Montage Mountain kicks off summer season June 2 with Dierks Bentley’s Somewhere On A Beach tour
Live Nation is back for another musically charged season, bringing in big names including Luke Bryan and Blink 182. Popular festivals including Camp Bisco and The Peach Music Festival return as do fan favorites like WKRZ Summer Smash, Fuzz Fest and Vans Warped Tour.
Bentley will take stage June 2, after performances from Randy Houser, Tucker Beathard and Canaan Smith.
For Bentley, it hasn’t mattered whether he was playing bars early in his music career, opening an arena show for a country superstar like George Strait or Kenny Chesney 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 explained in a late-April phone interview. “I mean, there are so many interviews they’re doing, people are talking and pictures they’re taking. When they put their helmet 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.”
When it’s come 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 new release, “Black.”
“I think from the very start, we did something that was different,” Bentley, 40, said. “The song ‘What Was I Thinkin’’ (Bentley’s first hit number one single – from his 2003 self-titled debut album), it just, the sound of that record and the guys that played on it, you know, Randy Kohrs playing dobro. No one had ever heard of Randy Kohrs before. And his style of playing is like that aggressive attack on the dobro and the way he played, that dobro solo on that song, I think we started off on our own course, carving our own path.
“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,” he said. “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 the 2012’s “Home,” an album that included two No. 1 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 No. 1 Country Airplay singles to his resume (“I Hold On,” “Drunk on a Plane” and “Say You Do”), and now “Black” is off to a strong start with “Somewhere on a Beach” becoming Bentley’s fastest rising single.
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.
Both albums feature a darkly hued, atmospheric feel that mixed guitar rock textures with twangy acoustic tones – not exactly a sound that typified country radio, with “Black” rocking a little more than the ballad/mid-tempo-leaning “Riser.”
Heading into making “Black,” Bentley found a theme for the album when 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.
Yes, there are songs that celebrate the lasting passion in a long-term relationship (the song “Black” and “All The Way To Me”) and appreciating the ups and downs of marriage from the perspective of the fairer sex (“Different For Girls”).
But Bentley and the other writers on “Black” also examine darker emotions and scenarios that can exist in a marriage, such as jealousy (“Pick Up”), deceit and deception (I’ll Be The Moon”) and the rush and regret of chasing relationships with “the other woman” (“Freedom” and “Roses and a Time Machine”).
“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 said.
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 said. “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 ass party. It’s exciting.”
Alan Sculley is a correspondent for Weekender. Reach Weekender at firstname.lastname@example.org