Dierks Bentley Talks About His Latest Album, “The Mountain”

For Dierks Bentley, every album he makes is like a new quest and a discovery.

Where some artists go into projects with an idea of the sound or style they want to pursue or even the lyrical direction they’ll explore, Bentley is Mr. Clean Slate.

“I go into every album knowing that I don’t know what I want to talk about. That might sound kind of weird. But I don’t go in there with an agenda,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I definitely don’t think I know anything. So I’m not going to draw back on themes that I think are strong or I feel I write well about or my growing up or my childhood or the way I was raised. I try to go into albums with a blank slate. I have no idea what I want to write about. I have no idea. And I don’t carry songs over from previous albums. It’s all fresh. I’m just looking for something. I mean, I’ve always been a seeker. It’s who I am. I’m seeking something out and opening my heart and my mind to whatever (is out there), to what’s going to hit me.”

When it came to his latest album, “The Mountain,” Bentley might not have known what kind of album he was going to make or what he wanted to write about. But he did know where he wanted to go to bring the record to life.

Over the preceding decade, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival had become a favorite destination for Bentley, first as a fan, and later as a performer.

“It’s a pretty special spot. I went out there in 1997 kind of following the Del McCoury Band, followed them out there. It was so awesome, a fun deal,” Bentley said. “I’ve been back (other) times since then. I played it in 2010, well, in 2010 on the bluegrass record (his album, “Up on the Ridge”), I played the night before the opening night and then came back (in 2017) and played the main stage, which was just so awesome and a great experience…I just felt so creative out there that I wanted to come back and write.”

So Bentley, who has racked up 17 chart-topping singles over the course of eight previous albums, gathered up six of his favorite Nashville-based songwriting friends and headed west for six days of unsupervised creativity.

The songwriting session helped bring the themes of “The Mountain” into focus – both the beauty of Telluride and the mountain west and the idea that every person faces challenges they need to overcome — in other words, their own personal mountain to climb and conquer.

“When I got to write with those songwriters, I had some (song) titles, but there was still no meat. It was just trusting the process,” Dierks Bentley said. “I guess I’m just trying to write about the way I feel. I don’t spend a whole lot of time on social media and I don’t hang with a bunch of other like singers in this town. I guess I’m on my own island in a way, which for me is musically good, I think, for me to just do my own thing. I’m just trying to do what I do. I know a couple of things. I love country music and I have a deep knowledge of the history of country music and just a love for traditional country music and I also love a lot of new stuff I hear on the radio, the younger stuff, too. It’s a great genre. I love everything about it and I’m just trying to do my own thing.”

To record “The Mountain,” Bentley returned to Telluride, bringing along Jon Randall Stewart (who produced Bentley’s bluegrass album “Up on the Ridge,”) and Ross Copperman and Arturo Buenahora Jr. (who produced Bentley’s two previous albums, “Riser” and “Black”). He felt these producers could create a cool mix of rootsy acoustic and more modern sounding country-rock.

“Having these guys work together on this album, they really brought out the best of the two worlds I love – rock, with huge sounds and just interesting sounds,” Dierks Bentley said. “But having like Sam Bush, who plays a lot of mandolin on this record, the mandolin, it’s funny, it packs a little punch. It adds a lot of dirt and layers to the music, as does Jerry Douglas with the dobro. And Tim O’Brien is singing harmonies throughout the entire ‘Mountain’ track. There’s a lot of cool instrumentation on this record.”

The mix of rustic rootsy country and rock is achieved impressively on songs like the title track, whose sturdy and spacious sound fits the name of the song, “Woman, Amen” and “You Can’t Bring Me Down,” a pair of tunes that generate a pleasant ramble, and “Burning Man” (a top five single), whose blasts of guitar and driving beat get the album off to a dynamic start. These songs play a big role in giving “The Mountain” more punch and energy than “Riser” or “Black,” which were weighted more toward ballads and mid-tempo material — although “The Mountain” has several fine ballads as well, including the lovely “Religion” and “Stranger To Myself.”

“The Mountain” also continues a trend for Bentley of writing albums with a thematic thread and a personal connection to his life. The album paints a portrait of a man approaching middle age, liking the place he’s reached, but recognizing life also offers much more to accomplish, learn and enjoy. The title song is about meeting and embracing life’s challenges and opportunities. “Living” (currently climbing the singles charts) clearly delineates the difference between existing and truly living and appreciating life. “Woman, Amen” (a recent No. 1 single on “Billboard” magazine’s Country Airplay chart) is about Bentley’s wife, Cassidy, and the lasting source of love, faith, hope and inspiration a man can find in a woman.  Such thoughtful and honest lyrics help Bentley stand out in a country genre filled with its share of songs talking about pickup trucks, drinking beer or hanging out in honky tonks with a group of bro’s.

Dierks Bentley is trying to bring the world of the mountain west and the themes of “The Mountain” to life on his current tour, using video and stage sets that evoke the double meaning of the album title.

“The physical mountain makes me feel so happy and alive when I’m there, which is the way I want fans to feel when they come to my show,” Bentley said. “I want them to feel like they’re standing on top of a mountain and having a great night. But the metaphor is there’s a struggle and a climb (in life). It’s a really interesting thing. That really engages me, and when I’m engaged, the show benefits as well.”

From the visuals to crafting the set list, plenty of thought has gone into creating a show that Bentley hopes will leave audiences with special memories that last long after the last song is played and the house lights come on.

“I’ve been on tours where people, they come out on the road and the first show is kind of like their practice,” Bentley said. “I’ve spent a lot of time on this thing. A lot of thought goes into it so when we get out there our first show feels like our hundredth show.” For More Great Artist Interviews Click Here: https://theplanetweekly.com/category/music/

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