Dierks Bentley digs deep into personal life on 'Riser'

Dierks Bentley (Stan Behal/QMI Agency)

Dierks Bentley (Stan Behal/QMI Agency)

Jane Stevenson, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:44 PM ET

The title track from country-bluegrass star Dierks Bentley’s seventh studio album, Riser, in stores Tuesday (Feb. 25), is symbolic of rising above whatever hardships life throws your way.

In the case of the 38-year-old Nashville-based married father-of-three it was major family life and death stuff.

“Life came along and kind of delivered some subject matter,” said Bentley, who co-wrote six of the dozen new tracks.

“My dad passed away, when I just started writing the record, and then my (first) son Knox was born at the end of the record so I kind of had those as bookends. ... The album became first about my dad, this grieving thing, and then my son, ‘Now I’m going to be a dad to a boy.’ So there’s all this life stuff in there... And that song really resonates just with me in a way that’s about every day average people against the odds, getting knocked down and getting back up and being a rock. It’s who I want to be, it’s who I think my dad was. I think that song’s kind of the cornerstone of the album to me.”

We caught up with Bentley while he was in Toronto recently to get the get the full story behind his eighth LP and to find out where he sees himself in the country music scene.

All seriousness aside, there’s also a new song on Riser like Drunk on a Plane?

I actually fly a small single engine, I fly it back and forth to some concerts, it helps me get me some more family time which is nice ... it’s fun if you’re up for that kind of thing. So anything about planes I love. So it became this title Drunk on a Plane. Just being natural songwriters and making up this story about this guy. ‘Why is he drunk on a plane? Well, he got stood up at a wedding. Oh my gosh.’ It’s just a really fun song. ... It just acted as a nice counterweight to some of the songs that were heavier like Here on Earth, where I’m standing at my dad’s gravesite, or even Riser which is heavy or Bourbon in Kentucky, it’s kind of a nice release to some of those songs.

Canadian Gordie Sampson is one of the songwriters on Bourbon in Kentucky. Were you a fan of his previous hits like Carrie Underwood’s Jesus Take The Wheel?

He’s one of those guys that’s just a hot songwriter. I try to listen to the songs that are getting pitched to me without seeing who the writers are so I don’t get biased. When I see his name on something, I’m always excited ‘cause he’s just one of those ’It’ writers.

When you used Kacey Musgraves as backing vocalist on Bourbon in Kentucky did you know she would become the star she is now?

She had a lot of buzz in Nashville even back then and a unique voice and was really trying to carve out some new territory as a songwriter which is tough to do... And I was intrigued by her music and by her and I called her up or texted her or whatever and she texted me right back and said she’d do it. I love it when people are cool like that and I’m just honoured to have her on the record. And then really excited to watch her rise and certainly winning a Grammy is really cool.

Where do you fit in within the country music scene?

Eric Church is one of my good friends. ... But also I’m friends with Ricky Skaggs and all the bluegrassers. We just did a CMT Crossroads with the band One Republic, we do each other’s songs. I do four of theirs, they do four of mine. That’s going to air in March. I’m just a huge fan. And management was able to put it together. Turns out (One Republic frontman Ryan Tedder’s) a big fan of mine. So it’s really exciting. ... I love traditional country music but I was searching for new sounds. I guess it’s for the fans to decide where we fit in. I just try to make the best music I can that’s the most honest and sincere.

Dierks Bentley Canadian tour dates:

July 12, Craven Country Jamboree, Craven, Sask.

Aug. 16, Havelock Country Jamboree, Havelock, Ont.

Twitter: @JaneCStevenson

jane.stevenson@sunmedia.ca


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