Brantley Gilbert is an incredible storytelle, but his songs are anything but fiction. If he writes it, he’s lived it. And if he’s lived it, he sings about it. So what are the stories behind all the songs? As it turns out, a tremendous amount of heartache and struggle. Here are just how true-to-life his songs really are.
Not An Issue of Love
Most Brantley Gilbert fans are aware of his sorted relationship history. Gilbert is now married to Amber Cochran, his hometown sweetheart. And the two are proud parents of a young son, Barrett. But there was a time that their future was more than a little uncertain.
In an interview with Taste of Country, Gilbert shared his reflections on their relationship. He said that they were on and off quite a bit and admitted that sometimes he would break up with her because he knew he “couldn’t be what she deserved.” He also acknowledged that though he sometimes has used that as a “cop out” in his life, it was the “legitimate and sincere case” with Amber. Gilbert was well aware of his issues.
He went on to say that it wasn’t an issue of love. Amber and he had a reciprocal love for one another. They were even talking about marriage. However, Amber had reservations. In their last breakup, she told him that she loved him and wanted to marry him. But as she told him, “It terrifies me to talk about and think about marrying somebody who rides around with bottles of liquor in the console of their truck.”
Finding Trust Again
After that, it didn’t look like they would be getting back together. In fact, he started dating Jana Kramer and even got engaged to her. But it wasn’t meant to be. After that relationship ended, Gilbert was reintroduced to Amber by a relative. And the rest is history.
Shortly after their wedding, he told The Boot, “With her, she’s my best friend, too, so finally having somebody to actually share all of this with and somebody that knows me very well, that I can vent to and that can vent to me … There’s nothing like having somebody that loves every single bit of you, and that you love the same way, to actually really share it with.”
Listening to his songs, you can hear the heartache of those breakups with Amber. You can also hear how even now that he marvels at the fact that she is with him.
The Breakup Songs
Looking at Brantley Gilbert‘s setlist, you can find so much of his relationship with Amber in it. In another interview with Taste of Country, Gilbert was clear that he writes only “true stories.” In fact, he wrote all the songs on his entire first album. And though he collaborated on his next ones, he still has a hand in all the songs. And on his Just As I Am record, he admitted that there is an actual breakup song. “I’m Gone” is the track he said is not just about his breakups, but “breakups in general.”
The song is an interesting look at a relationship ending, in that he is telling her that she’s worried about him going–but he’s already gone. “You’re holding on when I’m not going / I’m not going / I’m not going / I’m gone.”
The Love Songs
Gilbert writes as much about love as he does loss.
Take “Outlaw In Me.” Part of his most recent Devil Don’t Sleep album, this song clearly references what he said about how Amber loves all of him. “My baby don’t try to change me / ‘Cause she knows / This is the way that god made me / She gets every flaw, my rebel heart, every tattoo, every scar / She’s in love with the outlaw in me.”
And it is also clear that he loves her. Back in 2010, he released “My Kind of Crazy.” That was two years before he started dating Jana Kramer, so it is widely speculated that this track is about Amber. “Yeah but she’s my kinda crazy / The little games she plays / Lord they’ll never get old / She’s too cute to get on my last nerve / The way she throws her little fits.”
But relationships aren’t the only struggles that Brantley Gilbert writes and sings about. His struggles with addiction are also a focal point of his work.
Brantley Gilbert fans are well-aware of his past history with addiction. In 2011, the “Bottoms Up” singer landed in rehab to deal with his long struggle with drugs and alcohol. While there, he received a visit from Keith Urban, who counseled him on how to be a rock star while also being sober (not an easy task considering the amount of partying musicians often engage in on the road).
But Gilbert was determined. And as such, he was able to achieve and maintain his sobriety. Now just a few years shy of a decade, it’s easy to see the influence of sobriety and faith in his songs.
The Addiction Songs
“Just As I Am” is one of the most hauntingly beautiful of his ballads. In it, Gilbert expresses how he came to God in the face of his darkest hours. He knew that only God could save him. “Lord I ain’t got much to offer / I ain’t trying to die this way
/ So may this bottle be the body, and this Burden be the blood, if I pour it out will you take my offer / And give me the strength to never pick it up / Here I stand, just as I am.”
And in an interview with Nash Country Daily, Gilbert discussed that his entire last album, The Devil Don’t Sleep, was a story about his struggles. “I’m a recovering addict, but I’ll always be an addict. Those temptations are there,” he said. “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.”
Those “shadows…right around the corner” are likely the reason for the title of the record. Because Gilbert knows he always has to be on guard.
Brantley Gilbert has some of the most authentic songs in any genre of music. Because he writes from life and from his heart, the songs are completely honest. And that is what his fans love about him. It’s also interesting to consider how his music may change now that he has a son. Certainly, fatherhood will influence his writing. And we can’t wait to hear it.