Billy Gilman Opens Up About New Bluegrass Single 'Roller Coaster' and His 'Perfect Storm' Next Chapter

"I've seen the darkness, and I'm so grateful to be where I am right now," the artist exclusively tells PEOPLE ahead of his newest song debut Wednesday

Billy Gilman is reinvigorated.

The Grammy-nominee and American Music Award winner rose to fame at the age of 12 for his song "One Voice," before placing second on season 11 of NBC's The Voice. Now, Gilman is gearing up to release what he calls his first "streamlined project since 2006": a bluegrass album, featuring new single "Roller Coaster."

"'Roller Coaster' came from a place of me wanting to try a relationship, even though there's shortcomings, and you look beyond that, but it's crazy tumultuous. It was [about] a relationship and an homage to my career," Gilman explains. "We fly high, we fall low, but we always come back around. There's different dichotomies when I write."

billy gilman credit Brian Auburn at Pinecastle Records
Billy Gilman. Brian Auburn/Pinecastle Records

Gilman calls his upcoming album — one heavily inspired by his grandparents — "a perfect storm." He's always wanted to pursue the bluegrass genre, and now, people are finally helping him turn his passion into a reality.

"There's two songs on this record that I wrote 12 years ago that never could find their home. And all of a sudden I dug some up and I'm like, this [album] is where they belong," he says. "This has been a part of me for a while, and fortunately I convinced the right people to get on board and totally believe it."

Gilman, who does have numerous cross-genre hits, has admittedly struggled with trying to find the right lane for his music because his desires typically opposed those of the powers that be.

"Let's be real," he says, "they probably thought I would come out with a big power ballad record because of The Voice. And that's great, and I'd love to do that, but there's more to me than a high F."

Gilman has had quite the career journey. The 34-year-old has sold more than five million records, but he doesn't shy away from revealing the hardships he's simultaneously faced, especially when it comes to his voice.

"I'm a very open book. There's not much my fans don't know about me, and I think that's great and there's a form of trust there, too. Because where I come from in the scope of writing and how dark times got... how I almost did take my life because I didn't know what I was doing, where I was going," he shares. "My voice was not really great at that moment, and there were moments."

Now, Gilman is in a much better moment, and he's appreciative that he still gets to live his dream.

"If I could consistently work and make records that I believe in and it's monetarily worthwhile as well, that's my win," he says. "Because I didn't even have that coming off of five million records sold — to nothing. I'm just grateful to see another day and do what I love, it's as simple as that."

And, speaking of love, Gilman couldn't be more thrilled for this next chapter of his life. He even revealed he's in a "brand new relationship."

"Well, not brand new, but it's new in terms of how long relationships can possibly last," he explains with a laugh.

Gilman, who came out publicly in 2014 shortly after Ty Herndon, struggled at first with the reality of being a gay man in the country music scene.

"It's difficult for me to make this video, not because I'm ashamed of being a gay male artist, or a gay artist or a gay person but … knowing that I'm in a genre and an industry that's ashamed of me for being me," he said in a youtube video at the time.

These days, Gilman shares that while navigating his sexuality was "tough business-wise, that only lasts so long."

"If you're in it for the right reasons, then it doesn't matter what you do in your personal life. The music always comes through, and I just had to keep my nose to the ground and go, don't let who you are beat your career up, beat anything up, because it doesn't matter."

"You want to take away someone's happiness? Well, that's on you," he adds. "I'll find some other company that will believe in it. That's fine. At the end of the day, I don't allow that to be who I am. That's what I am, not who I am."

Billy Gilman
Billy Gilman. Alex Wroblewski/Getty

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up to date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Who Gilman is is something he thinks a lot about, especially when he speaks of his grandparents, whom he lost 13 years ago. His grandmother was so heavily involved in the planning of his 21st birthday show that she even picked the set list with Gilman. "Just sit down on a stool and sing this song that you started with — your youth people will love it," Gilman remembers his grandmother telling him. She died a day and a half afterward.

"She was so invested in my career," Gilman recalls. "I always want my grandparents around me. I always wanted them to see The Voice. I just was like, if they can only be here, but this project right now I think they would be more proud of. I thought about this when I was recording, actually, and there's a song on the record called 'You're Still Here' which is kind of a tribute to them. Hearing this project, they'd be so proud of the person I am. I think they'd be proud of me as a man, and that's why I'm maybe the most confident I've ever been," he says.

"I'm just so excited to share this with everybody because for once in a long time, I'm very, very proud."

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to

Related Articles