Let’s take a peak at the plus and minus columns for Brantley Gilbert over the past year and a half.
The former is led by fatherhood, sold out shows, hit records and continued momentum for an already vigorous country music career.
The loss? Well, there’s the matter of a tour bus that caught on fire. Not even the often dubbed “What You See is What You Get” singer can have everything going his way. But as no one was hurt in the rolling blaze, let’s get back to the positives.
First up is fatherhood. In November 2017, Gilbert — the voice behind such country hits as “Bottoms Up” as well as the writer of radio smashes that include Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” — and wife Amber welcomed son Barrett into the world. Gilbert, however, refers to him in conversation as simply the Little Man.
“It’s just grind, grind, grind, especially with the Little Man in the picture,” said Gilbert, who returns to Rupp Arena for a Thursday concert. “This isn’t one of those careers that lasts forever. I’m not getting any younger, so I want to make sure we do everything we can to stay relevant. The only way I’ve ever known to do that is to keep my ass busy, so that’s what we’ve been trying to do — stay busy. I don’t seem to have any trouble doing that. But that’s a good thing.”
But what of the balancing act between parenthood and touring as an arena-level country star?
“It’s been going pretty good other than the bus burning down.”
Okay. We’re going to get the one negative out of the way. Last month, Gilbert’s tour bus went up in flames after departing a performance in Canada. Gilbert was traveling separately at the time. While no one on board was injured, the vehicle and a number of personal possessions were lost.
“My drivers were on their way back from Canada,” Gilbert said. “I got a call that night saying they were in Montana and the bus caught fire. I haven’t seen the bus since then or been able to go in it or get anything. It’s been interesting. I mean, we had just got it set up perfect with a little crib and everything in there. We’re on a replacement bus now. It’s not exactly what we wanted, but it’s enough for us to be able to bring the Little Man and Amber out on the road. That helps a lot.”
It’s going to take more than a bus fire to derail the rest of Gilbert’s banner year. On the professional front, he continues to pack audiences in at shows. That level of appeal has been aided by the ongoing popularity of his 2017 album “The Devil Don’t Sleep.” The record was another major crossover hit for the singer, topping the all-genre Billboard 200 chart upon its release. It has proven a fitting victory, as Gilbert’s music has always been open to influences — specifically, elements of rap and rock — found off the usual country routes.
Most of the things I know anything about are country things. It may have a little beat to it, but it’s still country as far as I’m concerned.
“I’ve always been someone who listens to a little bit of everything,” Gilbert said. “I’ll probably always feel like I’m more of a songwriter than I am an artist. I feel that kind of gives me the freedom to step outside of the genre and outside the box and have fun. I get to be the ‘What You See is What You Get’ guy. Most of the things I know anything about are country things. It may have a little beat to it, but it’s still country as far as I’m concerned.
“There are a lot of people who would argue that point. You can get into the whole argument about rap and country and this, that and the other. I mean, ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ beat that road by several years.”
Of course, while today’s country might be dictated by numerous modern accents, a song reveals its roots as much through attitude and feel as through a specific tradition.
“For sure, and through content,” Gilbert said. “If you’re talking about dirt roads and tailgates, it’s hard to argue that it’s a country song. But like I said, there are folks that have a different opinion and taste. I guess, to each their own, but I’ve never been one to let that bother me a whole lot.”