Nashville Hitmaker Abe Stoklasa Dead at 38: ‘A One-of-a-Kind Gem’
Abe Stoklasa — who made his name in Nashville as a highly respected songwriter and musician — has died at the age of 38.
Nashville's Tennessean newspaper reports that Stoklasa died on Friday (Nov. 17) of "undetermined causes." Multiple social media posts suggest that he had battled cancer prior to his death, but that is unconfirmed as of publication time.
Born in Princeton, Mo., in 1985, Stoklasa became interested in music early, joining his father's band onstage to sing by the time he was two years old.
"At like six years old my dad threw me in the band as the keyboard player, sink or swim," Stoklasa told the Shotgun Seat. "So that’s how I learned to play music.”
After spending his teenage years playing music, Stoklasa studied at Belmont University in Nashville before hitting the road with David Nail, playing steel guitar. He spent three additional years on tour with Billy Currington, including a support stint on Kenny Chesney's Goin' Coastal stadium tour in 2011.
“To be honest, I was 23 years old playing football stadiums full of people on the Kenny Chesney tour, and after that tour I was just like, I’ve kind of peaked as a musician, it’s never gonna get any bigger than that, I don’t think this is what I’m supposed to do with my life,” he told the Shotgun Seat.
So Stoklasa turned his attention to songwriting full-time, emerging as a unique voice in the Music City community. His songs were often lyrically and musically more complex than standard Nashville fare, and he began to earn success, scoring his first cut with Tim McGraw's "Portland, Maine," in 2014. Cuts from Blake Shelton and Lady A soon followed, and Stoklasa would go on to a string of well-respected songs that included cuts from Billy Currington, Charlie Worsham and more.
"Any pressure I feel [to write a radio hit] would be self-imposed. I don’t feel pressure from my publisher," he stated. "I can always tour if I needed money. But I do want radio hits, so I definitely try to write them," he added, admitting that he didn't feel he had the same talent for that as Dallas Davidson, Craig Wiseman and other more mainstream writers.
Stoklasa contributed heavily to Lady A singer Charles Kelley's 2016 solo album, The Driver, co-writing the title song, "Your Love," "Dancing Around It" and "Leaving Nashville." The title song, which Kelley recorded as a collaboration with Dierks Bentley and Eric Paslay, earned a Grammy nomination for Best Country Duo/Group Performance.
"I feel like I can say I have a Grammy-nominated song, although I’m not a Grammy-nominated songwriter," Stoklasa told Music Row, adding that Kelley "has always been like a brother to me. He’s an amazing writer. We’ve written songs other people have cut… and he likes to cut my songs!"
Kelley was among the artists who remembered Stoklasa after his death, providing the following statement to the Tennessean:
Abe was otherworldly. I always knew his mind moved at a pace I could never comprehend. He was confidence and self-doubt all wrapped in one. But, he for sure was a musicians musician and carried one of the most authentic voices in this town. We shared a deep love of Marc Cohn's records. I'll never listen to 'Rest for the Weary' without thinking of you, my friend: 'One day, there's love for the lonely / One day, they walk in the sun / One day, rest for the weary, rest for the weary ones.'
Charlie Worsham and Donovan Woods are among those who turned to social media to salute Abe Stoklasa after the news of his death:
No funeral plans for Abe Stoklasa have been announced.
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Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes