Dierks Bentley feels right at home in the ice and snow.
Unlike artists who balk at travelling the TransCanada in winter, the country star is looking forward to it. Because when Bentley comes to play Canada, he also comes to play hockey.
“This is our second time coming up to Western Canada in February,”
says the 36-year-old Nashville singer and strummer. “That’s when we like to do it. We just attach a snowplow to the front of the bus and make our way. Nah, seriously, I love wintertime. I’ve got my hockey bag on the bus and I’m ready. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to play some pickup games between the shows.”
The Arizona native caught the hockey bug a decade ago when he took in his first Predators game. Shortly afterward, he borrowed some gear from a Toronto musician pal, joined a men’s league, and has been playing ever since. That team spirit is also evident on his sixth major-label album Home. Due for release Tuesday, the disc finds Bentley sharing the songwriting wealth by hiring a host of Music City composers, while retaining his signature blend of bluegrass instrumentation and country-rock crunch.
From the patio of his Nashville home, the laid-back Bentley chatted about his favourite Hank, his various alter-egos and his bootleg video collection. The highlights:
This is your sixth major-label album in eight years. What’s the rush — and have you considered decaf?
Ha! Actually, I’m drinking coffee right now. But yeah, I can’t believe it’s my sixth record. In country, we just crank ’em out, you know. But I love the way we do it. It’s full-on all the time. Every day I’m either playing music or writing songs or in the studio. It’s such a rare opportunity. This town’s full of dreamers. So when you get that chance, you just want to keep making records.
But you wrote fewer songs on this album than ever before. Why?
It’s funny. Actually, I wrote more songs than I’ve ever written in my entire life. I wrote like 70 songs. But I recorded fewer of my songs than I ever have. My goal was kind of backwards to what you’d normally hear. I really wanted outside songs for this record. A lot of my friends are songwriters and musicians here in Nashville, and I want to be part of that community. So this was a chance to cut other people’s songs, and have all these different niches of material, lyrically and soundwise, and just get the best stuff.
Your sound is a blend of traditional and contemporary. Who do you like better: Hank Williams, Hank Jr. or Hank III?
I’m a big fan of all the Hanks. We listen to Hank III on the bus. He’s incredible. And Hank Jr. is the reason I got into country music — I was 17 when I heard Man to Man and it changed my life. And the first cassette I ever bought was a Hank Williams tape I bought for my dad for a Christmas present. I love all the Hanks. But as far as my music, I don’t want to call it traditional. That word freaks me out because it sounds stale. I just like the bluegrass sound. It goes all the way back to the beginning of our country, so it feels like you’re a part of something bigger. But it’s also progressive. So I just try to have both those elements in my music.
There must be a story behind your first name.
It’s a family name on my mom’s side. Basically, I’ve got two last names. But yeah, it’s different. Some people ask if it’s stage name — like I thought Dierks would be a good name in Nashville. If I was going to pick a name, I would have picked Buck — Buck Bentley. I’d be huge! But Dierks? It’s been spelled wrong so many times. One time I was opening for George Strait and this MC our front was saying to the crowd, ‘When I say Dirk, you say Stentley!’ He did it 15 times — Dirk! Stentley! Dirk! Stentley! And then he walked offstage and wanted a high-five. I was like, ‘Yeah, thanks a lot.’
You’ve had 10 Grammy noms but never a win. Have you considered a duet with Kanye or Gaga?
I’m open to suggestions. (laughs) Maybe I’ll get Arcade Fire to do something with me. But yeah, 10 nominations and zero wins. I’m the Susan Lucci of the Grammys. I would love to win one. But I’ll take nominations. When I get nominated, we celebrate. We crack open champagne.
You used to have a job in the TNN tape vault. Do you have an amazing video collection?
I do. It’s massive. When somebody would want the footage of George Jones or Ray Price from the ’50s, I would make a copy for myself. I have a huge box of old VHS tapes — Grand Ole Opry shows from the ’50s and ’60s and some of the Johnny Cash Show. I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this. But it’s not going anywhere; I wouldn’t sell it or copy it or anything.
Does this also mean you’ve seen every episode of the Dukes of Hazzard?
Twice. I saw ’em all as a kid. I had the Dukes of Hazzard watch. And the cars, of course. I even had a T-shirt that said ‘Dierks of Hazzard’ in those fuzzy iron-on letters.
Dierks Bentley Canadian Tour Dates:
Feb. 15 | Vancouver | Centre for Performing Arts
Feb. 16 | Kamloops | Interior Savings Centre
Feb. 17 | Prince George | CN Centre
Feb. 18 | Dawson Creek | EnCana Events Centre
Feb. 19 | Edmonton | Jubilee Auditorium
Feb. 21 | Calgary | Jubilee Auditorium
Feb. 22 | Saskatoon | TCU Place
Feb. 23 | Winnipeg | Burton Cummings Theater