Brantley Gilbert and Lindsay Ell Answer “What Happens”

The only thing I love more than country music is more country music.

So while so many country artists are collaborating with singers from outside the genre, it’s a breath of fresh air to see two country stars coming together for a brand new song.

Brantley Gilbert and Lindsay Ell have joined forces on his next single, “What Happens in a Small Town.” Gilbert penned the tune with Brock Berryhill, Josh Dunne and Rhett Akins. It will land on country radio stations on Friday (Dec. 14).

And you can tell that both Gilbert and Ell were excited to share the news, because they posted about the song back to back on Instagram.

“This song builds and burns. It really has that want for someone you can’t have, and having to live in all the places they are. I wanted to have someone on the record who could match those feelings, to really push the song. It’s not just any female singer who makes sense, and we knew that. But Lindsay is a whole other kind of artist, and she understands that power,” Gilbert said of his decision to cast Ell as his duet partner and guitar player. “Lindsay plays with the same emotion that she sings with. Her voice is as intense on that guitar as it is when it comes out of her mouth.”

Like other songs about small-town life, this one tells the story of how the landmarks — roads, bleachers, pews, county lines — in your hometown are powerful reminders of a life well lived. Or in this case, a heart that broke. (I have a few of my own — the hole-in-the-wall that never checked IDs, the parking lot at the high school, the house where we met — and I’m sure you have yours.)

“Songs that come from your life just have another kind of power,” he said. “People can hear the difference, and they know.

“For this song, obviously I’m not the only guy or girl who’s been there, but I’m lucky/blessed enough to have been able to put it back together. Being able to play on this opened up the feelings to me. When I went in to do the vocal, it was all about really channeling that pain.”

Gilbert was raised in the small town of Jefferson, which is the part of Georgia where he first met his wife Amber when they were teenagers. She inspired so many of his songs, including one of his break-out hits from 2011 “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do.” The Gilberts and their one-year-old son Barrett now live in Maysville, just about 10 miles from where he grew up.

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Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.