Brantley Gilbert goes from chaos and mayhem to family man

Jefferson native Brantley Gilbert will perform at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre on Oct. 15.
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Jefferson native Brantley Gilbert will perform at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre on Oct. 15.

Credit: JEFF NELSON

Credit: JEFF NELSON

Georgia country star reckons with his past on “Fire and Brimstone.”

Has Brantley Gilbert gone soft on “Fire and Brimstone,” his latest full-length album?

Has the man who helped popularize the so-called bro’ country movement left behind the rough, rowdy and rocking sound that has been his signature?

Would we say on “Fire and Brimstone,” that Gilbert is showing an emotional, sensitive – and dare we say – vulnerable dimension in his songwriting?

To a point, Gilbert would answer yes to those questions. “Fire and Brimstone,” while it has a few tunes that kick up the dust (“Tough Town,” “Fire It Up” and “Not Like Us”), leans a bit more toward slower tempo material (“What Happens in a Small Town,” “Bad Boy” and “Man That Hung The Moon” and the title track). And it is a personal and emotional album that brings Gilbert’s formerly tumultuous life up to date.

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Country music starand Jefferson, Georgia native, Brantley Gilbert, rocked the Ameris Amphitheatre on Thursday, October 10, 2019, on his Not Like Us tour. Miochael Ray and Lindsey Ell opened the show. Robb Cohen Photography & Video /RobbsPhotos.com

Credit: Robb Cohen Photography & Video/

Country music starand Jefferson, Georgia native, Brantley Gilbert, rocked the Ameris Amphitheatre on Thursday, October 10, 2019, on his Not Like Us tour. Miochael Ray and Lindsey Ell opened the show.
Robb Cohen Photography & Video /RobbsPhotos.com
Caption
Country music starand Jefferson, Georgia native, Brantley Gilbert, rocked the Ameris Amphitheatre on Thursday, October 10, 2019, on his Not Like Us tour. Miochael Ray and Lindsey Ell opened the show. Robb Cohen Photography & Video /RobbsPhotos.com

Credit: Robb Cohen Photography & Video/

Credit: Robb Cohen Photography & Video/

“This one’s got that energy,” he said of the music on “Fire and Brimstone.” “It may be not as prevalent as it was on previous albums, which wasn’t necessarily intentional. I feel like this chapter of my life and the story I was trying to tell, it’s about a little bit of the chaos and the mayhem leveling out some.”

It’s no accident that “Fire and Brimstone” is the title track on this latest album, the fifth from Gilbert, which was released in October 2019.

“The theme of this record basically is showcased with that song. It kind of sums it up,” Gilbert said. “There’s basically some parallel story lines going on. There’s my wife and I. There’s kind of the personal journey from being a boy to a man, a wild man to kind of settling down to become a dad and there’s my spiritual walk. It starts off with (the song) ‘A Lost Soul’s Prayer,’ which is a prayer itself, but it’s all wrong. If you listen to it, the language that I would use while praying now, what I was trying to do with that was show people where I got to one point, where it wasn’t quite a fall from grace, but it definitely was a stretch. I’d gone away from something (his faith) I’d been raised to value and something that had always been my true north and my safe place to land. And my life kind of got hectic. Everything around me just got shaky when that happened. I wasn’t living right. I wasn’t praying right. I was kind of talking to God like he was my drinking buddy. It goes from that to ‘Fire and Brimstone.’ And ‘Fire and Brimstone,’ like I said, basically encompasses the theme of the entire record as well as where I’m at just as a man.”

As that quote indicates, Gilbert has made no secret that his penchant for partying got out of control when he was younger. Eventually it took a toll. In fact, Amber Cochran, the woman who is now his wife, broke up with him at one point — a split that lasted five years, during which time they didn’t see or speak to each other — partly because she wasn’t comfortable with Gilbert’s addictions.

It’s not that Gilbert didn’t try to behave, though — at least with Cochran.

“Without going too deep into that, it was definitely, yeah, I was all jacked up,” Gilbert said. “I told her a couple of years back, we were kind of talking about the old days, and I told her, I was like ‘Man, you don’t understand, I’d take you out and I’d wear myself out staying clean, not drinking, not doing anything. When I dropped you off, I’d have half of a bottle of Jaeger down before I got to the end of the driveway.’ It’s a different life (now), man. I think that’s another thing this record is supposed to show. Like I said earlier, it’s supposed to show that growth in our relationship, and my growth just as a man. I feel like it does that, without preaching a whole lot on this one.”

Gilbert — who grew up in Jefferson, about 60 miles northeast of Atlanta — has come a long way since he started dating Cochran nearly a decade and a half ago. Obviously, he’s become a country music star, breaking through when two singles from his second album “Halfway To Heaven” — “Country Must Be Country Wide” and “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do” — topped Billboard magazine’s Hot Country Songs chart.

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Brantley Gilbert returns to his home state for a show in Alpharetta.

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Brantley Gilbert returns to his home state for a show in Alpharetta.
Caption
Brantley Gilbert returns to his home state for a show in Alpharetta.

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

His career and profile only accelerated with his third album, “Just As I Am,” which arrived in May 2014. The album gave Gilbert two more No. 1 Country Airplay singles, “Bottoms Up,” and “One Hell of an Amen.” The 2017 album, “The Devil Don’t Sleep,” wasn’t as successful, but it still went gold and added a top 10 song “The Weekend,” to Gilbert’s catalog. But “Fire and Brimstone” has given Gilbert another No. 1 Country Airplay hit with “What Happens in a Small Town,” which features a guest vocal from Lindsay Ell.

He’s released a pair of singles this year. The first, “The Worst Country Song of All Time,” a collaboration with Toby Keith and Hardy. Gilbert co-directed the video for the song, which has some fun with certain world leaders and country cliches. Most recently, he’s released “Gone But Not Forgotten,” a single he wrote in 2018 that’s dedicated to military members and first responders.

As he has grown into a leading country star, Gilbert has gotten his act together on a personal level as well.

In 2011, Gilbert went through rehab to deal with a serious problem with alcohol and opiates. He realized his lifestyle had to change and had his last drink in December of that year.

Three years later (after Gilbert had been briefly engaged to fellow country artist Jana Kramer before that relationship fell apart in 2013) Gilbert’s cousin arranged for him to reconnect with Cochran.

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Brantley Gilbert, left, and Amber Cochran arrive at the 53rd annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Credit: Invision

Brantley Gilbert, left, and Amber Cochran arrive at the 53rd annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Caption
Brantley Gilbert, left, and Amber Cochran arrive at the 53rd annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Credit: Invision

Credit: Invision

Their chemistry was still strong and the couple married in 2015. Now four years later, they have a son, Barrett, who will turn four in November, and a daughter, Braylen, who arrived in September 2019.

Gilbert is back on tour this fall. And chances are the songs Gilbert performs will say a good bit about his life and how he feels about who he is today.

“I feel like through the years, people, really not just the songs, but the bodies of work and my career as a whole, they can go back and listen to a story,” Gilbert said of his albums. “It’s just like reading a book. It’s going back in time and listening, if you listen to all of my records, you’ve got a pretty good idea of who I am.”


CONCERT PREVIEW

New Country 101-Five Fest with Brantley Gilbert, LANCO, Colt Ford and more

6 p.m. Oct. 15. $30-$150. Ameris Bank Amphitheatre, 2200 Encore Parkway, Alpharetta. 800-745-3000, livenation.com.