There’s No Quit in Brantley Gilbert
What motivates Brantley Gilbert is different than what motivated him 10 years ago. Back then, "Kick It in the Sticks" was starting to make him a Southern country and rock club staple, and the Modern Day Prodigal Son album was defining the country underground.
He's just as hungry today.
The easygoing country bad boy isn't one you'd expect to be a chart-watcher or even a worrier, but as he celebrated his most recent No. 1 single, "What Happens in a Small Town," with friends, family and his team on Wednesday night (Jan. 8), he admitted he'd noticed that it had been a bit since he got the opportunity.
Gilbert's last Billboard Country Airplay No. 1 came in August of 2015 with "One Hell of an Amen." It's not fair to say songs that followed ("The Weekend," for example) weren't hits, but they didn't top the chart. That's something that is most definitely important for Gilbert.
“Top 10 is great, Top 5 is great, but it’s not that moment," he tells Taste of Country. "You don’t get this (a No. 1 party) and you don’t get that time to bring everybody in your organization together to celebrate."
"As long as there is a box, man, we know where we belong ... right outside of it.
Listening to the 34-year-old speak during remarks at his No. 1 party, it's clear that bringing his team together wasn't just a reason to be there, it was the reason. Wife Amber could be seen chasing their blond-haired 2-year-old Barrett around Music City Indoor Karting. His new baby was elsewhere, perhaps with his mother-in-law, whom Gilbert shared was also on hand.
He gushed about the effort put in by his record label team and talked about how much he loves his co-writers, Josh Dunne, Brock Berryhill and Rhett Akins. They've all battled with him as he's battled his demons — in fact, one of the speech's highlights was Gilbert admitting he wrote with Akins and the Peach Pickers very early on in Nashville and appreciated how comfortable they made him feel when others didn't know how to handle his prickly personality. Two bottles of Jaegermeister served as co-writers for those sessions, he admitted with laughter— a spirit the now eight years sober Brantley Gilbert likes to leave behind.
"I break out in handcuffs," he says, referring to his "alcohol allergy."
WATCH: Brantley Gilbert Reveals New Songs About His Wife, Kids
A decade ago, Gilbert's goal was to sell out the Georgia Theater, a 1,000-seat venue in Athens, Ga. Fame was not what motivated him then, but it does so even less now that he's married with two kids. It's a different kind of hungry, he shares when asked to reflect on his decade in the music business. Fresh off the release of Fire & Brimstone, his fourth release on Valory Music, he gathered many of his favorite songwriters at his farm for an epic weekend that churned out 15 new songs. There's a real purpose and energy about him that makes clear his intent, even more than words.
With collaborator Lindsay Ell next to him, Gilbert was reminded that not long ago — perhaps even still today — he was lumped in the "not real country" category for being too edgy, too rock.
“It’s just a reminder that we’re outside the box and not caught up in the machine," he says of how he took that. "As long as there is a box, man, we know where we belong and that’s right outside of it."
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