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Brantley Gilbert‘s duet with Lindsay Ell, “What Happens in a Small Town,” is actually the autobiographical story of his romance with his wife, Amber.

The small towns it describes are in Northwest Georgia, where they grew up.

“I’m from Jefferson, Georgia,” Brantley explains. “I was born and raised there, graduated with 66 people. It’s a tiny town.”

“My wife graduated from Commerce High School,” he continues, “which is right across the river. It’s literally like they’re three, four miles from each other.”

From the start, the couple’s relationship had a built-in element of conflict.

“It was the most heated rivalry for high school football in the state of Georgia,” Brantley recalls. “You weren’t supposed to date across the river.  So we had like a little Romeo and Juliet thing going on, to the extent that we live in Maysville, which is, like, neutral territory.  It’s right in between the two.”

Brantley and Amber dated “for about five years” when they were “really young,” and then “went five years without seeing or speaking to each other.”

“What Happens in a Small Town” captures how Brantley felt during that time.

“This song talks about riding around, and it’s basically like everything you see and everything you do in town reminds you of the love you had there,” he says. “And I think all of us can relate to having the one that got away, you know. And for me that was my wife.”

“Like a lot of songs,” Brantley adds, “it was about her. You know, most of what I know about love is with my wife. So that makes it incredibly close to the chest.”

Brantley and Amber ultimately tied the knot in the summer of 2015, welcoming their son, Barrett, in 2017. This fall, they’re expecting their first daughter.

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