Q&A: Brantley Gilbert on His T.I. Remix, That Huge Tattoo, and 'Old School' Wedding Traditions

by Sophie Schillaci 1:47 PM PDT, May 18, 2015
Photo: Getty Images

Brantley Gilbert may look the part of a certified bad-ass, but the 30-year-old Georgia boy couldn't be more sweet.

Especially when talk turns to his fiancee.

When ET caught up with Gilbert by phone on Monday, despite his proclamations of being exhausted from the Billboard Music Awards the night before, his thick southern drawl was bubbly with enthusiasm.

"I'm just waiting to see if I made the worst dressed list," he teased, declaring that his signature style "always" lands him there.

PICS: The Billboard Music Awards Red Carpet

"What you see is what you get, and the majority of people in my life that loan me clothes know that they've never seen me in a suit," he explained. "They've never seen me in real colorful clothin', my thing's really simple [and] there's not much I can do to my look but change my jacket."

It's true: Gilbert arrived at the Las Vegas red carpet in his standard black baseball hat, dark denim and a black jacket -- though we'd hardly dub the look "worst dressed." (And hey, there's something to be said for consistency.) Besides, it's hard to look bad with a stunner on your arm, and Gilbert's fiancee Amber Cochran delivers in that department.

"My fiancee's the one that's picture worthy," Gilbert said. "When I've got her beside me, I don't need to worry about it."

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Just as he gears up to hit the road with Kenny Chesney this summer, Gilbert releases a re-issued version of his third studio album Just As I Am (Platinum Edition) on Monday. The 19-track offering features four never-before-heard songs, plus a T.I.-remixed version of his hit single "Bottoms Up."

Read on for more from Gilbert about recruiting T.I. for his album, that headline-making second amendment tattoo, and what he and his future wife will dance to on their wedding day.

You've got the Platinum Edition out now. What can we expect from these new tracks?

These songs tied up some loose ends, and kinda bring a lot of the story full-circle. I saved the title track ["Just As I Am"] for this edition of the record -- it's the last song on the whole project, the 19th song. That's almost twice as many [songs] as most folks put on their record, and we like it that way. We take a little more time between records, for no particular reason other than these records are chapters of my life and I write everything, so I gotta make sure I've written the right song -- covered everything.

Tell me about getting T.I. on the "Bottoms Up" remix.

It's a little bit different, and the honest to God answer is: it was fun. It sounded fun and I had fun doing it.

Did you call him to get him on-board?

Yeah, I called him. He's been telling me he wanted to talk to me for quite some time, he'd been calling my phone, I'd be dodging him -- I'm just kidding! All of that is a lie! No, I had my manager ask folks if we could get in touch with him. It was awesome the way it worked out, I got to talk to him about what we were looking for, and we got it.

Why T.I.?

He's a Georgia boy and I'm a fan, it was that simple. And it turned out great.

Who else are you hoping to team up with someday?

We've got a Crossroads with Lynyrd Skynyrd comin' up. I'm stoked about that, I'm on cloud nine. I'm a Skynyrd fan and always have been, they're one of the main influences across the board for the whole band -- everybody loves them-- so we're all on cloud nine about that.

You've got a new tattoo that's making a lot of headlines. Did you design it?

No, Carl Grace freehanded that, for the most part. This whole thing blew up into a lot more than I expected. People have asked me if I did that to start something, but I honestly didn't. I've liked that idea for a long time and as far as the tattoo goes, it's self-explanatory from where I stand. I enjoy my freedom and I like to protect myself and my family, and that's about it.

Why was it so important for you to make such a big statement? The tattoo is huge.

[Laughs] My back's that big! I didn't want to put much else on there.

You've teased that some new ink is on the way. What can you tell us about that?

You never know what I'm gonna put on me, but I think we're gonna drape a flag across my back behind the guns. Then the whole thing will be covered and we'll be done.

How long does something like that take?

About nine to 10 hours.

What's the secret to getting through that?

I'm not sure. I put myself through a lot of hell when I was drinkin', and I got a few tattoos before I was sober, but now getting tattoos is one way to put myself through a little bit of pain... It's just baring my life. Some people wear their heart on their sleeve, I do that in more ways than one.

I know everyone wants to talk to you about the wedding these days. How hands-on are you as a groom?

I've been as involved as she's needed me to be. As far as lot of that stuff goes, her and the wedding planner have knocked it out, but I've been involved and I've done my responsibilities.

What are your wedding responsibilities?

Well when it came to decorating, she knows a lot more than I do but I had fun being right there with her. More than anything, I think she just wanted me to sit with her and give her some feedback. I think most of it worked out that she narrowed things down to two to three options, and I'd pick from those.

Is it happening this summer?

It's happening soon, that's about all I can say.

What kind of music are you going to have at the wedding?

A little bit of everything, for sure.

You've known Amber for such a long time. Tell me about when you knew that she was the one.

It didn't take long. Even when we were young, I didn't know if it was just being young and in what I thought love was back then, but come to find out it was the real thing. It gets better every day. I actually had a chance to tell Brad Paisley recently, he sings a song that matches our story to a T -- "I Thought I Loved You Then." That is our story! I asked her to marry me right at the spot where I first met her, and everything about that song resembles our story.

Is that going to be your first dance song?

Oh, yeah.

Have you seen Amber's dress yet? Or are you going to be surprised?

I'm old school. We're from a small town in Georgia and I think if we do pictures before the wedding, I think I'm gonna be blindfolded. I don't want to see it! Well, I do want to see it, but I'm not going to.

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