at Belmont University in Nashville. Following his graduation, he became a steel guitar player for David Nail’s road band. Subsequently, he briefly pursued a graduate degree at the University of Miami Frost School of Music, however, his passion for actively making music, rather than just studying it, led him back to the road.
His compositions showcased a complexity, both lyrically and musically, surpassing the typical Nashville style. His breakthrough came with the success of Tim McGraw’s “Portland, Maine” in 2014, followed by placements with Blake Shelton and Lady A. Stoklasa continued to build a notable repertoire, contributing to songs recorded by Billy Currington, Charlie Worsham, and others.
In 2015, he achieved a No. 1 hit with Chris Lane’s “Fix.” Stoklasa noted that “Fix” stood out in his catalog, which predominantly focused on less commercial material.
“Any pressure I feel [to write a radio hit] would be self-imposed. I don’t feel pressure from my publisher. I can always tour if I needed money. But I do want radio hits, so I definitely try to write them.”
Stoklasa played a significant role in Lady A singer Charles Kelley’s 2016 solo album, “The Driver,” co-writing key tracks such as the title song, “The Driver,” “Your Love,” “Dancing Around It,” and “Leaving Nashville.” The album’s title track, recorded as a collaboration with Dierks Bentley and Eric Paslay, received a Grammy nomination for Best Country Duo/Group Performance.
“Abe was otherworldly,” Kelley said in a tribute posted on his Instagram page. “I always knew his mind moved at a pace I could never comprehend. He was confidence and self doubt all wrapped in one. He frustrated me and inspired me all at the same time. He was a true enigma in every sense of the word, but aren’t the most talented musicians and artists that way? He was a musician’s musician and carried one of the most authentic voices in this town. I’ll never listen to the songs we shared together the same or forget the moments we had onstage and on the late night bus rides. Nashville will never see another Abe Stoklasa. I’ll miss you my soft spoken friend.”
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Worsham also offered up heartfelt memories of his friendship with Stoklasa, talking about his favorite memories with the songwriter in a social media video. “Abe Stoklasa. A one-of-a-kind gem. More memories and feelings than I could ever put into one video. I love you and I’ll miss you terribly, but I will see you again some day and can only imagine the front row seat you have at the Aretha concert in heaven right now.”
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