Gilbert talked to Music Mayhem and other media about the upcoming album, how he wrote his new single “Heaven By Then” with Blake Shelton in mind, his relationship with co-writer HARDY, and more.
Kicking off the album is Gilbert’s new single “Heaven By Then,” which goes to country radio November 14. Co-written with Brock Berryhill, HARDY, Jake Mitchell, Randy Montana, Hunter Phelps and Taylor Phillips, the track features Blake Shelton and Vince Gill.
“It’s more country than anything we’ve done in a while,” says Gilbert. “It’s probably the most country thing on that record. Every now and then, you write a song where you hear the feature as you’re writing it… This one, it sounded like Blake from the jump.”
During an annual writing retreat in Texas, Gilbert wrote “Heaven by Then” in the middle of the night with some of Nashville’s best songwriters. “It was about, I wanna say 2:30 or 3 in the morning and HARDY gets a guitar out,” he recalls. “There’s been drinks flowing all night. I may have spent a little time with Willie Nelson, if you’re picking up what I’m putting down,” he laughed. “So everybody was in a different frame of mind at that point, and that song just happened.”
So Help Me God Features Four Collaborations
When it came time to record the track, Gilbert knew that it needed one final element after both he and Shelton had finished their parts. “There was this high harmony that my producer Brock Berryhill, he is also a co-writer on the song, he was covering. Man, he sounded amazing doing it, but it was this high harmony line. It was like, with what this song says, what it’s about, who’s already on it. What kinda just freaking final stamp of badassery can we put on if we bring Vince Gill into this thing. And of course he murdered it cause he murders everything.”
Not only does the album include this collaboration with Blake Shelton and Vince Gill, but it also has previously released songs featuring Jason Aldean (“Rolex® On A Redneck”), Toby Keith and HARDY (“The Worst Country Song Of All Time”), and Jelly Roll (“Son Of The Dirty South”).
“I’ll forever be thankful for those guys taking the chance,” says Gilbert. “Cause every time you get on a song with somebody, you really are putting some faith in ’em. And to me, it’s humbling.”
Gilbert intentionally puts his faith into every album, including spiritual titles for them. “We talk about partying and we talk about fighting, we talk about drinking, whatever. But at the end of the day, it’s important to me to be the ‘what you see is what you get’ guy,” says Gilbert. “If I were to leave my faith out, I feel like that would be the most dishonest thing. Cause at the end of the day, I feel like that’s probably the biggest part of what makes me, me. That’s my safe place to land.”
“So Help Me God” not only serves as the album’s title track, but it closes out the album’s narrative. Gilbert says he feels that he covered a lot of ground on this album, but he didn’t want to overlook an important chapter of his life, even though it ended more than 10 years ago.
“I don’t really harp on the not drinking thing anymore. You know, December 18th will be 11 years. But I felt like it’d been long enough between records and I didn’t wanna skip anything and act like that wasn’t still a huge part of my life and getting that outta my life wasn’t as important as it is.” He added, “I do recognize that my addiction and alcoholism played a huge role in who I am now and the dad I am, and the husband that I am, and the friend I am, and the rebel that I still am. So it loops everything at the end.”
Gilbert also shared how writing songs like “So Help Me God” is cathartic. “I write songs about things that I don’t have conversations about. And if there’s angst in something, I try to record it that way. A lot of my songs are getting pain out, like the So Help Me God thing.” He added, “I feel like songwriting the truest form of expression outside of prayer.”
One of Gilbert’s frequent co-writers is HARDY, who has become a close friend. However, Gilbert was initially unsure of him. “When he came out, I didn’t know what to think about him, which is the case with a lot of new guys,” says Gilbert. “When I heard ‘Rednecker’ and stuff, I was like, all right, that’s cool, but what’s this guy about? You know? And as I dug more and more into his music, I can honestly say that my respect for him as a songwriter, as an artist came before I had any kinda relationship with him whatsoever, which was really neat.”
Gilbert even attended HARDY’s recent wedding and praised his new wife Caleigh Ryan. “She’s an amazing girl from what I know of her. And the first time I met her, I knew she was special and she was just bubbly and so engaged to everybody around. It really excites me for HARDY to see the people that he surrounds himself with.”
He also shared that he hopes HARDY stays true to himself. “He’s one of those dudes that you don’t want to change. Now if he evolves as a writer and as an artist, I think that’s probably gonna be necessary at some point, right? For all of us. But he is one of those men that is so salt of the earth that you just pray and hope that that doesn’t change.”
He added, “I’m extremely proud to know him. I’m proud to work with him cause he’s obviously good at what he does.” Gilbert shared that when they write together, HARDY does his homework and always comes prepared with material and ideas. “I’ve never been in a write with him where he didn’t really contribute to every aspect of the song, which is really cool. Whether it be playing riffs or words or melodies. He’s an extremely talented writer.” Gilbert admitted his own tendencies to be overbearing in a room, but that HARDY is more of a chameleon while not being a pushover. “I just feel like he molds into a room.” He added, “I value his friendship and our business relationship as well.”
Gilbert hinted that So Help Me God is a taste of what’s to come, that he’ll be releasing music in new ways going forward. “We knew coming into this one that that was gonna change a little bit,” says Gilbert. “There will be some more coming and it will eventually be one of those big records. It’s just gonna be released a little differently than we’ve done in the past. And moving forward, we’re looking at getting these things out way more frequently.”
So Help Me God track list
1. Heaven By Then with Blake Shelton featuring Vince Gill (Brantley Gilbert, Brock Berryhill, Michael Hardy, Jake Mitchell, Randy Montana, Hunger Phelps, Taylor Phillips)
2. Rolex® On A Redneck featuring Jason Aldean (Brantley Gilbert, Brock Berryhill, Michael Hardy, Randy Montana, Taylor Phillips)
3. Miles of Memories (Brantley Gilbert, Brock Berryhill, Josh Phillips)
4. She’s The One (Brantley Gilbert, Brock Berryhill, Taylor Phillips)
5. The Worst Country Song Of All Time featuring Toby Keith and HARDY (Brantley Gilbert, Michael Hardy, Hunter Phelps, Will Weatherly)
6. Son Of The Dirty South featuring Jelly Roll (Brantley Gilbert, Andrew Baylis, Jason Bradley DeFord)
7. How To Talk To Girls (Brantley Gilbert, Brock Berryhill, Brian Wayne Davis, Brandon Day, Chase McGill, Josh Phillips, Taylor Phillips, Michael Ray)
8. Little Piece of Heaven (Brantley Gilbert, Brock Berryhill, Greylan James, Taylor Phillips, Cole Taylor)
9. Gone But Not Forgotten (Brantley Gilbert, Brock Berryhill, Jason Blaine, Jay Brunswick)
10. So Help Me God (Brantley Gilbert, Michael Hardy, Hunter Phelps, Will Weatherly)
Gilbert’s co-headlining tour with Five Finger Death Punch kicked off November 9 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and continues through December 17, wrapping in Las Vegas, Nevada.
For tickets and more information, visit BrantleyGilbert.com.