Fire & Brimstone

Fire & Brimstone

Countless country artists have borrowed sounds and production tricks from rock music. Brantley Gilbert takes it further, drawing on heavy metal’s menacing guitar riffs, snarling, low-slung vocal delivery, and theatrical sense of danger to amplify the personal and spiritual stakes of his songs. On his fifth album, Fire & Brimstone, he once again plays the part of a small-town ruffian who chases wild times but wrestles with his conscience and surrenders to his tender side. “These records are chapters of my life,” Gilbert tells Apple Music. “When you feel that struggle when you're listening to it, it's legitimate.” The fact that the motorcycle-riding Georgia-based singer-songwriter was in a more settled situation when he wrote this batch of songs—married to his high school sweetheart, with their second child on the way—had him reflecting on both his past and his new priorities. “This whole record is about being comfortable in your skin,” he says. “If I can go to bed at the end of the night knowing that I was the best husband, the best dad I knew how to be, and treated people the best way I know how, that's a win.” Here's the story of each of Fire & Brimstone's 15 tracks, in Gilbert's own words. Fire’t Up “I always like for a record to have that overall just upbeat feel. It's a rollercoaster ride and it takes you to some vulnerable places, but at the end of the day, I like for it to even out and flow well. We needed just a couple more rockers. We felt like that was something the record was missing. Down here in the South, if we're having a party or whatever and it's almost that time, I'll tell them, ‘Hey, man, fire’t up.’ If it's showtime, it's like, ‘All right, boys, fire’t up.’ So I thought it was pretty fitting to put that on first on the record.” Not Like Us “This song basically says, ‘I know a lot of people party, but nobody does it quite like us.’ All over the country, I'm sure that everybody kind of feels that way.” Welcome to Hazeville (feat. Colt Ford, Lukas Nelson, Willie Nelson) “I hadn't done a smoking song. My drinking days are over and have been for about eight years, but I am a Willie Nelson fan, if you're picking up what I'm putting down. I don't know many smoking songs that are just straight-up-the-line country. One of the first big tours I was on was the Willie Nelson Throwdown tour. Thinking back to that first tour, Colt and I talked about doing something together. We got to be good friends with Lukas out there, and it kind of just ended up being like all of us getting together for one more. It was just kind of a reunion of sorts.” What Happens in a Small Town (feat. Lindsay Ell) “I've been a Lindsay fan for a long time. Everybody in the business knows that Lindsay's one of the hardest-working people in the business. She's got an incredible voice and she is a shredder. The way she plays guitar makes me just feel like I need to put mine in the case and never take it out again. When I was thinking about somebody for a duet partner—like when you want somebody that's going to help you work the song, right? Because it's not just about singing it, then walking out the studio and you're done. And if we're going to do this, I wanted to tour with her as well. Her shredding style, man, out there in front of our people, they have eaten it up. It has been incredible.” She Ain’t Home “My wife was definitely the one that got away from me. We met really young and talked and dated for about five years on and off. Then we went five years without seeing or speaking to each other. This song kind of took place during that time period, where I was kind of trying to move on and do something different and it was just like she was always in the back of my mind. She never really left my heart.” Lost Soul’s Prayer “I retraced my steps and I remember that place well. You just feel like, maybe not the whole world, but most of it's against you, and being frustrated with life, frustrated with yourself, and kind of praying in a nonchalant but intentional way. It's almost prayer with a little grit in it. You can hear a little frustration in there.” Tough Town “I still live here—and when I say here, I mean northeast Georgia. It is a snapshot of the folks in this town that are still old-school that are holding on to what it used to be. And I feel like I'm one of those. They hang in there with the town and not try to move away from it because it's growing. That's their piece of dirt. They're holding on to it.” Fire & Brimstone (feat. Jamey Johnson and Alison Krauss) “I wanted to paint the literal picture of a small-town church. This all takes place in that church, but it’s really just a magnified version of our world right now, every facet of society. Jamey, I feel he's kind of the preacher and Alison is kind of the choir girl, and I'm the guy in the back who smokes cigarettes all the way to the door.” Laid Back Ride “That's actually a song that I wrote a while back. When I get ready to start putting a new record together, I will go back through my catalog and see if there's a song that's filling a gap. And this one found its place, finally.” Bad Boy “It's just about kind of my wife and I's journey, how we started and kind of up to the point where I was about to ask her to marry me. Her momma was not a big fan, that's safe to say. It just kind of covers the long journey in a few short steps.” New Money “I tell people when I go to award shows, red carpets, it's like I don't have to worry about what I'm wearing much anymore because I've got my wife with me and she's lights out. She's the pretty one. I'm going to do my thing and just let her shine.” Breaks Down “There's a few songs on here that were produced or co-produced by Mike Elizondo. When I talked about just doing things different on this record and letting each song be what it wanted to be, we actually went out to LA and recorded them in Mike's studio, which is what used to be Tupac’s old studio. His vocal booth was still there, which is pretty neat.” Man of Steel “On the surface, it's a love song. It's like, ‘I want to be your superhero.’ It could be your wife or your significant other. But what I had in mind with the song is to take a direction towards veterans and active-duty military personnel.” Never Gonna Be Alone “I'm singing to my wife, and with my kids in mind, too. Like, ‘Hey, man, no matter where I'm at, if you need me, you say the word and I will be on my way.' It's just a reassurance thing to them, but also the song is basically about where my heart’s at now, and that's at home.” Man That Hung the Moon “The open-book, heart-on-your-sleeve, what-you-see-is-what you-get thing has worked out awesome for my career. I don't have to keep up with a story or a bunch of lies, I can just do me. It worked out great, but not so much for being a dad. As soon as my kids are old enough to read, it's going to be extremely easy for them to run across stories and things. I just feel like we're going to cross some of those bridges with my kids a little earlier than some parents might. They'll know sooner than most kids that their dad is not a superhero, that I didn't hang the moon.”

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