With the recent heated debates surrounding the Confederate flag, Gilbert has come under some scrutiny for adapting a variation into his merchandise and backdrop. When asked to offer his take on the firebrand issue, he says simply, “No, man, I can’??t do that for you. I appreciate you asking, and I do understand that it may be an important question, but I think there’s enough folks sharing their opinion on that one.”
Despite his reluctance to speak on that subject, Gilbert really is as straightforward as they come. True to the title of his latest effort, “Just As I Am,” he’??s seems exactly the same offstage as he is on record. On songs “Grown Ass Man,” for instance, when he sings the lines, “And when you look at me, man / I hope you see, it’s real as it gets,” this is not merely lip service. “I take a lot of pride in being able to say that what you see is what you get,” Gilbert says. “There’??s no smoke and mirrors here.”
Although all of Gilbert’s songs are direct reflections of his life, that particular track seems to be his definitive tune, from the nods to AC/DC and Skynyrd — two acts that have influenced his crossover sound — to the references to God, his family and Georgia, the things that are closest to his heart, to him noting how he didn’??t fit the Nashville mold even early on.
Gilbert got his start in country music about a half dozen years ago when he moved to Nashville and signed a publishing deal with Warner Chappell. A couple of his early tunes were hits for Jason Aldean (“Dirt Road Anthem” and “My Kind of Party”), while a couple of more became hits for Gilbert (“Country Must Be Country Wide” and “You Don’??t Know Her Like I Do,” both issued on Valory Music Co., a Big Machine imprint).
With a rugged image, marked by an armful of tattoos and gauges in his ears — sitting on a motorcycle in a leather jacket and ballcap with a bent brim on the back page of his album insert, Gilbert almost resembles Charlie Hunnam from “Sons of Anarchy” — and backed by a band that looks like it could easily share a bill with some metalcore act, Gilbert is clearly cut from a different cloth than his contemporaries. And that’s at least partially why he ended up moving away from the country music capital and back to Georgia, where he could be himself and write his own songs.
“I moved to Nashville for about a year,” he says. “You know, I tried that out, but, man, I moved back home. It wasn’??t that there was anything wrong with Nashville, but I knew I had people at home that would call me out and hold me accountable.”
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