Brantley Gilbert's choice for his duet partner on "What Happens in a Small Town" wasn't random. Lindsay Ell was his first pick, but not necessarily for the reason you might suspect.

"We got so many talented women in this genre," Gilbert tells Taste of Country, "but the thing about Lindsay is she sings extremely well, she writes and she slays. So it was kind of an easy choice there because we knew she'd kill it."

Yep, her guitar playing came up before her singing, the country-rocker admits. As he wrote the song with Brock Berryhill, Josh Dunne and Rhett Akins, they thought it was sounding more and more like a duet, so he reached out to an old friend. Gilbert actually may have his brother-in-law to thank for noticing Ell in the first place.

"When my wife and I got back together, I brought her and her mom and her little brother to Nashville to see the Opry, and Amber's little brother just lost it," he says, laughing. "We've just kept up since then."

For her part, Ell didn't have to be convinced. She's a fan of Gilbert's music.

"He has this rock side to him that is the basis of my heart and what endeared me to music to begin with," she tells ToC. "It kind of makes perfect sense.”

"What Happens in a Small Town" is the first taste of Gilbert's next studio album, expected in 2019. The album is done, and he says it includes other collaborations, but right now, he's proud of this one. He's also quick to gush on Ell, who will co-star in the music video. "She's just a good person, man, and an incredible artist and again, an awesome player."

He's not lying — see below.

Watch Lindsay Ell's Stunning Performance of "Criminal"

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