When Brantley Gilbert released his new collaboration with Hardy and Toby Keith — dubbed “The Worst Country Song of All Time” — on Friday (June 18), Gilbert was quick to admit that the song started out as a joke, even for the songwriters who created it.
Co-penned by Gilbert and Hardy along with Hunter Phelps and Will Weatherly, the song started off as a goofy riff on an idea Hardy had, but “The Worst Country Song …” quickly became serious when Gilbert saw the reactions it was getting from other songwriters as well as his BMLG label head, Scott Borchetta.
Now, even though the song’s been out in the world for a few days, Gilbert says he and his collaborators are still waiting for someone to pull the plug on their tongue-in-cheek song idea.
“I think Hardy and I, and Toby, are all still kinda waiting on the phone call from somebody, going, ‘Obviously, we were kidding — we’re not putting that song out,'” the singer jokes to Taste of Country Nights. “That phone call has yet to come.”
For Gilbert and his collaborators, going along with the crazy idea has paid off in a few different ways. Not only did the song ultimately get recorded and released, but they wound up enlisting Keith as a guest vocalist. Gilbert didn’t originally think Keith would say yes to participating — he was a dream feature from the very beginning: The singer and his co-writers even wrote a nod to Keith’s 2011 fan favorite, “Red Solo Cup,” into the bridge.
“It was definitely a thought,” Gilbert says of his hope to get Keith to join him on the song. “You know, you have pipe dreams when you’re writing every now and again … and his name came up.”
For one thing, he and Hardy agreed that having someone like Keith along for the ride would lend “The Worst Country Song …” some much-needed country cred.
“We felt like we needed an old-school vet with the stamp of approval,” Gilbert points out. “I think having Toby on it makes it semi-okay. It doesn’t feel like country music blasphemy quite yet.”
Plus, Gilbert has been an admirer of Keith’s ever since they first toured together in 2012. “Man, he was just a super cool guy. He was really cool to my band and crew, which goes an extremely long way with me,” the singer remembers of that experience. “What was cool about his rig, being out on the road, was he had a lot of day one guys, and a lot of guys who had been with him for 15 years and more, 20 years. To me, you don’t have people that work for you and with you that long unless you’re extremely good to them.”
Though Gilbert has counted Keith as a friend ever since those touring days, “Worst Country Song …” marks the first time the two singers have teamed up in the studio.
“Knowing Toby for as long as I have, touring with him, and we’ve never done a song together! So to be on a song with him, I think Hardy and I are both just freaking over the moon about it,” he adds. “… We threw a couple other names around if Toby were to have said no — which, I thought there was gonna be a pretty decent chance he was gonna be like, ‘Yeah, I’m not doing that.’ But he was obviously down, and knocked it out of the park.”
Gilbert and the gang recently teamed up for a “Worst Country Song …” music video, too, and the singer says he can’t wait to add a visual component to the tongue-in-cheek, country music sacrilege of the song.
“Let’s just say there’s some Smart Cars and minivans in it, and maybe some masked politicians,” he hints with a grin.
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