Hometown favorite Dierks Bentley doesn’t want his musical party to end

Free and Easy 

Hometown favorite Dierks Bentley doesn’t want his musical party to end.

By Alan Sculley

For Dierks Bentley, it hasn’t mattered whether he was playing bars early in his music career, opening an arena show for a country superstar, or playing on some level in between––the place where he’s most comfortable is on stage.

“I have some friends in NASCAR, and they’re so busy before the race,” Bentley explains. “I mean, there are so many interviews they’re doing, people are talking, and pictures they’re taking.”

“When they put their helmets on, that’s like the best (feeling). That’s when they’re the most free. That’s when they’re in their element. That’s how I feel, oddly, when I walk on stage in front of 20,000 people and it’s crazy, the madness. I feel the most relaxed and free and all of my worries and troubles just are gone. Just, I feel the most present in that moment.”

It’s a good thing the Phoenix-born musician feels at home on the concert stage, because when it comes to music, he’s made a habit of pushing himself out of his comfort zone and looking for ways to evolve and grow with each album, including his latest release, Black.

“I think from the very start, we did something that was different,” says the 41-year-old, who returns home to play Talking Stick Resort Arena on Sat., Aug. 26.

“And there are times when I got away from pushing and exploring and going for new stuff, and those are the low moments of my career. The times when I have gone after stuff, especially walking away from country music for two years and making (his 2010 bluegrass album) Up on the Ridge, there might not be an immediate payoff on that. It might not be immediate chart success. But in the long term, what that does, what it did at least for my career, is it put me in a place that widened my box and what I can work in.”

Bentley’s popularity has only grown since Up on the Ridge. He returned to country with 2012’s Home, an album that included two number one singles (Am I the Only One and the title song) and pushed him closer to joining the top tier of country stars.

His success continued with the 2014 album Riser, which added three more number one Country Airplay singles to his resume (I Hold On, Drunk on a Plane, and Say You Do), and Black has done well so far.

“I’ve been touring for 14 years, and for me to be just now reaching my peak and playing for my biggest audiences and having my biggest hits, it’s not how I thought it would be,” Bentley says.

“I thought this would all be happening back in like 2008. But I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I’m having more fun than ever. Not only do I take it less for granted, I just put more into it.”

Especially with the latter two albums, Bentley has continued to push himself, crafting a sound that stands apart from much of what has been popular on country radio.

On Riser, he bucked the emerging “bro country” trend of hard-hitting, rock (and even hip-hop)-inflected songs about partying, the charms of hot chicks, and the virtues of driving trucks with an album that leaned strongly toward emotional ballads and mid-tempo songs that looked at love, loss, and perseverance.

Heading into making Black, Bentley didn’t initially have a defined idea for the musical direction he wanted to take or for a lyrical theme—until he started reflecting on his 10-year marriage.

He realized that as a husband and father in a committed long-term relationship, he could tap into a rich—and largely overlooked—vein of lyrical inspiration.

“I really feel like there’s a theme throughout the whole album, and it came just through kind of looking at my own life and my own relationship and trying to write something that’s autobiographical and personal, but at the same time (also) trying to be as a songwriter exploring stuff that obviously I can’t explore in my own personal life,” he says.

“I give credit to my wife for allowing me to make it all public. But I do feel like it’s an album in its entirety that really does have a start, middle and a finish.”

Even if Bentley has been creating a more textured sound recently, fans won’t have to worry about any lack of energy in a live show that figures to include lots of hits and a few songs from Black.

“I never want to lose the audience’s attention or break up the party, but at the same time, it would be weird not to do some new music,” he says. “So we’ll toss some songs in there we think make sense for the tour, but at the same time, we’ll still do what we do, which is try to throw a big party. It’s exciting.”

 

Dierks Bentley with Cole Swindell and Jon Pardi

Sat., Aug. 26 @ 7:30 p.m.

Talking Stick Resort Arena

talkingstickresortarena.com

(800) 745-3000

201 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix.

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