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"What Happens…" at CMA Fest: Brantley Gilbert's "stoked" to play the bars, "hug it out," and get "face time" with fans

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Since Brantley Gilbert lives in Georgia, he traveled to Nashville from the Peach State to record his part of Sunday’s CMA Fest special on ABC.

Others came from all over the U.S. and across the world.

“These fans travel. We’ve seen people from Australia today, and then people from the U.K…” Brantley told reporters backstage at Nissan Stadium in June.

Like all the other performers, Brantley donated his time so the Country Music Association can give the proceeds to music education.  

“These artists are here voluntarily, to unite for a great cause,” he explained. “And I think the last I heard, the number was up to $17 million…”

“We’re doing something special…” he added. “We’re doing it for a reason.”

Brantley also loves getting to visit with his friends.

“A lot of us tour together, and then we don’t see each other,” he points out. “We may text back and forth, but it’s always a chance for us to kinda reunite and hug it out, and catch up for a minute.”

Most of all, Brantley’s glad to get up-close and personal with fans.

“Back when we first started in the bar days…” he recalls, “we’d get to a bar hours early. You sit there and you talk with people and get to hang out with them, and find out things about them and things about your music that they enjoy and reasons they do. And, you know, we don’t get much of that anymore.”

“We got to play a set in a bar today,” Brantley adds. “That’s the first time I’ve done that in a long time. I was pretty stoked about it!”

Tune in to ABC at 8 p.m. ET Sunday to see Brantley perform his current hit, “What Happens in a Small Town,” with Lindsey Ell.

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