It’s been three years since Brantley Gilbert’s 2011 “Halfway to Heaven” album. Ask the country singer what took so long for him to craft follow-up, “Just As I Am,” out May 19, and he jokes, “I needed a nap.” Then when that doesn’t sound dramatic enough, he goes for “I was cryogenically frozen.”  

The nap bit is definitely more plausible. “Halfway to Heaven,” which was originally released on indie Average Joe’s Entertainment in 2010, then picked up by Big Machine Label Group’s Valory Records in 2011, spawned the hits “Country Must Be Country Wide” and “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do.”

Gilbert, who writes his own material, has spent most of the last three years on the road, touring and building his audience, including his rabid fans who compose the BG Nation.

Plus, he says, “I had some things to figure out. There was a lot going on and it was hard to put the brakes on. I didn’t want to quit [the road] and record a record until we were sure what the next step was.”

The first evidence of that “next step” is new single, the sultry “Bottoms Up,” which hit the top of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs album two weeks ago. When he found out the song had hit No. 1, it was cause for celebration. “I ain’t much of a drinking man anymore,” says Gilbert, who got sober in 2011, “so we had some crawfish.”

He’s quick to add, however, that even without a drink in his hand, he can be the life of the party. “As far as that whole thing goes,” he says referring to his sobriety, “a lot of things in my life changed, but I’m still a party animal. I’m leading the pack. If a really, really pretty girl needs a ride home, I’m your guy. You can be on a Harley. That’s a win win. The only thing that makes me feel awkward is when people who do drink, don’t drink around me. I just felt like it was the best decision for me” to stop.

Gilbert, who co-wrote Jason Aldean’s massive hit “Dirt Road Anthem,” says “Just As I Am” reflects where his life has taken him since “Halfway to Heaven. “”Its’ the next chapter,” he says. “All these songs are things I’ve been waiting to say for years now… Songwriting is the purest form of expressions outside of prayer. “

Gilbert released the cover art and track listing for “Just As I Am” this week.

"Just As I Am" tracklisting:

“If You Want A Bad Boy” (Brantley Gilbert, Troy Verges)
“17 Again” (Brantley Gilbert, Ben Hayslip, Rhett Akins)
“Bottoms Up” (Brantley Gilbert, Brett James, Justin Weaver)
“That Was Us” (Brantley Gilbert)
“I’m Gone” (Brantley Gilbert, Wendell Mobley, Tony Martin)
“My Baby’s Guns N’ Roses” (Brantley Gilbert, Brian Davis, David Tolliver)
“Lights Of My Hometown” (Brantley Gilbert, Brian Davis, Forrest Whitehead)
“One Hell Of An Amen” (Brantley Gilbert, Mike Dekle, Brian Davis)
“Small Town Throwdown” (Brantley Gilbert, Ben Hayslip, Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson)
“Let It Ride” (Brantley Gilbert)
“My Faith In You” (Brantley Gilbert, Jeremy Spillman)