Brantley Gilbert is definitely used to throwing a "Small Town Throwdown," but now he's taking his party overseas.
Gilbert opened up a brief international leg of his tour this past Saturday in Oslo, Norway, as part of the Country 2 Country festival, and he'll play Stockholm, Frankfurt, Cologne and Dublin before wrapping up next Sunday with a C2C date in London.
It's not the singer's first time on foreign ground, as he played on a USO tour a few years ago. "We did a thing the first time where we played some smaller venues, which really took me back to the old days," he said of his first trip abroad. "To be honest, it reminded me of the way it was over here in college towns. It was amazing to watch the crowd response be as good as it was. I didn't know what to expect. I remember walking off the stage feeling really good about what had happened and felt really accepted -- especially us, because we're a little more rock than normal, so I think it worked well."
Gilbert doesn't think the audiences overseas are that different compared to ones in the States. "I don't know if it's so much different, as much as it's just a wider audience," he says, adding that he feels music -- and the message behind it -- is universal. "For me, I write some songs that are really important to me, and I've got some feedback where some of them help folks and inspire people. If there is a message there, I want to spread it as far as I can. If the songs I'm writing can offer anything to somebody, I'd like to give myself the opportunity to deliver that."
The Valory Music Co. recording artist says the biggest adjustment to touring abroad is the food, but he was quick to add that nothing beats a home-cooked meal at his Jefferson County, Ga., home. "I stay on the road so much that my fiancée and I were talking the other night about what I wanted her to cook. I told her I don't even remember what a home-cooked meal is. Every place you go to, they have their own little flair. I'm kind of a steadfast guy as far as what I want to eat -- a lot of protein and that kind of thing, but it is interesting to see what every country has to offer."
Gilbert -- who will be heading out on the road with Kenny Chesney soon after his return -- is proud of the success of his latest disc, Just As I Am. The album has been certified gold and also netted the singer an American Music Award for favorite country album in November. He has just released the third single from the set, the touching "One Hell of an Amen." He told Billboard that he has received a lot of reaction from the song since the album dropped in May, but even more so now that the song has been released to radio.
"There was one specific reaction," he recalls. "I read about a six-page email a few days ago [from a fan] whose father fought in Vietnam, came home and actually died from a battle with cancer. She said she had this grudge towards God. She thought her father had done enough fighting, and then he comes home and has to go into another battle with a completely different ending. She said this song did for her what I hope that it does for everybody. It gives an opportunity to look at such a hard situation as loss and be able to look at in a different light -- with a sense of pride and being proud of those loved ones that we have lost to the good fight. When I say that good fight, I'm referring to 'the dash' -- you have the day you're born and the day you die, and the dash is the in between. For all those that we've lost to a good fight, I hope that it gives us the opportunity to say, 'It's not goodbye.' I'm a believer, and for me, it's just goodbye for now. They have inspired me to live my life a little bit differently. I will see those folks again one day. She said that song changed the whole way she felt about the situation. She was proud of her daddy, and she understood that he was a warrior. That's what he was put on earth to do -- to fight. It wasn't so much that the deal was unfair, but he had fought his battles on earth, and God needed another soldier. That was moving to me."
Brantley Gilbert's European tour dates:
Feb. 28: Oslo, Norway (C2C festival)
March 1: Stockholm, Sweden (C2C festival)
March 4: Frankfurt, Germany
March 5: Cologne, Germany
March 7: Dublin, Ireland (C2C festival)
March 8: London, UK (C2C festival)