Brantley Gilbert releases new album "Just As I Am" this week, and industry sources tell Billboard it has a strong chance to be the second best seller of the week, in all genres, behind Coldplay. The Georgia native admits hearing talk like that takes him by surprise. "It's all kind of surreal," he told Billboard. "My goal in the music business was to sell out the Georgia Theater, which held about 900 people, and was about 20 minutes from my hometown. I did that when I was 19 or 20, and everything since then has been a blessing."
The album was led by the chart-topping success of "Bottoms Up," which Gilbert says was a blast to co-write with Brett James, who played him the song's riff on a bus. "To see it do what it's done has been great." He credits the entire staff of The Valory Music Co and Big Machine Label Group for keeping his name – and his music -- in front of the people, including his tireless leader Scott Borchetta. "I'm convinced that he might sleep upside down like Batman with his cell phone so he can answer at all hours," he says. "Another thing about Scott, he's never asked me to wear skinny jeans, which is a big plus in my book."
Spend any amount of time with the singer, and you will find that his image as one of the "Bad Boys" of the format is just that – an image. "I try not to get wrapped up in all of that," he admits. "You see the rings and the tattoos and all of that, which is what I guess it's about. But, I wear this stuff because I like it, and for no other reason. I'm not trying to be flashy. The majority of what I wear is gifts, and a lot of them are from motorcycle buddies. Usually, when bikers give you something, it's jewelry, a free motorcycle, or a Zippo. Everything I wear means something to me. People ask me if it's an image, but that's what I wear everyday," he says.
With "Bottoms Up" becoming his third number one hit, it's on to the next single "Small Town Throwdown," which he says he thinks his fan base will identity with.
"I wrote that song with the Peach Pickers – Rhett Akins, Ben Hayslip and Dallas Davidson. It's just a throwdown song, a party song. It's when we all get together out in the middle of nowhere – we don't need a club, a cover charge or nothing. Most of the time, you charge somebody three dollars for a Dixie cup, and let them drink a keg all night."
The singer is gearing up for his "Let It Ride" tour, which will feature Rhett along with Eric Paslay. As headliner, Gilbert says he is mindful of the lessons he learned from opening for Tim McGraw last year. "He's a superstar on and off the stage. His music was always a big influence, but getting to know him, and talking to his wife and kids, you can tell he's such a genuine guy. He runs the stage, and you can't help but learn from somebody like that," he says, although there was one drawback. "I did have nightmares about him waking me up, and telling me it's time to run. I'm not really a big CrossFit guy or a runner. I've got bad knees and I smoke. I'd die."