A country superstar crisscrosses America to find home
“The last year’s been a blur of asphalt, recording studios and songwriting,” says Arizona native Dierks Bentley, 36. “It’s hard work, but I love what I do. Every record you make, you have to pour more of yourself into it.” His previous effort, 2009’s Up on the Ridge, found him exploring bluegrass and roots music—but the new Home is a return to the muscular contemporary country that has brought him 15 Top 10 singles over the last nine years. We spoke with Bentley, who lives in Nashville with his wife and two young daughters, during a tour stop in Indianapolis.
What was your concept for Home?
The title reflects coming back to country music after making a bluegrass record. The album is a reflection of who I am as a country artist. We tried to still use the bluegrass instruments that I love—banjo, mandolin, Dobro—while keeping the rock ’n’ roll energy of the live show. And for me, this whole country feels like home. I’ve been blessed to travel throughout my career.
What’s your writing process?
It depends. Sometimes someone will come into the room with an idea. With “Home,” none of us had anything that first day. My wife’s car battery had died, so I was gone for 45 minutes. When I came back, [co-writers] Dan Wilson and Brett Beavers were working on this melody. We were talking about America and about home, and how there’s just so much negative stuff on TV. Things have gotten so nasty and divisive. We drive all across the country and that’s not the America I see.
How did you choose songs?
For a year and a half I wrote with everybody from brand-new guys who’ve never had a cut to some of the greats in Nashville. But I also listened to thousands of demos, more than I ever had. It’s fun discovering songs that hardly anyone’s heard before. A lot of great songwriting has turned my ear. I kept listening to demos for different sounds and themes.
Why is songwriting vital to you?
I have so much respect for the song as an entity—and how songs are just created out of thin air. I love finding and uncovering them and giving them life. Songs are woven into the fabric of our lives. I’ve been working on songwriting since I moved to Nashville almost 20 years ago. To be part of that community is such an honor.
How was making Up on the Ridge?
It was an incredible opportunity, and it’s great that the label allowed me to make a bluegrass record. It was really a passion project. It was based on my own heart. I was out touring in 2009, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to do a straight-up roots, ’grassy record. It’s the type of music that my friends and people I respect most in this town play.
How have you grown?
I put heavy emphasis on the live show, and I’m always trying to make it better. Today I’m on the road on a Sunday morning, and I’ve got two little girls at home who I miss dearly. I love playing music, though. I tell the guys in the band every night, when we take a shot and say a prayer, that this show is for our fans waiting in line and it’s for us, too. All of us are away from our families and making sacrifices, so it has to be worthwhile. We focus on getting that connection with the fans while we’re out there. It’s why we do what we do.