Brantley Gilbert has now been sober since 2011, but he at one time wasn’t sure if he would ever be able to perform again. It was while he was in rehab that he had an unexpected visit from Keith Urban, who gave him the encouragement he needed to continue being an artist, but a sober one.
“It was definitely a life-changing thing,” Gilbert said on the Bussin’ With The Boys’ podcast. “It was crazy. I went in, Keith Urban showed up when I was in there, on a whim one day. I’ve told this story a bunch, but he sat down and had a conversation with me. I don’t know if I’d be playing music right now had it not been for that conversation with that man. So that was pretty cool.”
Fortunately, it was the conversation Gilbert had with Urban that prepared him for what life would be like when he returned to the road, this time without the help of alcohol.
“The day I got out, my record label president and my manager picked me up at the rehab facility and took me straight to the tour bus. I went on on the Eric Church Blood, Sweat and Beers Tour in 2012,” Gilbert recalls.
— Bussin' With The Boys (@BussinWTB) June 8, 2023
“I’ve been uncomfortable on stage several times in my life, but then I literally felt out of my skin,” he remembers. “I felt like I was butt-naked, in front of thousands of people every night. The good thing was, my conversation with Keith, he told me that. He was like, ‘You’re gonna feel like you’re out of your skin up there. It’s never gonna be what it was. But it will be better.'”
It was at what should have been one of the best times of his life when Gilbert realized he needed help to control his drinking, after years of living life as an alcoholic.
“One night, I’ll never forget, we had when ‘[Country Must Be] Country Wide,’ went No. 1, we threw a little celebration out on the road,” Gilbert said on Today’s Country Radio with Kelleigh Bannen. “I looked around and had this thought. It was like, ‘Man, we’re supposed to be celebrating something that an overwhelming majority of people that try to do something with music will never accomplish experience.’ And we’re not really celebrating. We’re doing the same sh–we do every night.”
After that moment, the Georgia native committed to getting, and staying sober, and while it hasn’t always been easy, Gilbert has never wavered in that decision.
“I’m a guy that says if I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it or die trying,” Gilbert explained. “And with alcohol, it got to a point with it where I knew it was something I needed to change and cut back on. I said, ‘You know what? This has a little more control over me than I like, and I just need to get it out of my life,’ and couldn’t do it. Physically. That really frustrated me. Going in and being open to a different route of not being able to do it by myself was kind of humiliating and almost embarrassing to an extent, for about a split second. And then the thought was, ‘Dude, get it out of your life.’”
Gilbert is currently enjoying a Top 40 hit with “Heaven By Then,” his collaboration with Blake Shelton, which also features Vince Gill. The song is from his latest So Help Me God, out now. He also released his So Help Me God (Deluxe Edition) in April. Find music and tour dates at BrantleyGilbert.com.