Brantley Gilbert on motorcycles, new tour

Country singer Brantley Gilbert is in a much better place than just a few years ago.

These days, he's nominated for CMA's New Artist of the Year. He recently started dating actress/singer Jana Kramer. And, on Thursday, he kicks off his first headlining tour, "The Hell on Wheels," in Lafayette, Ind.

Seems appropriate.

Brantley, 27, was in a near-fatal wreck when he was 19, flipping his truck six times and crashing into a tree near his hometown of Jefferson, Ga. Then, a few years ago, while on a motorcycle, he avoided an elderly lady wrongly pulling out from a grocery store and spun his bike and survived that accident also.

"I'm definitely a man of faith. He was giving me back my life and I decided to focus my attention on music," said Gilbert, who had back-to-back No. 1 hits, “Country Must Be Country Wide,” and “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do." "I've been very blessed, and I take whatever I can get out of life."

That's how Gilbert has always been: playing the cards dealt him.

No wonder his first two albums were named "Modern Day Prodigal Son" and "Halfway to Heaven."

Brantley, who has written for Colt Ford and Jason Aldean, grew up in a small Georgia town. Really small.

He graduated with a class of 66. He always loved motorcycles, riding since he was 15. Harley-Davidsons, naturally.

He loved sports, playing mostly recreationally. And he said the whole town of Jefferson would go to the football games on Friday nights.

"Everywhere was a ghost town except for the stadium," Gilbert said. "We were all there for all the games. That was what you did in a small town."

Gilbert dabbled in music, performing at bars, but it was right after that car accident at 19, that everything changed. He got focused on music and began telling stories through his songs. And now he's ready to headline.

"I'm working as hard as I can these days," Gilbert said. "If I wasn't into music these days, I'm not sure what I'd be doing. That's all I know."