(courtesy of Dave Hogg)
Dierks Bentley is not your average country star. Yes, some of his songs are about losing women, drinking beer and driving trucks, but there’s more to this modern day drifter than a southern drawl and cowboy boots.
At the top of his career, Bentley is taking a turn on his highly-successful path to pursue a daring project. In the “Up on the Ridge” tour, and album of the same name out June 9, Bentley has gone back to the roots that got him started in Nashville: bluegrass. And he’s recruited friends, the Travelin’ McCourys of the prominent Del McCoury Band, among other bluegrass and country artists to help him chase a dream.
The “Up on the Ridge” tour stops in Boulder on April 22 at the Boulder Theatre. Hayes Carll opens before Dierks and The Travelin’ McCourys take the main stage.
The CU:Independent talked to Dierks about the upcoming tour, album, and what goes on backstage before a live show.
CU:Independent: You’ve been in bluegrass ever since you started out in Nashville, but what really pushed you to take on this project right now?
Dierks Bentley: I think it just comes at the right time. I spent a lot of last year playing big amphitheatres and stuff and I felt like it was time to get off the road and make this record at home….I just wanted to go back in and expand on that music so it just felt like the right time to do it. I don’t know if it’s the smartest thing in the world to stop the train and start something up doing something totally different, but for me, musically, I want to take a chance and try something different. I gotta keep things fresh for me sometimes.
CU:I: What’s it been like working with the Del McCoury Band?
DB: It’s insane. I walked into the station and the first guys I met were Jason Carter, the fiddle player, and Ronnie and Rob McCoury. They were all playing in this band call the Sidebenders and they played at this bar called the Station Inn [in Nashville]. I became great friends with those guys and played a couple of their weddings. I’ve known them for about 14, 15 years now. You know, just the chance to hang out on and off the stage for a whole month is going to be the coolest thing ever. I have so much respect for them as a band, they’ve won about nine International Association of Bluegrass awards, entertainers of the year. Most of all, they’re just great dudes. They’re so much fun to be around and hang out with, it’s just constant laughs. It’s been a career highlight for me.
CU:I: Are there any surprising artists you draw inspiration from that your audience wouldn’t really expect?
DB: With the record coming out I’ve got a Kris Kristofferson song, a U2 song, and so I think those influences are on there. Bands like Pearl Jam that really have that energy. I always try to take that energy from a rock band and fuse it into country and the country-bluegrass stuff we’re doing now. But yeah, there’s definitely interest beyond the country and we’ll show that in the live show.
CU:I: What role do you think traditional country plays now in today’s mainstream country?
DB: I don’t know. It’s not really my world, but guys like Josh Turner are holding that down a little bit. You know, country music is so broad. The range is so crazy-wide – pop, rock, traditional. It’s kind of all over the place. I think it’s something that’s really good – a broad format, there’s room for everything.
CU:I You have Sam Bush, Alison Krauss, Jamey Johnson, Miranda Lambert on this album- you had all these great artists help you out with this album. How did you get them all to help you out and what made you pick certain artists?
DB: I’m honestly just really lucky. I know Alison Krauss, I know Sam Bush, I just know all of them from being around bluegrass for a while. I know Tim O’Brien. I knew I could call up some collaborators and make this record. It would not be the record it is without [producer] John Randall [Stewart]. He’s played with all these people. He’s one of my best friends. I just finally asked him. He brought a lot of great songs to the table, we wrote stuff together. It’s not a traditional bluegrass circuit by any means; it’s a hybrid mix of this stuff that we love from both the country and bluegrass artistic worlds. Alison, I’ve known…I have a huge crush on Alison. She’s been the greatest singer, any genre, male or female of all time. She’s so cool. I called her up personally. Had the same conversation with Sam Bush, Tim O’Brien, and Miranda who I’ve toured with a bunch of times, same with Jamey Johnson. You know, I called them all on their cell phones and asked if they could come be a part of this. Same with Del, you know to have the Del McCoury’s number in your phone is the coolest thing ever.
CU:I: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
DB: They kind of change from tour to tour. Tequila is usually involved in some context. A quote from any movie Will Ferrell’s been in is usually involved. I think last year was from “Semi-Pro.” Just get together, say a prayer. As the tour goes on it gets longer and longer, the huddle. But yeah, a little shot of tequila and go out and have fun.
CU:I: What do you ultimately hope to inspire with the tour and with this album?
DB: I just say this in all humbleness, I think if I was living in Boulder and the Del McCourys were coming through town, I mean, that’s like, a really cool thing. To be the host of them, to bring in some of my fans and experience the music they make – because the only way to get this music is to see it live. You aren’t going to get it listening to a CD. I just want to turn people on to some new sounds and broaden their perspective on what country and country-bluegrass music can sound like and hopefully be a part of that. For my career, not just on the album, hopefully my hardcore fans with go with me on it but if they don’t, maybe it’ll just speak to the fact that I’m not playing it safe, I’m different. To make music for the sake of making great music and make the wheels go round on the tour bus for as long as I can.
Contact CU Independent Copy Editor Taylor Coughlin at Taylor.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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