Brantley Gilbert on Getting Sober: 'Success Wasn't Punching Me in the Face'

At a panel during Billboard's Touring Conference this morning, country star Brantley Gilbert shared a few personal reflections about his decision to get sober. After battling a serious drinking addiction that intensified during his meteoric rise to fame, he made a lifestyle change in December, 2011, and cut alcohol from his life.

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The decision came between the release of his first album, Modern Day Prodigal Son, in 2009, and his tour with Willie Nelson in 2011. As his songs hit the top of the charts and his shows sold scores of tickets, he confessed to his manager that he felt like God was letting him do "a lot of awesome things," but he wasn't enjoying it.

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"I told him that success wasn't punching me in the chest like it should be," he said. 

He sought professional help in December, 2011, and said he received a wealth of support from friends in the industry, including Keith Urban, who visited Gilbert at the hospital. "I was worried I wouldn't be able to do my job because I had always had a little bit of a buzz on," he said. "Keith told me I was going to be alright."  Urban warned him that the change wouldnt be easy -- Gilbert would essentially have to become a whole new performer -- but that once he figured it out, he'd "enjoy it a whole lot more." 

Sobriety also had a profound impact on his career. "I wasn't an engaged businessman," he said. Gilbert hired a tight team of managers and agents to keep his business together while he got back on his feet. Today, he has a hand in every aspect of his brand and said that while he's cool with his fans getting wild at his shows, he's had to find new, healthy ways to be the life of the party.

"I'm a smoker so I don't do Crossfit because Ill die, but I get a workout every night on stage," he quipped. "Being on stage and on a motorcycle are two of the only places I feel comfortable, and free. Those are my happy places."