Brantley Gilbert on Song About the Fight That Almost Killed Him
There are just five new songs on the Platinum edition of Brantley Gilbert's new Just as I Am album, but included is a collaboration with one of hip-hop's finest, the true-to-life story of a drunk dial gone right and a song about a fight that almost killed the singer.
Gilbert slows down when talking about the title track to his album. The raw emotion you hear during the ballad — “I’ll be honest with you. I teared up about every time I sang it in the booth" — begins to leak out during conversation.
"Just as I Am" is a song about faith. The 30-year-old makes sure he includes at least one on each new project, because his story isn't complete without fans knowing he's a believer. It rounds him out, ensuring he can't be pigeonholed as another country outlaw with reaching rap roots.
I was in a lot of fights, but nothing like this. That one was trying to kill me.
“This one is definitely about the most intense and most deadly struggle I had in my entire life,” Gilbert tells Taste of Country by phone from his home in Georgia. Fiancee Amber Cochran is nearby. Both are enjoying lunch.
“I was in a lot of fights, but nothing like this. That one was trying to kill me.”
Of course he's talking about his battle with alcohol. It's been well-documented and the "One Hell of An Amen" singer is as honest about it as one can be. To this day he hasn't touched the stuff since he quit drinking in December 2011. That's about the point his career turned for the better.
“The only thing that makes me uncomfortable is when people that do drink, don’t drink around me," he says.
“My fiancée likes to have a glass of wine every now and then. Or she’ll drink a beer watching a ball game or a fight or whatever. And she knows the same thing," the singer adds.
“I’ve told her, ‘You know how to drink one and just put it down. I can’t. If I have one, it’s gonna be downhill. We gonna go fight somebody and I’m probably gonna wake up naked on some beach I’ve never been to.'”
When Gilbert tells stories like this — ones that reveal his vulnerabilities or emotional side — he's prone to end each verse with a joke and a laugh. Men do that, especially when talking to other men. But he doesn't shy away from telling stories that paint a vivid picture of his softer side. He talked about the story behind his wedding rings and saving his right arm and chest for tattoos dedicated to his family. If you want to talk about faith and God for an hour, he's willing. These emotions soak every album. Some can criticize Gilbert for getting too personal, but doing anything else would rob him of the basic ingredients of his music. The outcome would be a bland, microwaved version that tastes like so much else on country radio.
So scars, tattoos and all, Gilbert rips his shirt off and walks into every room and conversation with nothing to hide. "Stone Cold Sober" is another new song. Gilbert helped finish that track after hearing songwriters Brett James and Dan Layus picking away at it. He said it reminded him of a time about 10 years ago when he called Amber up after having a few drinks.
“Usually when it came to her, I wouldn’t do that," he says. "I wouldn’t talk to her unless I was straight as an arrow."
A man she considered a second father got on the phone and told him what he needed to hear, but didn't want to listen to. Gilbert got angry, and while he doesn't say it, likely buried himself deeper in a bottle.
“Yeah I let the whiskey talk / Baby it said too much / I got the feeling that / It didn’t say enough / Because I’m waking up alone / Missing that midnight kiss / I can’t promise you forever / Oh the news is I still want you to come over / And I’m stone cold sober,” he sings at the chorus.
“I think everybody has drunk-dialed at one point in their life, but looking back it’s kind of crazy when you look back at the drunk dial that happened that night and you’re telling somebody how much you love him and it actually ends up being true," he shares.
Gilbert and Cochran will get married later this year. Her bachelorette party was this month, and his bachelor party is the week of CMA Music Festival in Nashville. Don't expect anything too wild — he plans to take some of his groomsman and friends (most of whom are married with kids) to his deer farm in Alabama for some "guy time."
“I can’t tell you the last time I just got to hang out with my buddies," the star admits.
The Platinum version of Just as I Am is in stores and at digital retailers now. It also includes a remake of Gilbert's chart-topping hit "Bottoms Up." Rapper T.I. joins him, adding an extended rap to the song's middle.
“I’m sure we’ll get a little bit of negative feedback about the rap in country thing, but I think a lot of people will dig it," Gilbert says. He's a fan of T.I. and appreciates the similarities in their music. "A lot of rap music can get repetitive. I think he goes a little bit deeper than some."
Look for Gilbert on the road with Kenny Chesney this summer. On Friday (May 22), he'll begin a motorcycle ride with 10 alumni of the Wounded Warrior Project that ends in Baton Rouge, La. for his set at Bayou Country Superfest.
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