Brantley Gilbert is one of the biggest country music stars in the world, with eleven charting singles (including four that reached number one) to his name. Hits like “Bottoms Up” (2013) and “One Hell of an Amen” (2014) have become modern country classics. On October 2, Gilbert continued this winning streak by releasing a deluxe edition of Fire & Brimstone, his fifth studio album that originally came out last year; this new version contains two stellar new tracks, “Hard Days” and “Old Friends.”
Despite his star status, Gilbert hasn’t forgotten what it was like when he independently recorded and released his debut album, Modern Day Prodigal Son, in 2005. He personally took orders for CDs online, then hand-addressed the packages and took them to the post office himself. After going through that humble start, he now has advice for aspiring songwriters who want their songs to touch people, as his have.
“I know now, the songs that are closer to the chest and under the skin are the ones that I have found that really resonate more,” Gilbert says. “People take pictures you paint and make them their own. It’s kind of like reading a book. We could read the same book, but even with the pictures that authors paint – the characters, or scenes – we piece together in our own mind what they look like, right? Songs are the same way.”
To make a song more relatable, Gilbert says, it’s a good idea to leave enough space in the lyrics to give people space to fill in their own details. “I’ve always found it’s good to let whoever’s listening wrap their mind around it, and take what you’re saying and make it their own. It’s not so much that you’re trying to write everything to be interpretable.”
Ultimately, though, Gilbert says that people will be able to connect with a song as long as it is written with honesty: “If you write what’s close to your heart, what’s close to your chest, and write things that you’re really familiar with, I just think people relate to that more.”