Brantley Gilbert On Songs About His Wife and His New Album “The Devil Don’t Sleep”

Lisa sat down with Brantley Gilbert to talk about his new single, “The Weekend,” and its new music video, which features Brantley’s wife on her first acting role. The song also happens to be the first single from his upcoming album, The Devil Don’t Sleep—his first since 2014’s platinum-selling Just As I Am. 

Show Participants

  • Brantley Gilbert
  • Lisa Konicki, NCD Editor in Chief

Show Links & Notes

Show Transcript

Lisa Konicki: “I want to thank everybody for coming to the Nash Country Daily Writer’s Room. I’m your host, Lisa Konicki, and we have a special guest with us today. Let me welcome Brantly Gilbert. Thanks for coming in.”

Brantly Gilbert: “Lisa, how you doing. Thanks for having me.”

Lisa Konicki: “Absolutely. I’m good. How are you doing?”

Brantly Gilbert: “I’m wonderful. That’s my mother-in-law’s name.”

Lisa Konicki: “Lisa?”

Brantly Gilbert: “It sure is.”

Lisa Konicki: “She’s a good person then, right?”

Brantly Gilbert: “She is. She is. I actually love my mother-in-law. I hear horror stories about most people about their mother-in-law, but I love mine.”

Lisa Konicki: “Yeah. That’s a first. I don’t think we’ve had anyone in here yet that said they love their mother-in-law, so we’re going to go with that.”

Brantly Gilbert: “She loves me, too, and she hasn’t always loved me. In the beginning, probably thirteen years ago, she probably wouldn’t have minded it if I fell off the face of the earth.”

Lisa Konicki: “You met your wife very young.”

Brantly Gilbert: “I did.”

Lisa Konicki: “Were you guys in high school or how did you meet?”

Brantly Gilbert: “Right out of high school.”

Lisa Konicki: “Right out of high school.”

Brantly Gilbert: “I was actually working on some community service hours at a church, and she worked at the church as well, so we met there.”

Lisa Konicki: “Not a fan, huh?”

Brantly Gilbert: “What’s that?”

Lisa Konicki: “She wasn’t a fan back then?”

Brantly Gilbert: “Well, I think my wife had a little for the bad boy thing there in the beginning. Maybe it was curiosity. I don’t know what it was, but thank God she did.”

Lisa Konicki: “It all worked out, right?”

Brantly Gilbert: “It did.”

Lisa Konicki: “We have a lot to talk about. You’ve got your new single out, ‘The Weekend,’ current single. For those who haven’t heard it, can you tell us what that’s about?”

Brantly Gilbert: “For sure. It’s a good timing song. These days I’m not quite as wild as I once was, but when I get up on stage—’The Weekend’— it gets me ready for the shows, the runs and the tours, because every weekend we’re showing up, and these people have been waiting on this night for months. For us, we get three of them in a weekend. It’s a party, and it gears me up for that, but it’s a good timing song, a feel good song, especially at a time when I feel like our country’s a little stressed I guess.”

Lisa Konicki: “You can say that again.”

Brantly Gilbert: “To say the least. I think it’s a breath of fresh air, and it’s a lot of fun to sing it. It was a lot of fun to write. The video was a lot of fun to shoot. My wife’s actually making her television debut on the video, so I’m pretty stoked about that. She’s super hot in it.”

Lisa Konicki: “Well, she’s a good looking woman. Was she nervous to do that?”

Brantly Gilbert: “A little bit, yeah.”

Lisa Konicki: “Did you have to coax her into it or was she willing to go?”

Brantly Gilbert: “She was entertained by the idea I think at first, and then when we got closer to the time and the director, Shane Drake, actually had some conversations with her, and she figured out we were serious about it, she kind of, ‘Are you sure?’ But she did wonderful. Shane says she was a natural.”

Lisa Konicki: “That’s great.”

Brantly Gilbert: “It was awesome. It was a lot of fun.”

Lisa Konicki: “That’s fabulous. You wrote the song with Andrew DeRoberts? Is that how you say the name?”

Brantly Gilbert: “I did. Andrew DeRoberts, yes. Ma’am.”

Lisa Konicki: “Can you give us a little story behind the song and how that all came about?”

Brantly Gilbert: “For sure. I was actually having a conversation with a man named Kos Weaver, who signed me to my first publishing deal at Warner Chappell. He’s working with Andrew now, and I had not met him, but I was starting to experiment with writing with some tracks, and Kos just said, ‘You know this guy’s extremely talented.’ I said, ‘Would you mind sending me some of his stuff,’ and he did. He sent me two tracks, and both of them actually made the record. He’s just an extremely talented guy. I listened to him and probably called him ten or fifteen minutes later, and within a week, we had both of them written over the phone, which was a first for me. I’d never written anything in its entirety over a phone.

“We had a listening party about a month ago for all the writers that made the record, had songs that I wrote with on the record, and that was the first time I ever saw him face to face and shook hands with him.”

Lisa Konicki: “Wow. You created two songs with him and never met in person.”

Brantly Gilbert: “Right.”

Lisa Konicki: “Until that last minute.”

Brantly Gilbert: “What an awesome guy, too. Met him, shook hands with him. He’s a wonderful fellow. I’m proud to know him.”

Lisa Konicki: “That’s great. This is going to be the first single off our upcoming album.”

Brantly Gilbert: “Yes, ma’am.”

Lisa Konicki: “And it’s called The Devil Don’t Sleep.”

Brantly Gilbert: “That’s right.”

Lisa Konicki: “This is your first album since 2014.”

Brantly Gilbert: “Right.”

Lisa Konicki: “What’s the long wait there?”

Brantly Gilbert: “Well, all of my records are chapters of my life, and they always cover the good to bad and ugly. With this one, honestly, I kept waiting on the ugly, because there’s always trying times, but in the past, my life is a constant cycle of doing really well, doing really well, and then straight rock bottom, and for some reason, my rock bottom has a shovel at the bottom of it. I don’t understand. But, yeah, it’s kind of a constant cycle.

“I feel like I need to live in between records to be able to write about it. Of course, we’ll circle back to the catalog, and there may be songs that I started way back in the day that fit this chapter better than they did another one. You end up finishing those ideas and they fit. But with this one, it was really interesting, because I really was waiting on more of the ugly, which is a terrible thing to live waiting on something terrible to happen, but getting back with my wife and being married and that whole chapter of my life is really a lot of good. There was a lot of good. It’s been an extremely blessed chapter of my life, probably the most blessed chapters that I can think of.

The Devil Don’t Sleep is really all about just being conscious that the temptations and the traps that I’ve always fallen into, and the bad decisions that I’ve always reverted to, the bone headed moments of my life, they’re always there. Decisions are always there to make, and The Devil Don’t Sleep, for me, is always just being aware that I am an addict. I’m a recovering addict, but I’ll always be an addict. Those temptations are there. There’s a lot of roads that go left. It’s about just appreciating the fact that God has blessed me so much in this chapter of my life, and appreciating my marriage and that relationship that is so fulfilling to me. It’s my life. She’s my best friend. She’s the best player on our team. It’s just about appreciating those things, but, at the same time, being conscious that the shadows are right around the corner.”

Lisa Konicki: “That’s great. You come across as this tough guy with the tattoos, and the beard, and the earrings, and all that stuff, and co-workers have told me this, because we’ve never met before.”

Brantly Gilbert: “Right.”

Lisa Konicki: “But you’re just a big sweet teddy bear. Would you agree with that?”

Brantly Gilbert: “Yeah, for sure, until it’s time to not be very sweet, which is few and far between these days. There was a time in my life where I think I had a misconstrued meaning of what tough was. December 18th, it will be five years alcohol free.”

Lisa Konicki: “Congratulations.”

Brantly Gilbert: “Alcohol free a big thing for me, and I think since then, I don’t find myself in very many situations where I need these as much, my fists as much. It’s more about being spiritually tough and morally tough for myself and the people around me.”

Lisa Konicki: “Have you turned to your faith to get you through that?”

Brantly Gilbert: “For sure. I’ve always been a believer first above anything else. I feel like I’m like any other Christian. I think I’ve definitely strayed from time and time, and my relationship has not always been the best, but I think that’s always been a part of my music as well.

“When that space was created —when I created that space, bad things happen, but lessons were learned. Blood was spilled, tears were shed, but lessons were learned. It’s kind of cliché, but it’s so true. I wouldn’t take anything back. I don’t regret anything, which is kind of hard to say, because there’s a lot of bad things. If you flip back a few pages in this book, it gets pretty dirty. It gets pretty rough, but had it not been for that, I don’t think it would be as good as it is now.”

Lisa Konicki: “Right. You obviously cleaned up when you got back with your wife.”

Brantly Gilbert: “That’s the only way that happened, I promise you. There were five years we didn’t see or speak to each other. You hear so many times in life that the people that love and care about you the most will stick with you through everything and anything, and I found out that in my life that wasn’t necessarily the case. There were a lot of people that loved and cared about me dearly that said, ‘You know what, man, if that’s what you’re about right now, I can’t be about it.'”

Lisa Konicki: “We can’t do it, right.”

Brantly Gilbert: “She was one of those people, but five years later, I get a phone call saying that—it was actually my cousin, Doug, who is a Christian therapist and counselor, and he was her youth minister at her church—he said that she had stopped by. She and his wife, Becky, are extremely close friends, and called and said that she had been back around town, and heard that I was clean and doing well, and wouldn’t mind just catching up.

“I remember I was supposed to be in L.A. for a week reading for some parts and doing this, that and the other, and I got a call on a Sunday night. I was supposed to leave Monday morning, and he was like, ‘If you get a chance sometime this week or next week, maybe you could stop by and y’all could talk at the house or whatever. It’s neutral ground.’  I said, ‘Alright. I’ll call you back. Let me see what I got going on.’  I called him back like five minutes later. I was like, ‘You know what, Doug. I’m clean all week. I ain’t got a thing going on.

“I went that next morning, and I remember pulling up in her driveway in my truck going, ‘You know what, single for life. No matter what, single for life.’ Then she walked around the corner and all the tough guy stuff went out the window. It was like, ‘Well, all right. It was fun while it lasted.'”

Lisa Konicki: “Had you been thinking of her over all these years while you guys were apart?”

Brantly Gilbert: “For sure. It’s so funny. I was talking to Kix [Brooks] about this earlier, but as a songwriter, there’s certain people that you access when you’re writing that invoke a certain feeling or emotion, and with her, I identified so many things with her. When it came to love, she was what I knew about love. When it came to heartbreak, she was what I knew about heartbreak. I love heartbreak. She’s got love songs about her. She had break up songs about her. She had songs about her that are on the soon to never be released album.

“There were so many things in life and so many emotions that came up, so, of course, she was in all these songs throughout the years, and that didn’t help at all either. You write a song like ‘You Don’t Know Her Like I Do,’ that becomes a single that you have to play every night on stage, and it’s definitely something that you don’t get away from, so she was always there.”

Lisa Konicki: “At the time, did she know these songs were about her?”

Brantly Gilbert: “Oh, yeah. I made sure of that. Even though we didn’t talk, you put little things in songs, little words that only she would know, and there were some songs that weren’t intended to be released until the breakup, and then I let them fly out, just because she knew they were about her.

“I actually built my house about three minutes from her mom’s house. Every time she came home, she’d have to drive by it. That was dirty, right?”

Lisa Konicki: “Yes. That’s mean.”

Brantly Gilbert: “Yeah.”

Lisa Konicki: “But it worked, right?”

Brantly Gilbert: “It worked out good, yeah.”

Lisa Konicki: “It worked out in the end. You have sixteen songs on the new album.”

Brantly Gilbert: “Right.”

Lisa Konicki: “Did you write all of them?”

Brantly Gilbert: “Uh-hum.”

Lisa Konicki: “It’s all about this period in your life now. What can we expect from this album, same as we’ve heard from Brantley? Are you staying in that vein?”

Brantly Gilbert: “For sure. Staying in that vein. I always go back and listen to all my old records, and listen through my whole entire catalog, even before I start writing a new record, because a lot of times, like I said, you’ll find some unfinished ideas that may have not fit the last chapter that fit it now. I think it’s important for me to hear The Modern Day Prodigal Son record before I start working on new stuff. I’m sure you’ve been in a position where you’ve liked an album that a band’s come out with, and then you get really into it, and then they release something after it, and it’s like, ‘What is this?’”

Lisa Konicki: “It’s totally different.”

Brantly Gilbert: “Yeah, I don’t dig it at all, so I want to try to avoid that. Plus, I think that style and the songs that I was writing in, it’s almost a way of staking ground as well for me. I still live at home for that reason, too, to be around the people and places that I started writing about.

“I feel like that first record, and all my records after that, I’m still the same guy, but those records really bring back memories in the songwriting style that was so, to me, original, but really intimate. The shows I was playing, it was just me and a guitar, so a lot of the music was things—those songs were put together so they’d sound good with just me and guitar, and having this powerful band now that I put up against anybody in the business, we’re able to do a lot more things. As a writer, I’ve been able to grow and try new things, things that are outside the box. I’ve said it several times that as long as there is a box, I’m all right, because I know where I stand, and that’s right on the other side of that line.

“The band that I have, again, just allows me the freedom to be able to do that. In co-writing, I feel like growing as a writer. I’ve always been kind of musically bipolar, like a little bit of everything, and being able to bring those influences into my writing is awesome. It’s a lot of fun for me. It keeps it fresh, and it keeps me growing as a writer and a musician.”

Lisa Konicki: “That’s fantastic. Did you ever think in your wildest dreams that you would have this success? Growing up back then and thinking about being in this field, did you ever think that you would have this success?”

Brantly Gilbert: “No, ma’am. Not at all. I told somebody, just awhile back recently, we sold out two nights at Red Rocks, and if you would have told me fifteen years ago playing my little small town bar, that we’d be doing that, I probably would have said something inappropriate. God’s been good. We’re extremely blessed, and I think I speak for anybody in my organization, there’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get us where we are. It didn’t happen overnight.

“A lot of people I think thought that when [Jason] Aldean cut those two songs, that that was the beginning of my career, which in a lot of ways and certain aspects, it was, but what a lot of people don’t know is we were grinding way, way, way before that. We were playing these little bars, and these motorcycle club houses and VFWs, and just some really rough joints. I was actually very fortunate to play a bar that had chicken wire on the stage. You won’t see that anymore.”

Lisa Konicki: “That’s like Roadhouse. Have you ever seen the movie Roadhouse?

Brantly Gilbert: “I love that movie.”

Lisa Konicki: “Was that you behind in the chicken wire?”

Brantly Gilbert: “Yes. That was one of my favorite movies of all time actually. Old Swayze did it up in that movie.”

Lisa Konicki (left) interviews Brantley Gilbert

Lisa Konicki:
“I want to ask you a couple of random questions. Just answer off the top of your head, just so everybody could get to know you a little better. What’s your favorite animal to hunt?”

Brantly Gilbert: “White tail deer.”

Lisa Konicki: “Last place you went on vacation? Have you gone on a vacation?”

Brantly Gilbert: “Mexico. Yeah. I took my wife to Mexico. That was fun.”

Lisa Konicki: “What question do you hate to answer?”

Brantly Gilbert: “That one.”

Lisa Konicki: “What’s your favorite movie or TV show?”

Brantly Gilbert: “Actually you mentioned Roadhouse. That’s a great movie. I do like that one.”

Lisa Konicki: “It’s a classic.”

Brantly Gilbert: “I like The Notebook. I like Rambo and Rocky.”

Lisa Konicki: “Did you say The Notebook?”

Brantly Gilbert: “Yeah.”

Lisa Konicki: “I love that.”

Brantly Gilbert: “You got to throw that in the mix, right?”

Lisa Konicki: “I love that you did. What makes you happy?”

Brantly Gilbert: “My wife.”

Lisa Konicki: “What makes you sad?”

Brantly Gilbert: “My wife when I don’t get my way.”

Lisa Konicki: “What’s your favorite word?”

Brantly Gilbert: “I can’t say it.”

Lisa Konicki: “What’s your favorite item of clothing to wear?”

Brantly Gilbert: “I guess my hat.”

Lisa Konicki: “What’s one vice that you have?”

Brantly Gilbert: “Cigarettes.”

Lisa Konicki: “Are you usually late, early or right on time?”

Brantly Gilbert: “Early, which wasn’t the case today.”

Lisa Konicki: “What’s your middle name?”

Brantly Gilbert: “Keith.”

Lisa Konicki: “What are you binge watching right now, if you are?”

Brantly Gilbert: “Binge watching. I just set up a Netflix account yesterday actually.”

Lisa Konicki: “Just yesterday?”

Brantly Gilbert: “Yeah. I’m kind of biding the time.”

Lisa Konicki: “A lot of catching up to do.”

Brantly Gilbert: “Yeah.”

Lisa Konicki: “Tell me one person you admire.”

Brantly Gilbert: “There’s a lot of people I admire. My mom, my dad. My grandfather’s a pastor,I admire my wife a lot. A lot of people I work with, a lot of guys in my band. I have a lot of admiration for a lot of people.”

Lisa Konicki: “How many tattoos do you have?”

Brantly Gilbert: “I don’t know if I have a legitimate answer that’s very accurate, because all of them kind of molded into one. They’re all kind of connected. This one goes up to my chest and then around to my back. Yeah.”

Lisa Konicki: “Do you have a favorite tattoo?”

Brantly Gilbert: “This one kind of tells the story of my life. There’s flames and skulls on the bottom part of my arm and my initials, which we, also, use for the logo of the organization, and that stands for the hell that I put myself and everybody else through for a little while. As you go up, you’ll see the flames dissipate. There’s a big cross on my arm. Modern Day Prodigal Son was the title of my first record.”

Lisa Konicki: “Your first album?”

Brantly Gilbert: “It’s right there on the front of my arm, because this was the transition spot. I do see myself as definitely a modern day prodigal son. As you go up, that’s the journey home. I got Jesus on my arm and I have three angels. I have one chubby angel, in particular. It has a pretty awesome spear, and they’re keeping the devil off my shoulder. The devil’s right there on the back. I have brass knuckles tattooed on the back of my elbow to symbolize the good fight, and then I have a hand here and a hand here, and it’s God’s hand reaching down and my hand reaching up. It says mama in the middle, because before my wife, my mom was always that connection there.”

Lisa Konicki: “A good influence in your life.”

Brantly Gilbert: “My back tattoo is probably one of my favorites. It just pretty much states where I stand when it comes to the Second Amendment.”

Lisa Konicki: “They all tell a story. Every tattoo you get tells a story.”

Brantly Gilbert: “Yes, ma’am.”

Lisa Konicki: “That’s great. ‘The Weekend’ is out now.”

Brantly Gilbert: “That’s right.”

Lisa Konicki: “Album, The Devil Don’t Sleep is out January, 2017, right?”

Brantly Gilbert: “That’s right, and it’s got two different versions. You got the red version and the blue version. As we’ve been playing shows throughout the years, there’s songs, or work tapes or demos that people have asked about that have been available or they could dig them up and find them in random places, but we finally wanted to make them available for everybody, so there’s two different versions of it you can pick up. We’re extremely excited about it. Again, this is another chapter of my life, and we’re really stoked about this. I don’t know if I’ve ever done one as back and forth as this one is. It covers a lot of ground as far as just making the genre versatile. It just does a little bit of everything, yings and yangs a lot in the weirdest way. It’s awesome. I’m stoked about it.”

Lisa Konicki: “Looking forward to hearing it. The tour, The Devil Don’t Sleep, kicks off February, 2017 as well.”

Brantly Gilbert: “Right. That’s right. It’s going down. We’re ready.”

Lisa Konicki: “You got a busy year.”

Brantly Gilbert: “That’s right. We ready.”

Lisa Konicki: “Thank you for coming in. Appreciate it.”

Brantly Gilbert: “Thank you for having me, darling.”

Lisa Konicki: “It’s great talking to you.”

Brantly Gilbert: “You, too.”

The Writers Room, Ep. 42, 21 minutes
photos by Jason Simanek


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