Brantley Gilbert came to “Kick It In The Sticks” in Columbus on Saturday.
The country artist has six No.1 hits on the Billboard country charts and is one of four country music artists to have back-to-back platinum albums. He’s currently travelling the country on his “The Devil Don’t Sleep” tour with up-and-coming country artists Brian Davis, Luke Combs and Tucker Beathard.
Gilbert, born and raised in Georgia, released his most recent album “The Devil Don’t Sleep” on Jan. 27. It debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart and sold 66,000 copies in the first week, which made it the top-selling album of the week in the United States.
Before he performed to the sold-out Schottenstein Center crowd, The Lantern spoke with Gilbert about his new album, his connection with his fans and the advice he has for aspiring singer-songwriters.
The Lantern: You’ve been on the road with “The Devil Don’t Sleep” tour for a few months now. How is this tour different than previous ones?
Brantley Gilbert: You know what? I feel like I’ve been on tour for the past 10 years. But it’s fun to see what the (supporting acts) bring to the table as performers and as writers. It’s something awesome to watch. Regardless of who you’re touring with, it’s a lot of fun. You just get to know guys and like I said, see what they bring to the table. We do change production from tour to tour so the production on this one has a lot more fire than the last one, which has taken some getting used to. I love it, but it’s taken some getting used to.
TL: You’ve said before that, “All I’ve ever done (with my songwriting) is write my life. All these songs are pages from life, and the albums are chapters.” What chapter of your life is represented in “The Devil Don’t Sleep” and where does that chapter fall in the Brantley Gilbert narrative?
BG: It covers kind of my last little single period into when my wife came back in the picture. My wife and I have some pretty good history. Thirteen or 14 years where we had not seen or spoke to each other in five years and she kind of came back in the picture and things went from there. So, kind of covers that chapter. It’s probably the most positive record I’ve ever released. Which is kind of in direct contrast to the title but “The Devil Don’t Sleep” is all about knowing that even though things are going well — it’s a very positive chapter and God’s doing some awesome things — even with that being the case, “The Devil Don’t Sleep” is all about this kind of being a period of the Devil. Everybody has a devil. Everybody has their devil. I’m a believer, so I believe in the actual Devil but everybody has a vice, everybody has their devil and it’s just about keeping your head on level and staying on your toes.
TL: You’re very transparent in your songs and you put your heart into your lyrics. How does your honesty in your songwriting contribute to the strong connection you have with your fans in BG nation?
BG: I’ve noticed, as a writer, that the songs that I tried to write for marketability or songs that I really tried to make relatable, any time I chased that concept, it kind of collapsed on itself. The songs that I’ve always found to be most relatable to the people that listen and care are the songs that are extremely personal, for some reason. You’d think that the more personal songs would be the ones that people find reasons not to relate to. That’s actually not the case at all. It’s a pretty interesting thing. That’s one of my favorite parts of my job. I’m able to be the “what you see is what you get” guy.
TL: Why do you think having this connection with your fans is important as an artist?
BG: It is about relatability. We’re playing shows for folks that are like me. People ask me all the time why I chose country music, why I like writing country music. It’s not so much that I chose the genre, I feel like as a writer I explore a lot of different genres and a lot of different writing methods and things. I’ve never really looked at it like I’m going directly into country music. I’m a country guy. I grew up in a small town. We spent time in the woods (and) out in the fields loading hay. You know, doing country things. When I write songs about my life, they’re about country things. I think people that relate to those songs are folks that are a lot like me.
TL: Not only do you write your own music but you’ve written for other artists such as Jason Aldean. What makes writing for other artists different than writing your own stuff?
BG: I gotta be honest with you and tell you that the songs he cut were already on a record of mine. They’ll always be my songs and the people that I wrote them for and about will always be able to hear them the way I did them. But having somebody of that stature hear a song like that and relate to it and want to cut it is an awesome experience. I was proud that he did it. But I’d be lying if I told you that I sat down and wrote those for Jason. I did have to go on YouTube and convince people that he didn’t break into my house with a black ski mask and steal my songs. It’s not quite how that went down.
TL: What advice do you have to give to aspiring singer-songwriters?
BG: You know what, the business has changed so much since I was coming up. The way we came up it was getting in front of people and spreading music by any means necessary, you know, even when it doesn’t mean making money. We travelled places and get to a town and play for basically gas money to make it to the next town and sometimes you had to stay in that town an extra day just to make enough gas money to get to the next one. I’m not real sure if that’s still relevant to what’s going on nowadays as far as working your way up. The most beneficial thing I feel like for me has been to do me. To be the “what you see is what you get” guy. You don’t have to keep up with a story or an image or anything. You never have to worry about living a lie. It is what it is. I think everybody has an interesting life in its own way. It’s the way you portray it to other people as a writer. As an artist, I don’t know. I don’t feel like I have a lot of great advice at all on that end because I’ve always been a singer-songwriter. You know what I mean? Songwriting has always been part of the equation for me and they kind of go hand in hand. I would say just to do you. You know? Make sure you follow your thing.