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Dierks Bentley

Biography

Touring Schedule

 

Biography

DIERKS BENTLEY

"I once heard George Jones say in an interview that country music was like religion to

him. I couldn’t agree more," says Dierks Bentley. "It’s where I turn when times are tough

and I need answers and it’s where I go when I want to cut loose and have fun. As a singer

and songwriter, it’s not only how I make a living but what gives me direction and

purpose in life."

That’s completely obvious when you hear Dierks?self-titled album. It’s a straight-up

country record, made by someone who knows and loves the traditional stuff, and who has

a few variations of his own to add. Originally from Phoenix, Dierks (who was given a

family name as a first name) grew up listening to George Strait and Hank Williams with

his dad. He moved from listener to player when he picked up an electric guitar at 13.

"When I first discovered the electric guitar it wasn’t about ‘play the guitar and get girls,?/p>

it was just this instrument where you could go from a moment when you’re feeling down,

then pick up the guitar and all of a sudden you transfer yourself to a different place."

He started out playing the music his classmates listened to ?mostly rock. Then came the

moment in high school that changed his focus. "A friend of mine gave me a cold beer and

played me a song called ‘Man to Man?by Hank Jr.," he recalls. "Everything inside just

lined up and I knew exactly what I wanted to do."

He moved to Nashville at 19 and immediately immersed himself in the local music scene.

"I don’t have a storybook tale to tell, as many entertainers do, about growing up in a

musical family," he says. "I wasn’t singing harmonies in the church by age five and I

wasn’t fronting the family band by age ten. Everything I learned musically, I had to learn

on my own. My country music education has consisted of listening to a lot of records and

spending a lot of time listening and playing in Nashville bars and clubs."

"Most people who don’t live in Nashville probably associate the music scene here with

what they hear on their radio, but there is so much more going on. There’s a lot of great

live music that doesn’t get a whole lot of recognition outside of the city." Dierks

discovered that side of the city at a point when he was getting discouraged with the

Nashville music business. It was a time of one cowboy-hatted, starched jeans-wearing

singer after another, and Dierks figured he just didn’t fit that mold. Call it fate or luck,

but at that low point, he stumbled on the Station Inn, a club that is in many ways a

"mecca" for bluegrass fans worldwide. "I discovered a whole community of musicians

and singers who played music for all the right reasons," he says. "They didn’t play

because they wanted to be stars or be in music videos, they played because they loved the

music. Being there made such an impression on me that for five years I spent just about

every Tuesday night there absorbing all I could take in."

The environment completely revived him. "The harmony singing, the level of

musicianship and the realness of it just changed my whole perspective on music and on

why I was in Nashville. I moved here to be a star, then I discovered this place and started

playing music for music alone ?I play and sing just to play and sing."

He took some of what he learned from bluegrass and applied it to the country music that

was in his bones. He began to dig deeper into the music, to learn more about the artists

who came before him. It didn’t hurt that his day job at The Nashville Network (TNN)

involved digging through old footage of country performances past. "Getting paid to

look at old footage, to go through Faron Young’s entire video footage catalog, and all the

Porter Wagoner shows, the Johnny Cash shows, the Grand Ole Opry shows…it was the

ideal job," Dierks says. "I was a big George Jones fan when I moved to Nashville. But

after I got into bluegrass, instead of just listening to his music, I started to hear it and

understand every bend and break in his voice."

Taking what he learned, Dierks played all sorts of places ?the hushed writer’s nights

around town, where a musically savvy audience waits for you to prove your chops, the

beer-soaked backyard parties and barbecues, and an ever-revolving lineup of local bars.

But the first place he played regularly was a legendary Nashville dive of a music venue

called Springwater. "I remember playing there one rainy night and water was pouring on

to the stage from cracks in the ceiling. We were all trying to find a place on the stage that

was dry…I thought for sure I was going to be electrocuted," he remembers. "By the end

of the night, me and my guitar were soaked. But it was my first place to have a regular

gig and I didn’t care. I was just happy to be playing music in Music City."

Market Street Brewery, a bar/restaurant in downtown Nashville, had a different vibe.

"It’s out of the limelight, and I was still developing what I was trying to do," he says. "I

didn’t have to play "Rocky Top" and "Free Bird," so playing there was a way to keep it

fresh for me."

One night Dierks was playing at Market Street when Vince Gill and Amy Grant walked

through the door. Vince had his mandolin with him and he sat down at the bar about five

feet away from the stage. Dierks asked Vince if he would come up and sing a few songs

and without hesitation, Vince nodded yes. "I thought he would sing a song or two and sit

back down but he ended up picking with us for almost an hour and half. ‘Truly

unbelievable?is the only way I can describe it. I thought that if my music dreams never

went any further, that would be alright because I got to share the stage (albeit a very

small one!) with Vince Gill."

One of the musicians he met as he settled deeper into the Nashville scene was Mike

Ward. They had the same attitude toward country music and began writing songs together

for the pure joy of creating songs that they liked. Mike believed in Dierks as an artist, and

encouraged him to make a record. Don’t Leave Me In Love, produced by Mike and

Dierks, was a small budget affair with a big heart. When it reached the ears of some key

folks on Music Row, Dierks finally achieved one of his biggest goals: attaining a

publishing deal. He became a full time songwriter for Sony/Tree Publishing, which has a

history of great writers like Hank Cochran, Harlan Howard, and Bill Anderson. After

years of working on the fringes and figuring things out for himself, now Dierks was

surrounded by a team of people who believed in him and what he wanted to do musically.

One of those people was Sony/Tree song-plugger Arthur Buenahora, who teamed Dierks

up with another Tree writer, Brett Beavers. "I knew right away that Brett and I were

going to get along. The fact that he’s a musician, and has been out on the road with

various acts for the last eleven years, means a lot to me because they are the people I

respect most in this town. He loves traditional country music and as a writer, he

understands the importance of keepin?it country and keepin?it real, but also of trying to

take the music somewhere new."

It wasn’t long after they began collaborating that a few of their demos were heard by a

couple of record labels, both expressing serious interest. Dierks decided to sign with

Capitol and immediately got to work on his album, with Brett coming on as a first-time

producer. Though his Capitol album had a bit more in the budget than his independent

record, Dierks took the same approach to making it. He wrote or co-wrote 11 of the 13

songs and brought in some of the up and coming musicians he’d worked with in those

dive bars and honky tonks.

"In today’s politically correct world, it often isn’t appropriate to talk about drinking, but I

wanted to make a record you can drink a couple of beers to," Dierks jokes. ‘What Was I

Thinkin? ‘How Am I Doin? ‘Forget About You,?and obviously, ‘Bartenders, etc…’ are

all up-tempo songs that make you want to get up on your feet…great tailgating songs.

The first single, "What Was I Thinkin?quot; took off like lightning. Fast-paced and fun, it

tells the story of a wild date, complete with gun-toting daddy, jealous ex-boyfriend and a

girl in an irresistible white tank top. "I think we’re getting that response because we made

music the right way," Dierks says. "We made a record for ourselves, something that we

liked, figuring that there’s probably a lot of other people who like the same thing."

Of course any real country record has a healthy collection of heartbreak songs. "Songs

like ‘Whiskey Tears,?‘I Bought The Shoes,?‘Distant Shore?and ‘Wish It Would Break,?/p>

might make you want to sip on a beer and get lonesome for a little bit," says Dierks, "but

that’s what country music to me is all about…the good and the bad."

"I feel like I represent a side of Nashville that a lot of people outside of the city don’t

know about. All the guys and girls that play downtown on Lower Broadway and have

such a depth of knowledge of country music and play those bars night after night, for four

hour shifts. All the bluegrassers that get together for "pickin? parties," where everyone

brings an instrument and their favorite beverage, and stays up 'til dawn picking and

singing. That’s the Nashville I know and the Nashville I hope to bring attention to

through my music."

 

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Last modified: 04/21/2014