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Brantley Gilbert Interview: ACM New Artist Nominee Reveals What Keeps Him Out of Trouble

Brantley Gilbert
Jason Kempin, Getty Images

It’s January, and Brantley Gilbert has already announced the following for his 2013 itinerary: he’s touring with Tim McGraw this summer (that’s after his headlining tour finishes), he’s been nominated for the New Male Vocalist ACM award (vote here), he’s already on an episode of ‘Nashville‘ on ABC, and he’s finished the early stages of recording his new album, the follow-up to the critically and commercially successful ’Halfway to Heaven.’ Oh, and he’s just gotten engaged. Phew!

Again … it’s only January.

The ‘More Than Miles’ singer says he isn’t the type to sit around searching for peace and quiet. “I tell you we had some time off, Jana and I both. We really didn’t know what to do with ourselves,” Gilbert told Taste of Country, referring to his new fiancee, fellow country hitmaker Jana Kramer.

“I was sick and had been sick for like a month — we kept giving it back to each other. I was getting over it a little bit and I laid in the bed so much I finally called my manager and I was like ‘I gotta get out of this bed, I gotta do something.’ So he called George over at the label (Valory Music Co.) and I ended up going to the label and doing phoners (phone interviews) for a few hours.”

He adds, “Yeah I don’t worry about running myself ragged. I worry about being bored.”

Gilbert is more comfortable doing interviews than he was two years ago when ‘Country Must Be Country Wide’ was racing to the top of the country charts. He laughs often, tells stories and cracks jokes while slipping in polite “yessirs” where appropriate. He refers to himself as “we” instead of “I.” It’s not quite clear who makes up the rest of that plural pronoun, but given his dedication to his loyal BG Nation fanbase — his official fan club is free, one refreshing example of the mutual relationship — one can assume he’s sincere in counting them as part of his team.

Good manners hide the bad boy within, but he joked about that too during the revealing conversation, during which he spoke openly about his relationship with Kramer and how sobriety paved the road for one year’s worth of success.

ToC: How bad do you want to win the ACM Award?

Gilbert: Man, it’s always an honor to be nominated. It’s definitely important. It means the world … we’d love to win it. It shows us a lot of dues paying off, and at the same time, if we don’t, it ain’t gonna break us. We’re gonna keep doing what we do.

You strike us as a pretty competitive guy who doesn’t like to lose.

[laughs] Well, losing is never fun.

Who is the first person you would thank?

I’d have to say God. I don’t think any of this would be possible.

We wanted to ask you about the video for ‘More Than Miles,’ because it’s a pretty stirring performance. Did anyone give you any acting tips?

[laughs] I had a coach who was kind of hard to follow directions from, cause she’s really hot [laughs]. Yeah, when the ‘Nashville’ thing came up, that whole idea, I was playing myself. I wasn’t playing another character, so it was easy. She [Kramer] had a good time with it. She likes the idea of me entertaining acting I think.

What kind of advice did Jana give you as far as the actual performance?

Just, you know, be me. That was the biggest thing on that one because I was actually my own character so it didn’t require a whole lot of coaching.

Do you two “talk shop”? Do you give each other tips and try to help each other professionally? 

We value each others opinion, as far as careers are concerned. Definitely, she’s a big enough part of my life to have an opinion and I’m a big enough part of her’s to have an opinion that matters. I think we’re supportive more than anything but we help each other out.

Talk about the new album you’re working on.

This record will be the next chapter of my life. This next one is just gonna pick up where the last one left off. You can definitely expect some rockin’ stuff. It’s gonna rock n’ roll — it’ll show a little bit of the sensitive side too.

‘Halfway to Heaven’ had some songs that were real gut-punches. There was a somber tone. Would you describe the new one as more upbeat?

A little more upbeat, but similar. There’s still some serious issues and situations where ‘Halfway to Heaven’ was definitely a heavier album. An emotionally heavier album. This next one … I can’t help it man, I pour my heart out when I write so hopefully it will reflect that. I know I’m just as proud if not more proud of this one than I am the last one.

Do you have to be removed from a situation to write about it?

It really depends. I’ve been in situations before where something was going on and that’s the only way you can kinda cope with it is to write about it. Other situations are better to wait. There’s been other situations where I’m ready to kick someone’s a– — I’ve written a song about that as well [laughs].

Tell me about this experience with the a—kicking song.

[laughs] Which experience [laughs]? There’s probably too many of those to talk about. I can honestly say that I haven’t punched anybody in over a year [laughs]. I’m on a roll!

It’s like one of those construction signs: “No accidents in the workplace in 264 days.”

That’s right. I like to say that I’m retired [laughs]. No, man, I’ve got a enough people around me now and my whole life situation is a lot different. You know getting out of the club scene and stuff has helped a little bit. And being sober has helped a little bit too, I would imagine.

By being sober, you mean you gave up alcohol and everything all together?

Oh yeah, Dec. 18 was a year.

What made you do that?

It was a chapter in my life that I’d written. I was just kind of ready to move on to bigger and better things. It was just a part of my life I really didn’t need [in order to be] as productive as I needed to be and to be the man I wanted to be.

Who do you trust to tell you if a new song you’re working on is good or no good? 

I got several litmus tests for songs, but usually the people at the publishing company … they’re straight-shooters. A lot of people can be cheerleaders for songs and go, ‘Oh that’s great’ and they don’t think it. I can always count on Scott Borchetta.

Usually when I write, the first person I run it by is Jana. She’s pretty brutally honest at times [laughs].

Next: See Jana Kramer's Gorgeous Engagement Ring

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