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During the title track of his seventh album, Dierks Bentley drives home the idea that he’s a riser – as in, someone who rises to the occasion, rises above the fray, is perpetually on the rise. You get the idea. Metaphors aside, there’s measurable upward momentum behind the Arizona-born singer and songwriter, on the charts, where Riser debuted atop Billboard’s Country Albums Chart (the song I Hold On just hit number one on the Country Airplay chart), and on the road, where he’s recently become a bona fide arena headliner.
While making his decade-long professional climb, Bentley was also starting a family. A televised documentary sharing the same title as his latest album shows him and his band members stopping on the side of the road to celebrate his tour coach odometer crossing the one million mark. In another scene, you see him personally piloting his tiny airplane back to Nashville, where his pregnant wife and two daughters are waiting to meet him at the airstrip. All of that’s to say, from the career front to the home front, the guy’s got a lot going on.
Bentley talks openly about that tug-of-war in a new song, Damn These Dreams. And when he sat down with MusicRadar in his manager’s office, his dog Jake by his side, he also had plenty to say about the emotional range he covers in the set of songs and sounds he’s just released, why he’s sworn off vocal booths and how he’s inadvertently fooled people into thinking he plays an antique guitar. (You can purchase Dierks Bentley's Riser at his official website. For tour dates, visit his tour page.)
How did your wife and daughters respond to Damn These Dreams? It addresses how wrenching it is to be both a hard-touring musician and a family man.
“I think at first we all thought it was too personal. The only reason it made the record is ‘cause my drummer was so adamant about it when he heard it. He’s like, ‘That’s the most you song I’ve ever heard. You have to put that on there.’
“My songwriting, at its best, is like I Hold On, where I get these personal vignettes in the verses, and then the choruses are universal – everyone can latch onto… As I’ve worked at my craft of songwriting, that’s where I’ve tried to steer them towards, these little things, universal chorus, surprise at the end – make it a love song about your wife.
“Damn These Dreams is just, like, me and [co-writers] Ross [Copperman] and Jaren [Johnston] talking about love of music, love of family and how they just don’t fit together at all… I like having it on there, because it’s just really honest, and I think that in the end, that’s all that you can really go for, all I can really go for. Some people try to push the boundaries sound-wise. For me, pushing the boundaries in this was to go as personal as possible, because that’s where I am in my life right now… I know there’s a lot of dudes that can relate to this. Having kids and being a traveling salesman is pretty much what I do, which is what a lot of people do. You know?
“We put Bourbon [in Kentucky] out first, which I really wanted as a single, because I knew it was going to push the boundaries, as far as country radio and some of the happier, fun songs out there. It’s a real brooding song, and it pushed it a little too far, and we had to retreat [chuckles]. But it moved the whole album back, which was great, because I was able to go record some songs that reflected really who I am on the road. All summer long, I co-headlined a tour with Miranda Lambert, the Locked and Loaded tour. So much fun. That’s a big part of who I am: I love being on stage. I’m a happy person. I love getting fans off. Sounds Of Summer wouldn’t have been on the record if it wasn’t for that delay.”