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Dierks Bentley interview

The singer-songwriter talks about his new album Black and his UK & Ireland tour.

Dierks Bentley
Credit: Capitol Records Nashville

Dierks Bentley is one of the biggest Country music stars in the world and he’s gearing up to release his eagerly awaited new album Black.

His current single Somewhere on a Beach, is shooting up the US Country Songs and Airplay charts, laying the foundations for Black to hit the ground running on its release. In April Dierks will head over to Ireland and the UK to play a series of headline shows.

I caught up with Dierks to talk about the huge success of Somewhere on a Beach, find out what we can expect from Black, and to discuss his experience of performing here in the UK.

Your new single Somewhere on a Beach is blowing up on Country radio right now. Tell me the story behind that track.

It’s always tough to pick that first single and trying to find that song that’s going to work well for radio and for the tour you’ve got coming up. It’s got to be a good song to lead the album with and there’s a lot of pressure that goes along with that first single because it has to serve a lot of different purposes. We’re coming off a lot of serious songs from the last record, Riser was the last single, and we felt like we needed to come back with something a little more fun after Riser.

Putting it out there I didn’t know how it would go over but people loved it. It’s got off to a great start in the states and it’s my fastest-rising single that I’ve ever put out. It’s a great song to get this album going and to get out there, and help me get to other songs quick because it charted so quick.

It’s just a fun song. A friend of mine, who executive produced the album, Arturo (Buenahora Jr) sent me this song and it was written by five guys who are all young, new writers in Nashville. I think for most of them it’s their first big cut. I love that energy being tapped into new writers in Nashville. I usually write most of my own songs so it’s uncommon for me to cut and release song’s I didn’t write but it’s a great song. The more I do this, the more I realise it’s hard to tour and write new songs at the same time. I’m trying to write as many songs as I can and at the same time reach out to the community here in Nashville and look for great songs.

The music video for the single is a bit of a continuation from Drunk on a Plane. How did that concept come about?

Yeah it really is (laughs). It wasn’t the plan to begin with. We were looking at all these ideas for the video but then people heard the song and started saying it sounded like Drunk on a Plane part 2. I’d never thought about that then I listened to it and I thought ‘damn they’re right, it really picks up where that song left off so we might as well make a video that plays off that.’ My buddy Wes Edwards did a great job with the video and it’s great fun with great actors. I just tried to stay out of the way! It’s something I think my fans will enjoy and it’ll start the summer off a fun note rather than the heavier songs.

How indicative of your new album Black is Somewhere on a Beach?

I’m trying to make albums that have complete stories, top to bottom. It’s like when people say ‘read Chapter 13 and see what the whole book is about’ – it just doesn’t work that way. You have to listen to the album as a whole really to see where Somewhere on a Beach fits in. (Black) has a lot of twists and turns. It’s a little bit of a love album but it has some darker songs about love, angst, yearning and lonesomeness that comes along with it.

There’s songs about finding a new girl like Somewhere on a Beach. The song Black, which I believe we’re releasing in the UK as first single is really the cornerstone of the album. That’s probably my favourite track on the album. It’s really unique song and has so many layers to it, especially to me because my wife’s name is Black and we’ve been married now for 10 years. There are a lot of layers to the songs and the album, and I think that song sums up the record the best.

You mentioned before that it’s hard to tour and write at the same time. You tour pretty relentlessly so when do you actually find the time to write new material?

I used to write more on the road but I’ve been playing some huge shows the past couple of years that I’ve been devoting my time to working on the show wherever I am, or just recuperating. I just take more time. I started writing songs for this record back in October 2014 and I recorded a bunch of music about a year ago. Then I went on tour and I started writing again and went back into the studio. It’s hard. I wrote 50 songs, maybe more, but I only cut about 6 or 7 of them. They have to be songs that I feel help the album make a story and fit what I’m going after which is this long-term relationship album.

Do you ever revisit songs that you’ve put to one side for previous albums or during past writing sessions?

When I first moved out here (to Nashville) you would write a song, type it up, put it in a three ring binder and make sure you didn’t breathe on it too hard (laughs) because they’re so precious. Now you just write songs and if it just doesn’t work move on to the next one. I’ll search my computer and come across songs I’ve written that didn’t make this album and they probably won’t make the next one because I’ll be writing new songs. They just don’t go anywhere.

That’s the thing about being a songwriter in Nashville. Really good songwriters aren’t precious about their songs. They write a song a day and if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be but if it’s not they keep writing. Some people will sing a song they wrote 5 or 6 years ago, and they’re holding onto it because they think it’s great; maybe it is I don’t know but good songwriters just keep on writing. There’s a lot of great songs on Music Row that could probably be big hits but everyone just keeps moving on.

You’ll be bringing the Somewhere on a Beach tour over to Ireland then over to England. What can we expect from the tour?

Well that’s going to be a fun tour for us. I love the variety of playing different venues, places and settings. We’ve been lucky the past few years to be able to play these big amphitheatres and arenas in the states, and I love that kind of show but I miss playing the small bars, clubs and theatres where we can do more of a rock’n’roll show with less video walls and lighting, and just more kick the tyres, light the fires and just go out there and rock out.

We’re starting off in Dublin then working our way over. It’s going to be – I don’t want to say down and dirty – but more about the music. We’re going to play the songs that have been hits in the states, some album cuts and obviously some new stuff off the record, which no one will really have heard before. I feel like the crowds over there, not only are they very receptive to the music but everyone really listens to the music. Last time I played in London at The O2 as part of C2C I was shocked by the evolution of the crowds. It’s always been a great a great listening crowd that pays attention to the music, but I feel that people really go out of their way to find the music now whether it’s on iTunes or a streaming service. They know all the songs and the energy has changed; the crowd is on their feet and invested in the show. They’re having a great time and they’re listening too. They’re really fun shows for us and it’s going to be a great way to start the year off. We’re looking forward to it.

For the US leg of your tour you’ll be taking Randy Houser, Cam and Tucker Beathard with you. Will you be bringing any of them with you in April?

The opening act for the whole deal is Tucker Beathard. He’s a brand new guy and this is his first trip to Europe. I’m so excited to give him that opportunity. It’s a chance to give someone a break and get in front of some people. Hopefully he’ll get to make some fans and make the UK one of his touring destinations. The reason I have Tucker on the road with me is because I really believe in him. He’s a really good writer and artist. This will be a chance for the fans to see him before anyone else and see a brand new artist. It’s pretty cool for them too.

You always support upcoming artists on your tours. Does it feel like you have a little family on the road?

Yeah. It’s a two-way street. They get the chance to get out there and make some news fans. I feed off that energy as well, that new blood. I feel like I’m still young and I get more excited now than I ever have in the past playing shows. I have so much more riding on the shows – my family back here missing me. It’s not a joke, we have to go out that and play a kickass show otherwise we’re wasting everyone’s time. I feel like I bring more energy to the shows now than I ever have in the past but there’s something about being a brand new artist doing it for the first time. I feed off that so when I’m around Maddie & Tae, Tucker Beathard or Cam, it’s just fun to be around them.

The Somewhere on a Beach tour and the release of Black is going to keep you pretty busy this year. Are you going to have time to fit anything else in?

Right now I’m just trying to finish this record. This is my week to finish it so I’m just knee-deep in the album. I’m really focussed on the record right now. After this I’m co-hosting the ACM Awards with Luke Bryan then we’re off to the UK for the tour so there’ll be a lot of band rehearsals and trying to make it a unique experience for our fans there. Then we’ll be heading back here for the tour that starts May 12th so it’s all stacked up like aeroplanes waiting to land. They’re all major priorities but I just have to concentrate on them one at a time.

It sounds like you’re in for a very busy 2016…

(laughs) Yeah it’s pretty busy! It’s been crazy. I’ve been so busy that I actually quit drinking for the last almost two weeks. There’s so much going on that I just can’t deal with it. I’m sure I’ll crack before I get to the UK but if not it’ll be pretty cool to start in Dublin with my first Guinness in a couple of places I know around there. Half the reason I tour in the UK is because I love beer so much and the pubs, and the history. Just walking in there and seeing someone hand pump a draw from a keg in the basement and get the perfect pint…that’s half of the reason I go (laughs). I’m like ‘make sure you block off enough time for me to wander round and hit up some pubs. I just love the history and how old they are. It’s like a magical experience to be in those places. I probably sound like an alcoholic but I really love after the shows being around people and just walking around. I’m sure I’ll have a beer before then but if not I’ll have several when I get over there.

Dierks Bentley will be touring the UK & Ireland in April and releasing his upcoming album Black in May. To buy tickets for his Somewhere on a Beach tour go to www.dierksbentley.com. Watch the music video for Somewhere on a Beach below:

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