Although its tempting to call Brantley Gilbert a country artist -- he certainly embraces the outlaw country side of things -- in many ways his music is closer to the heartland sentiments of artists like John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, and perhaps most apt, Steve Earle. Gilbert was born in the small town of Jefferson, Georgia, just outside of Athens. He grew up hearing country music, but he also heard a lot of Athens rock bands like R.E.M. and the B-52's, and the swaggering Southern rock of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd; at his best, Gilbert blends all of these various strains together in his music. It was a near-fatal car accident when he was 19 years old that spurred him to give music his all, and he started writing songs in earnest, playing mostly solo acoustic gigs before forming a band that could bring his vision of a hard-stomping country/rock/soul show to fruition. Moving to Nashville, he signed with Warner Chappell Publishing (his songs have been recorded by the likes of Jason Aldean and Colt Ford) and began working toward completing an album. Modern Day Prodigal Son finally appeared in 2009 from Average Joe's, which also released the follow-up, Halfway to Heaven, in 2010. Gilbert signed with Big Machine's Valory Music imprint in 2011 and the label reissued Halfway to Heaven. With Valory's support, the album took off: "Country Must Be Country Wide" and "You Don't Know Her Like I Do" both topped the U.S. Country Charts on their way to being certified platinum. Two other singles were pulled from the record in 2012 -- "Kick it in the Sticks" and "More Than Miles," both peaking in the Country Top 20s -- and then in 2013, Gilbert began working on a new studio project with producer Dann Huff.
"Bottoms Up," the first single issued from these sessions, turned into Gilbert's biggest hit to date in early 2014, reaching number one on the charts on its way to selling over a million copies. Its success whetted the appetite for Just as I Am, which saw release in May 2014. ~ Steve Leggett, Rovi