Brantley Gilbert’s ‘What Happens in a Small Town’ Is Based on a True Story
Brantley Gilbert's "What Happens in a Small Town" is a country-rock power ballad about a girl. Yep, that girl.
"The same one, and I’m married to her," he tells Taste of Country. "That’s one of the great things about being in a relationship with a goodbye in it."
Gilbert married Amber Cochran in 2015, after several years of on and off as he fought addiction and started his music career. "It's easy to write those breakup songs when you know how it ends," he admits, laughing.
Brock Berryhill, Josh Dunne and Rhett Akins helped Gilbert write the song when his record label president Scott Borchetta asked him to write one more great, lead single kind of song for his next album. That project is finished, but it needed a cherry on top to re-introduce him after several months spent away from promoting a radio single. In an effort to mix of up his guitar riffs, the group wrote this song to a track Berryhill brought to the party.
"What happens in a small town stays in a small town / Every back road we've ever gone down / Friday night bleachers, Sunday pews / Ain't a county line mile without a memory of you," he sings during the chorus. It's a breakup song that finds him struggling to get past her memory. Basically, it's ripped from that time in his life when he and Amber were split up.
Lindsay Ell is the song's surprise vocalist and guitarist. Gilbert had never recorded a duet with a female before, and he thought of the "Criminal" singer first when the writing partners started to realize they might have a song that needed a second voice. She was all in immediately.
"He has this rock side to him that is the basis of my heart and what endeared me to music to begin with," Ell tells ToC, speaking of Gilbert. "It kind of makes perfect sense."
Yes, that's her shredding on guitar throughout the song, and if you're hoping the pair might get a chance to combine their edgy rock-country ways on a stage sometime soon, you may be in luck — they're hoping for the same.
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