The new year isn’t even one month old and already Brantley Gilbert is racing all over creation.
Admittedly, the journeys began in the fall when the country star kicked off a tour in Amsterdam. He plays Rupp Arena for the first time as a headliner tonight, having opened there for Eric Church in April 2012 with a follow-up show of his own at the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum that October. Then the trek will take the Georgia-born singer and songwriter through Canada and as far away as Australia in March.
Today, though, Gilbert is in California — specifically, beautiful downtown Burbank — in between tapings for Conan. The first song, Grown Ass Man, cut exclusively for web viewing, is already in the can. The second, the pensively electric single Stone Cold Sober, will be played during the broadcast taping in a few hours. For now, Gilbert is on break and up for reflecting on a career that has been designed and executed squarely on his own terms.
“I feel there is a box that exists for my music,” Gilbert says. “As long as we’re on the edge of it, we’re right where we need to be.
“There is a lot of talk about how country is splitting into several different genres. I never sit down to write country songs or a rap song or an R&B song. I just try to sit down and write the best song for the moment that really expresses the thought in its entirety in the best way possible. We write them and re-write them what seems like a hundred times before they’re ready. We just concentrate on the song as a whole. Then when it gets in the studio, the producer and the band I have, every single one of those guys, bring all of their inspiration and all of their influences to the table. The sound that comes out is what you get.
“It’s a little bit different than everything you hear on the radio, and we’re proud of that.
“To me, just having everybody involved like that and using the band in the studio kind of gives us an edge to be kind of outside of the box. Whatever goes on inside of that box is fine. We’re going to keep doing our thing. As long as country music has a place for us in the platform, we’ll stand proud.”
I do feel like, being a part of the writing process, I can make sure that the song tells my story. I like all of my records to become albums that tell the story of my life, where another record becomes another chapter. I try my best to cover the good, the bad and the ugly.
Songwriting has long been crucial to Gilbert’s career. He penned two of Jason Aldean’s biggest hits, My Kinda Party and Dirt Road Anthem just as his own career broke through with the release of his platinum-selling Halfway to Heaven album in 2010.
“There are still a lot of crash and burns in there,” Gilbert said of his writing history.
“There has been a lot of beating my head against the wall to where a song just doesn’t work. Then a lot of times, you sit down and it feels like the song writes itself in a matter of seconds. But I do feel like, being a part of the writing process, I can make sure that the song tells my story. I like all of my records to become albums that tell the story of my life, where another record becomes another chapter. I try my best to cover the good, the bad and the ugly.”
Gilbert’s solo success extends to his current album, Just As I Am, along with his jet-setting touring schedule. The November terrorist attacks in Paris prompted the rescheduling of four dates, all in the United Kingdom, to May. The globetrotting also underscores the growth Gilbert’s career has experienced since his debut album Modern Day Prodigal Son was released in 2009.
“Prodigal Son cost about $100,000 to make and to get the first set of records back with the graphics on them,” Gilbert says. “I remember I had to go chase the UPS guy down that delivered them. I knew him. He taught me in Sunday school. It was a box of 200 CDs. I started selling them out of the back of my truck and sold them on myspace. I remember sending these records out individually, hand writing addresses on the packages and sending them off myself. Now we’re selling hundreds of thousands of records and it’s awesome to see how much there is to be proud of.
“I can’t remember being any happier with life in general, but especially with the music and my career. I’m extremely proud of that and am looking forward to the next chapter.”
Read Walter Tunis' blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com.
If You Go
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 29
Where: Rupp Arena, 435 W. Vine St.
Tickets: $34.75, $39.75