Brantley Gilbert, country rock singer-songwriter and record producer, has been very open about his challenges with addiction. While country music often celebrates the allure of cold beers and strong whiskey, the battle for sobriety for Gilbert became a matter of life and death.
In a 2017 interview with The Tennessean, he recounted his experience of nearly leaving rehab a few days in, only to be introduced to a fellow recovering addict named Keith Urban by his rehab counselors and manager.
“If it weren’t for him, I don’t know if I’d be sober or be in this business anymore. I’d probably be dead.”
Gilbert’s struggle with alcohol began in his early years, and at the tender age of 19, he experienced a harrowing incident when he flipped his truck while under the influence of pain pills. Miraculously, an eyewitness reported that he somehow managed to land on his feet after being ejected from the vehicle. Read more about the frightening accident.
In 2009, Gilbert decided to relocate to Nashville, where he secured a songwriting deal. Despite the success he achieved with his breakout hit, “Country Must Be Country Wide,” a quiet battle raged within him. The relentless grip of drugs and alcohol was taking a toll on his liver, kidneys, and pancreas, quietly destroying his health from within.
Finding it challenging to reflect on the dark days of his addiction, Gilbert was ready to leave the rehab facility just a few days in. However, with each passing day at the treatment center, he began to feel slightly better, or at the very least, less awful. He described this improvement as a newfound ability to get out of bed and make it to the shower without having to crawl. Against medical advice, he decided to inform both his rehab counselors and his manager that he was ready to leave.
Still, Gilbert opened up when Urban asked him what his fears were about being a music star who doesn’t drink.
“I told him, I don’t think I can do my job. I don’t know if I can ever play a song at my shows without being messed up. Or writing, I was worried my songs wouldn’t be the same, that I wouldn’t be on everyone else’s level,” Gilbert said. “It’s a drinking environment.”
Gilbert said Urban told him that he, too, had experienced fear when it came to performing sober. Eventually, Urban emphasized that he became a superior performer, and a more accomplished songwriter, and evolved into a better husband and person.
“My whole world flipped,” he said. “At that point, I was like, ‘All right.’”
Presently, at 38 years old, the artist is a celebrated country star with consecutive platinum albums. He’s happily married to the woman he longed for but felt unworthy of for years, and has embraced the role of a being a father to two young children.
More recently, the country star came out with a new song called “Behind The Times,” which Gilbert shared is about “Everything that makes me who I am…It’s the important things to me like where I come from and what I stand for that just seem to get better with age.”
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