Brantley Gilbert is no stranger around Music City these days, but before he took the plunge and moved to Nashville, he was pretty skeptical -- the singer admits he kept his distance intentionally. 

The 'Bottoms Up' hitmaker did eventually set up shop in Tennessee, signing a record deal with Valory Music Co., but up to that point, he'd been making ends meet in Georgia, where he was born and raised.

"We were doing our own thing in Georgia, and in the southeast and we were selling out clubs and makin’ a decent living," Gilbert says. "Don’t get me wrong, we went way, way, way broke for a lotta years in the beginning. But I was happy where I was at and I was just a little hesitant about Nashville."

So, what was he so nervous about? Apparently, he was afraid of change -- or being forced to change, rather. Adds Gilbert, “I was scared to death somebody’d try to slap some wranglers and a bucket hat on me and tell me to sing somebody else’s songs. I was a little standoffish, but eventually we grew to the point where those things [a record deal] were a necessity."

The move paid off, literally -- Gilbert is now a country star. With his 2014 Let It Ride Tour and upcoming album, Music City is keeping the singer busy. Just don't expect to see him swapping his rebel look for a cowboy hat and spurs anytime soon!

This summer, Brantley Gilbert is booked for the second-annual Taste of Country Music Festival in New York. Want to go? Learn more here.