Brantley Gilbert promises a party at concert Sunday

Photo courtesy of Creative Artists Agency

By Gary Hermann

Brantley Gilbert burst onto the country music scene with his single “Country Must be Country Wide.” Since then, he had another single hit No. 1 and toured with both Eric Church and Toby Keith. Now Gilbert is bringing his first headlining tour, The Hell on Wheels Tour, to Memorial Coliseum. He promises a party.

Q: What’s it like to be on your first headlining tour?
A: It’s absolutely an awesome feeling. It feels like a lot of paid dues are payin’ off. It’s just a sense of accomplishment, and a goal I never thought I’d reach.

Q: What can the fans expect from your show?
A: It’s gonna to be a party. We will be wide open from the word “go” to the word “stop.” We’re gonna slow it down in the middle and play some slow stuff. It’s gonna rock.

Q: What would you say to people that might still be on the fence about whether they want to attend or not?
A: If you are on the fence, please get off of it. Jump off on my side. I’d like to say I can guarantee them a good time but, you know, it is a rockin’ show. We are workin’ our tails off. If nothin’ else it’d be nice to have the support, and I’d appreciate it.

Q: Do you know much about how many people are expected to be there?
A: I don’t what the exact number is, but it’s definitely more than we projected. We’re really excited about it.

Q: You were with Eric Church in Lexington last year. Can you talk about playing in Rupp?
A: Oh man, we had a ball in Lexington. We always have a ball in Kentucky, even when we were playing smaller venues. It’s always been a party. You guys have got some great fans. Everybody comes out looking for a good time and they treat us like family in Kentucky.

Q: How was the experience of touring with Eric Church?
A: The Church tour was great. Eric’s a great guy, great writer, great performer, great artist. We formed a friendship. I still talk to him to this day. We had the chance to write together. It was just an honor to be on a tour with another hard workin’ artist.

Q: Can you talk about being nominated for CMA New Artist of the Year?
A: You know, we’ve been nominated for awards in the past and anytime you get a nomination, it’s just an unbelievable feeling. Even if you don’t win, it’s just an honor to be a part of it. We had been so busy on and off the road, that Wednesday morning I forgot they were releasing the artists. I overslept that morning and woke up to tons of text messages.

Q: You’ve been nominated for a CMA for writing “Dirt Road Anthem.” How’s it different to be nominated as a performer?
A: As a writer it was an accomplishment, but as an artist, it’s a different animal. When you write and perform the song, it’s a bigger smile. I can tell you that much.

Q: What was it like for you so early in your career to have back-to-back No. 1 singles?
A: I still don’t think that one has hit me yet, to be completely honest. It was a crazy feeling. It happened so fast, man. It was a little bit overwhelming, to tell you the truth. It was such an honor.

Q: How are things different now that you are a big star and so recognizable?
A: I can honestly say that I know for a fact I’m the same guy. I’m no different from anybody else. If somebody recognizes me, we have a conversation. A lot has changed; I will say that. I don’t think it’s affected me personally. I’m still the same old boy.

Q: What was it like to tour with Toby Keith?
A: Toby’s pretty much a country legend and to share the stage with an artist like that — it’s a big honor. Plus the end of the tour present was well worth it. He gave me two twin 45’s with sequential serial numbers and my name engraved on the side.

Q: What projects are you working on right now?
A: We are stayin’ pretty busy with this tour. We’ve been writing a lot and goin’ through a lot of songs, getting ready to start pickin’ songs for this next record.

Q: What goals do you have left to accomplish as a country singer?
A: You know man, everything has happened so fast. We had this venue about 40 minutes from our hometown where the B-52s, R.E.M., Widespread Panic and bands like that started out in Athens, Ga. It’s called the Georgia Theatre. My goal was to sell that thing out. I sold it out when I was 19, and I thought I’d made it. Everything after that has been a gift, a bonus and a blessing in a way. We find ourselves making new goals everyday.

Tickets are still available at the Student Involvement Ticket Office in the Student Center until 4PM Today or they can be purchased online at Tickets are $10 for UK Students and $25 for general public. Tickets will be sold day-of show. Event sponsored by the UK Student Activities Board.