Heaven By Then

Album: So Help Me God (2022)
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Songfacts®:

  • "Heaven By Then" finds Brantley Gilbert teaming up with Blake Shelton to imagine a life without small-town values. The two describe the things they love about the southern way of life: Hank Williams, praying for rain, dirt roads, John Deere, and good manners. When those things fade away, Gilbert and Shelton hope it's because they're in heaven.
  • The song ties in with Gilbert's own aversion to change. "I'm good with the things I like, the things I love," he told Billboard. "If they're not a part of life anymore, and something happens to me and I go to heaven, I'm in a better place anyways."
  • Before he finished writing the song, Gilbert recognized it needed Shelton. "In today's age, where features and collabs are really popular, it seems to be kind of what's pushing a lot of machines," he told Apple Music. "Every now and then you write one where you hear the feature during the writing process. And this was one of those."
  • After years as a lone wolf, Brantley Gilbert started racking up duets, beginning with his Lindsay Ell collaboration "What Happens in a Small Town." Other duets since then include "The Worst Country Song Of All Time" with Toby Keith and Hardy, "Son Of The Dirty South" with Jelly Roll, and "Rolex® On A Redneck" with Jason Aldean.
  • Gilbert penned "Heaven By Then" with Brock Berryhill, Hardy, Jake Mitchell, Randy Montana, Hunter Phelps and Taylor Phillips during a February 22, 2022 nighttime writing retreat at a ranch in coastal Matagorda, Texas.

    While working on an entirely different song they got stuck on a line. When Phillips blurted out the phrase "heaven by then," he and Hardy instantly recognized it worked better as a title.

    "Hardy looked at me and was like, 'What did you just say?'" Phillips recalled. "I was trying to play it off like I didn't say nothing. And then I was like, 'Boys, I think we're writing the wrong song.' Hardy grabbed the guitar, and I mean, honestly, it was pretty much a walk in the park. It was very fastly written."
  • Gilbert and Berryhill co-produced the recording at Nashville's Sound Stage on March 23, 2022. They used a six-piece studio band for the acoustic-driven track:

    Ilya Toshinskiy and Derek Wells: guitar
    Jess Franklin: steel guitar
    Craig Young: bass
    Miles McPherson: drums
    Alex Wright: keyboards

    Wells created a descending signature lick that set the tone. "Derek has a couple of different electrics layered on there, and Ilya doubled that with the Dobro," said Berryhill. "It's a stacked part, for sure."
  • After Gilbert laid down some harmonies around Shelton, he and Berryhill decided that Vince Gill would be a better harmony singer. "It's three completely different voices," Berryhill said. "And together, it sounds so cool because you literally hear all three of their voices independently."

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