Brantley Gilbert's love for CMA Fest runs deep. The singer-songwriter enjoys not only the chance to perform in front of thousands of his fans, but also the opportunity to support a cause that means so much to him.
"I'm a Georgia guy so we get to travel up to Nashville once a month, or once every other month, and my wife gets to shop and I get to work," Gilbert shared with PopCulture.com and other media backstage. "But coming up here to this event, it's fan travel. We've seen people from Australia today and people from the U.K.; these are country fans from all over the country and from other countries.
"For them all to come together in one place, you get to see the people that are passionate about you and your music, but you get to meet a lot of new folks too, and a lot of new people who haven't been exposed to you, [or] get to hear you," he added. "And when you have an opportunity to perform for people who may not know who you are, that's an honor."
The 34-year-old is also proud to volunteer his time for CMA Fest, with the proceeds benefiting the CMA Foundation, which helps support music education in schools all over the country.
"The fact that theses artist are here voluntarily, united for a great cause. and I think the last I heard the [money raised] was up to 17 million [dollars]," said Gilbert. "With that in mind, when doing something special, just getting together and playing music, we're doing it for a reason. Country music's a giant family. A lot of us tour together, and then we don't see each other. We may text back and forth but it's always a chance for us to kind of reunite and kind of hug it out say, 'Hey man,' and catch up for a minute."
"It's an awesome opportunity, especially with the [CMT Music Awards] show going on. but to be able to play this stadium is humbling, and it's an honor," Gilbert said. "But I do feel like the time I get to share with guys that I've toured with, and other artists in the business that I've developed relationships with, I feel like that's as important as being able to get face time, which with fans is something we don't get to do as much of."
The chance to meet his fans is something Gilbert misses, now that his shows draw so many more concert attendees than they did early in his career.
"I remember back when we first started, in the bar days, we'd be traveling from another town," Gilbert reminisced. "We'd get to a bar hours early, and you'd sit there and talk to people, and get to hang out with them, and find out things about them and things about your music that they enjoy and the reasons they do. We don't get much of that anymore because things are a little bit different now. People are crazy!
"It's good to be able to get face time, and really just on a granular level, hang out with everybody," he continued. "But we got to play a set in the bar today. That's the first time that I've done that in a long time, I'm pretty stoked about it."
Photo Credit: Getty images / Alberto E. Rodriguez