After a few brief hours of shut-eye and a concert alongside Keith Urban the night before, Brantley Gilbert was back to the grind bright and early last week in a Nashville recording studio. "Man, it's a switch," he said by phone during a lunch break. "I can cut it on and off."
After a few brief hours of shut-eye and a concert alongside Keith Urban the night before, Brantley Gilbert was back to the grind bright and early last week in a Nashville recording studio.
“Man, it’s a switch,” he said by phone during a lunch break. “I can cut it on and off.”
There’s no rest for the rising country singer — and no shortage of material, either.
The 28-year-old was sifting through 200-plus songs he had written as potential candidates for a follow-up album to Halfway to Heaven, his 2010 sophomore effort and a certified gold record.
The creative process for the native of tiny Jefferson, Ga. — where he first performed in town bars — remains constant.
“I don’t sing or write anything that I haven’t experienced or been through,” he said. “I’m not good at faking something.”
That has helped the artist connect with listeners, from the title track Halfway to Heaven — about a “truck wreck” while driving intoxicated at age 19 that “ definitely hits home” — to an earlier effort, A Modern Day Prodigal Son — written when “I’d be doing pretty well, then I’d take a dive and hit rock bottom. I’d have to go get things right with the good Lord.”
Not all of the selections are somber.
Although lyrics of the chart-topping Country Must Be Country Wide are at first dubious about a man with Ohio license plates, his “Copenhagen smile” and wardrobe “from his Wranglers to his boots” prove the existence of “ cowboys and hillbillies, from farm towns to big cities.”
His catalog has propelled Gilbert from small clubs and opening slots for Eric Church and Toby Keith to his first headlining arena tour.
Such a promotion demands only a “few minor changes.”
“I have to make it PG-13,” said a joking Gilbert, who will perform Saturday in Value City Arena. “Honest-to-God truth, .?.?. it doesn’t matter if there are 10 people or 60,000. We put on the same show every night.”
It’s perhaps no surprise that Gilbert still experiences some of the emotions that fueled his catalog during a show.
“I sing it; I relive it,” he said. “There’s a lot of passion. My troublemaking days, it brings that memory back.”
Even before his star rose, Gilbert wasn’t afraid to speak his mind.
One effort — the rollicking rap-rock Dirt Road Anthem, co-written with Colt Ford — purposely found a home with someone else: Jason Aldean. A fledgling artist at the time, Gilbert didn’t want to make the genre-blender his debut single.
“It wasn’t really a good reflection of what I do as a whole,” he said.
Today, though, the hit tune is a well-received part of Gilbert’s concert set lists.
He has scored two No. 1 singles on the Billboard country charts and, on April 7, won top new male artist at the Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas.
Another milestone will soon be added to the list: He is engaged to singer and actress Jana Kramer — who has inspired “a couple of songs.”
In good times and bad, he still writes.
“I used to keep a notebook, but now there’s this wonderful app — Songwriter’s Pad,” Gilbert said. “I can go in, hit a button, type down ideas.”
Origins, the low-key singer knows, are far less high-tech.
“I can hear songs in my sleep or riding in my truck,” he said. “Anything can be an inspiration.
“I’m looking at an electrical socket. I guarantee we could come up with something.”