Brantley Gilbert has been hitting the charts for nearly a decade, scoring a No. 1 single in 2013 with his first million-seller, “Bottoms Up.”
He’s been drinking in the heady rise, but after spending just a year in Nashville, he was ready to move back to his Georgia roots.
“I’m just one of those guys that felt like I needed to be around the people and places that I started writing music about,” he said by phone on a recent day off from his tour, which is swinging through the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids on May 10.
“There’s people at home that have known me for a long time that hold me accountable and aren’t scared to set me straight if I get outside the lines a little bit, and that’s the way I like it.”
He’s gained new perspective on work/life balance from a tiny newcomer: his son, Barrett, born Nov. 11, to his wife, Amber.
“Sometimes (work) has been so busy, it’s hard to slow down and smell the roses,” he said. “It’s been a grind, it’s been a lot of fun. There’s been a lot of ups and down, but bringing the baby into my life now and having the wife — they’re two people it’s so important to share my lovin’ with. It’s worth it, staying in the world. This is the best part of the ride yet,” said Gilbert, 33.
They live in Maysville, a small town he calls “neutral territory” between his hometown of Jefferson and his wife’s hometown of Commerce. “That was the most intense rivalry in the state of Georgia when it came to single A football,” he said. “You weren’t even supposed to date across the river.”
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Gone are his days of high school field parties with teens from neighboring towns, and the early days of playing biker bars and college bars.
“We call those ‘the good old days.’ It was a little bit different frame of mind,” he said. “That was before I stopped drinking. There’s a lot of those nights that can be a tad bit hazy from time to time.”
But whether he’s playing a venue intimate or immense, what hasn’t changed is what he pours into his live shows.
“To be honest with you, it’s quite the same,” he said. “For me, it’s always been to try to put on the same show you would for 10 as you would for 10,000. I feel like that’s something that’s rubbed off on the band. That’s something we try to do and it’s something I’m proud of, too. As long as you try to give everything you’ve got every time you’re on stage, that’s all right I think.”
A songwriter known for pulling from deep within his own experiences, his latest album is titled “The Devil Don’t Sleep,” which speaks to his faith and life.
“I’m a believer — I believe in the literal devil. I believe it’s something in my life I’ve had to watch for,” he said. “In a broader sense for anybody, whatever your devil may be, it’s always right around the corner. It’s a lot harder to walk your path than it is to stray. It’s that thing to keep in mind when you live your life — it’s easier to fall than it is to walk.”
His songwriting has evolved, reflecting the times of his life.
“I see a big change, with being married the last few years and now having the little man,” he said.
Getting his musical start in church has laid the foundation for what he and his wife hope to instill in their son. “It’s important for us that we raise him to know who Jesus is,” he said.
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“I want him to have his own identity. Growing up in the same small town my wife and I did, I hope that he’s able to find his own identity there. That’s our main concern — we want him to have his own identity, and to try to understand that we’re not better than anybody. We have more to be thankful for than to complain about. Just things like that — old school.”
WHAT: Brantley Gilbert, with openers Aaron Lewis and Josh Phillips
WHERE: U.S. Cellular Center, 370 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7 p.m. May 10
TICKETS: $34.75 to $59.75, plus VIP packages
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Brantleygilbert.com