Brantley Gilbert telling like it is at Delaware State Fair

Country singer Brantley Gilbert will perform hits from his platinum-selling albums and his latest record “The Devil Don’t Sleep” during a Delaware State Fair concert July 29. He’ll be joined by Luke Combs with a fireworks show to follow. (Submitted photo/Lyn Sengupta )
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HARRINGTON — With his first baby on the way, a summer tour that brings him to the Delaware State Fair July 29 and even a NASCAR race this weekend named after him, country music star Brantley Gilbert is a busy guy.

And that’s just fine with him.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t take time off well. After a week or two, I get a little anxious,” he said by phone from his Georgia farm Wednesday afternoon.

But after he finishes “The Devil Don’t Sleep” tour, named after his latest record, the award-winning, chart-topping singer will indeed be taking some extended time off as he and his wife Amber prepare for the birth of their son in November.

He says music will be taking a backseat for a little while.

“I’m going to slow down enough to prioritize being the best husband and father I can be first,” said the 32-year-old Mr. Gilbert, who is known for his autobiographical songwriting.

“If the songs pour out of me, fine. If they don’t, that’s fine too. I find it hard for me to believe that they wouldn’t, but I’m really going to be focused on my family at that point. I’ve never experienced what’s coming up and I’m going to do the best job I can.”

Ever since the news of the pregnancy in February, Mr. Gilbert says he’s found himself “smiling about nothing.” The two had been trying to conceive a child since they were married in June 2015.

“We’ve put such effort into this and we’ve had our problems. It’s been an unbelievable blessing. People come up to you and say ‘You have no idea how it’s going to change your life.’ And then they leave it at that. And here I’m thinking ‘Does there have to be a period there? Can there be a comma? Can you fill me in a little more?’” said the affable Mr. Gilbert with a laugh.

Concerted effort

Until the blessed event happens though, he will continue his full throttle concert tour. Long known as a performer who gives a high-energy show, Mr. Gilbert says the outdoor summer leg of his tour, which includes the upcoming concert at the fair’s M&T Grandstand, always seems to have something extra every night.

“It’s been hard to put a finger on it exactly. The environment of an arena has its benefits since you can control the weather. But being outside, I think people can let their hair down a little more and things become a little bit more organic,” said Mr. Gilbert, who last played the state fair in 2014.

With No. 1 Country hits such as “Country Must Be Country Wide,” “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do,” “Bottoms Up” and “One Hell of an Amen,” he says performing gives him a unique chance.

“I love writing. It’s the truest form of expression outside of prayer. But performing these songs and hanging out with the fans and hearing how these songs have affected their life and how they relate to them and at the same time being able to have a great party is fun too. Everything has its benefits,” he said.

Rabid fan base

His fans, known as BG Nation, are consistently voted the most devoted group in country music.

“I try to wrap my mind around that. And all I can tell you is God’s been good to me. I think part of that is the fact I try to be as open and honest in my music as I can. People grab onto that and that’s pretty cool,” said Mr. Gilbert, who saw “The Devil Don’t Sleep” released in January, debut at No. 1 on the Country charts.

Brantley Gilbert is one of four country artists to have back-to-back platinum albums. (Submitted photo/Lyn Sengupta )

His previous two records “Halfway to Heaven” and “Just As I Am” both went platinum, making him only the fourth country artist to have back-to-back platinum recordings, joining Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and Eric Church.

For his latest single “The Ones That Like Me,” his fans are being asked to post on social media the ways in which his music has affected them. He says he hears stories from them constantly and it’s always a treat.

“So many of them touch my heart. Anytime I’m having a bad day, you read some of that stuff and it picks you right up. It’s really rewarding and it reminds you of why you do it,” he said.

His powerful 2014 hit “One Hell of an Amen,” about the loss of loved ones, in particular a fallen soldier and a cancer victim, struck a surprising chord for Mr. Gilbert.

“I knew that song was going to touch people but maybe on not as such a grand scale as it did. Sometimes you’re just not sure how many people you’re going to affect and in what way,” he said.

Strong faith

He recently acquired a large cross tattoo on his chest to add to his growing collection of body art. It was a strong showing of his deep belief in God.

“I’ve strayed like everyone but God’s always been a safe place to land for me,” said Mr. Gilbert, who achieved sobriety in 2012 and will hit the five-year mark in December.

“I’ve carried that over into my music and I think a lot of people have that belief in common with me and really cherish that faith in a greater power. I think people have a natural desire to believe in a higher power and, for me as a Christian, that’s God.”

Although he has written faith-based songs such as “My Faith in You” and “Modern Day Prodigal Son,” he has penned other tunes such as his most recent hit “The Weekend” and “Bottoms Up,” which celebrate a wilder side of life.

Mr. Gilbert said he knows that dichotomy bothers a certain segment of his fan base.

“Some of them give me hell about it but their judgment isn’t what counts in the end. You just put it all out there and some folks are going to agree and some aren’t. It does become very polarizing,” he said.

“I do hope the guy who doesn’t want to believe in anything who buys my records for the partying songs eventually runs across the other ones. I believe that happens.”

Getting racy

This Sunday, he’ll be front and center at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event.

Luke Combs will join Brantley Gilbert at the Delaware State Fair July 29. (Submitted photo)

Having a race named after him is pretty special, he said.

“I grew up around racing but NASCAR was out of my league,” said the Georgia native. “We could never afford NASCAR tickets so I was all about the half-mile track up the road,” Mr. Gilbert said.

“My grandfather was from Indiana as is my mom’s side of the family. It’s really cool that my record label (Big Machine) did this. The label president (Scott Borchetta) and I share a passion for things that go fast and make a lot of noise.

“Once I got some money, my grandfather and I used to go to NASCAR races. He’s passed on now, so this one will be for him.”

Mr. Gilbert’s 7:30 p.m. show in Harrington will close out the 10-day state fair and will feature a fireworks display afterward. Singer Luke Combs is also on the bill.

Tickets are $44 to $84 and are available at DelawareStateFair.com or by calling 398-3269.

 

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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