Brantley Gilbert’s ‘What Happens in a Small Town’ Is a True Story — and It Has a Happy Ending
"What Happens in a Small Town," Brantley Gilbert's newest single and duet with Lindsay Ell, quickly became a fan favorite after its release in December. These days, it's only getting bigger: At CMA Fest 2019, Ell and Gilbert gave their first (soon-to-be) televised performance of the song, for this year's CMA Fest TV special.
"Yeah, we got to play it onstage at CMA Fest for over 60,00 people. It was a TV debut, so that's awesome," Ell gushed after the performance. "When you walk out and see that many people, and they're so excited to be there and they're such huge country fans, and they have a song that -- we're Top 20 now; it's just been flying up the chart -- it was a really cool moment."
Gilbert has an additional reason to love the song: It tells the story of the rocky, off-and-on early days of his relationship with his now-wife, Amber. "[The song] talks about riding around, and everything you see and everything you had there. I think all of us can relate to having the one that got away," he explains. "For me, that was my wife."
The singer paints a picture of his own "small town," where he and his wife both grew up. "I'm from Jefferson, Ga. I was born and raised there, and graduated with 66 people. It's a tiny town," Gilbert shares. "My wife graduated from Commerce High School, which is right across the river. They're literally three or four miles from each other."
Their love story was a bit star-crossed from the beginning: "It was the most heated rivalry for high school football in the state of Georgia," Gilbert continues. "You weren't supposed to date across the river."
So, the young couple dated in semi-secret, enjoying a Romeo and Juliet-esque romance. The town where the two now live, Maysville, Ga., was "neutral territory," and after the pair broke up, Gilbert strategically used this geography when deciding on a piece of property to buy.
"Actually, I bought that house on purpose because she had to come by it when she came home from college, when we weren't together," he admits. "My business manager and manager ... were talking to me about my goals early on, and I was like, 'Man, you know, there's a piece of property that I love, and I'd love to buy, put me a double wide on it and [be] good to go.' They talked me into building a house.
"I was like, 'Well, if I'm gonna do that, I'm gonna make damn sure she can see it from the road,'" Gilbert continues. And while he might have initially built the house out of spite, the location turned out to be pretty convenient after he and Amber reconciled.
"Every time she came home from school or went to her mom's house -- it was three minutes from her mom's," Gilbert relates. "Well, now we live in that house, which turns out great, because she's only three minutes from her mom."
While "What Happens in a Small Town" may be a song about heartbreak, things turn out okay in the end -- at least they do in the real-life story that inspired the track. Gilbert and his wife got married on June 28, 2015, and welcomed their first child two years later. In March, they announced that they are expecting their second child.
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