In an age where people don’t seem to be buying albums, country music star Brantley Gilbert has been the exception to the rule. Blending cranked-up rock guitars with gritty country twang, Gilbert’s hybrid sound has propelled him to back-to-back million-selling albums, not to mention nine best-selling singles, including “Country Must Be Country Wide,” “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do,” “Bottoms Up” and “One Hell of an Amen.”
Gilbert writes virtually all of his material and has also helped other artists strike gold with his songs, including Jason Aldean (“My Kinda Party”) and Colt Ford (“Dirt Road Anthem”), and he’s also won an Academy of Country Music award, two CMA awards, and an iHeartRadio award.
Gilbert is coming to the Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Thursday, Feb. 8, with Aaron Lewis and Josh Phillips as part of his “The Ones That Like Me” tour, and we spoke with him recently about the new tour, his songwriting, and his comfortable spot between rock and country.
Your new single is called “The Ones That Like Me,” but I feel like the name of the tour is meant as a tribute to your fans, right?
It’s for all those people who followed me through the years and know there’s more to me than tattoos and chains. [Laughs.]
You’ve had back-to-back platinum albums in a time where records aren’t selling like they used to; what do you think is resonating with people?
I’m kind of on the tip of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” As a songwriter, I try to get outside the lines a little bit. I always say that as long as there’s a box, we know where we stand, and that’s right on the outside of it. All I do is try to share songs about my life, and different chapters of my life.
And you’d think that the songs that are the most personal to you would end up being the ones that are the hardest to relate to, and that ends up not being the case at all. My whole career, it seems like those personal songs are more relatable to other folks.
Your newest album, “The Devil Don’t Sleep,” is your heaviest, musically speaking. What led you to move in that direction?
I think every record we’ve made stands on its own. It wasn’t really my intention to make it more or less heavy; I just try to go in and match the mood of the song with the sound and capture the feeling I had when I wrote it, the same intensity. That ends up a little heavier from time to time. And we have a guitar player who’s new since the last record, and he’s a heavy player. Every one of these band members bring their own, and that comes through in the music by default.
Do you consider yourself influenced as much by rock as by country?
I’ve always listened to everything across the board, whether it’s R&B or country or rock. I’ve been like that all my life. Whatever it may be, I listen to and enjoy and lot of it.
What do you think of the state of country music right now?
I really try my best to stay focused on our deal and making sure we’re doing our thing, but I can tell you from listening to the radio that the country music genre is a melting pot right now. Chris Stapleton’s doing some really country stuff, and then you’ve got other folks who lean a little more towards pop. I think it just means that everyone’s pushing themselves to explore other things as songwriters and artists. I think it’s a good thing.
Brantley Gilbert w/ Aaron Lewis and Josh Phillips
When: Thursday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m.
Where: Bon Secours Wellness Arena, 650 N. Academy St., Greenville
Info: 864-241-3800, http://www.bonsecoursarena.com/