Brantley Gilbert: “I Enjoy the Opportunity to Be Judged”

The Devil Don’t Sleep Arrives Friday

Brantley Gilbert feels comfortable driving his motorcycle without wearing a helmet in states with no-helmet laws. But the Jefferson, Georgia, native, joked he might need one if he’s driving in snow.

At the time of our interview, an inch of the white stuff was accumulating on the streets of downtown Nashville, turning Lower Broadway into a winter wonderland.

“I could drive in it, but I wouldn’t want to,” he said. “I don’t do snow well. I used to hate wintertime, but now I don’t mind it as much because it’s hunting season. But this — on a work day — no, sir. I need to be in front of a fireplace with my wife and my dog.”

Gilbert forewent the use of a helmet while performing his own stunts driving an ATV in the music video for “The Weekend,” the lead single from his new album The Devil Don’t Sleep. The deluxe edition offers 26 songs all written or co-written by Gilbert himself, except for a cover of Hank Williams Jr.’s “Outlaw Women,” which was recorded live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. I have to say, you make me nervous riding ATVs without a helmet. I feel like somebody’s mother watching you.

Gilbert: Probably because I ride like an idiot. When we do stuff with [ATV manufacturer] Polaris, they make me wear a helmet. I’m trying to get into the swing of wearing one, it’s just not really my thing. If I’m in a no-helmet state on my motorcycle, I don’t wear one. Being married now, I probably wear it more now than I used to. I’m getting there.

Is it safe to say the new album is the most soul-baring collection of music to date from you?

I think so. With 26 songs, you’re bound to run into something that’s a little deeper than normal. But I’m really proud of this record. It’s actually the most positive record I think I’ve ever released. It’s a feel-good record, and I never thought in a million years I’d be able to do that.

The title is all about knowing that even though things are good and even though it is a positive chapter of my life right now, the devil don’t sleep. He’s always there. Whatever your devil is, whatever your temptation is, he’s always there. So you’ve got to stay on your toes.

What motivates you to keep the past and vices behind you?

I’ve got a great group of people around me. I’ve got my wife. She’s really strong in her faith, and I’m surrounded by people who are morally and spiritually strong. That helps more than anything. I’m a fighter, too. I like to fight, and now I’ve got something I can fight every day, beat it and win. It’s a good battle to win.

I wanted to ask about “The Ones That Like Me.”

“The Ones That Like Me” is pretty much straight ahead. One of my favorite parts of my job is being able to be the what you see is what you get guy. I don’t have to keep up with a story about something I’m not. I can just do me.

For the people who do know me, that song’s me wrapped up in a nutshell. It says it all — “The ones that need me got me/The ones that doubt me can’t stop me/Even the ones that said forget him/You can bet they ain’t forgot me.”

Do you feel people judge a book by it’s cover when it comes to you and your music?

I enjoy the opportunity to be judged — to be read by my cover — and then to show them that there’s a lot more. You know what I mean? Listen to a whole record and you see every side of me. If you still don’t like me, then, hey, it is what it is.

I’ll never tell anybody that what they think about me or their opinion of me is wrong. I’ll never tell you that the way I feel about things is right. I’m not going to waste my time losing sleep over somebody else judging a book by its cover or looking at me one way. I know the people that need me, love me and that are close to me know me. That’s what’s important to me is making sure I stay me for them.

You’ve always been one of the most polite artists I’ve ever talked to.

But you wouldn’t think that looking at me, would you? I appreciate you saying that.

Brantley Gilbert will host CMT all weekend long to celebrate the release of The Devil Don’t Sleep. The tour of the same name starts Feb. 2 in Reading, Pennsylvania with Tucker Beathard and Luke Combs appearing on most dates.