Dierks Bentley describes the making of his latest album “Riser” as a journey from grief to gratitude. He started the album in 2012, and in June of that year, his father died. One year later, he found out that he and his wife were expecting their third child, a boy. In between, he went on a huge national tour with Miranda Lambert that reminded him of what he loved most about the road. He talked about all of those things with Country Countdown USA’s Lon Helton:
This has been a long time in the making for you, hasn’t it? It has, the record really feels like a complete picture of what the last two years of my life has been like, from my dad passing away, to my son Knox being born, and all the fun we have on the road in between.
Let’s talk about the evolution about the album, because you invited me to listen to the album last June, so I’m curious what changed between then and now? That’s funny, I thought I was done back in June. But we ended up having more time to work on the record, and it allowed me to go back in the studio. I’d been on the road having so much fun with Miranda and the guys, and I felt like it was missing some songs like Drunk On A Plane, Back Porch, and Sounds of Summer. So we went back in and it gave the album that ying and yang that I’ve got to have on my records. Instead of just being an album about one particular thing, like my dad passing away or my son being born, it’s now a fuller look at what the last two years of my life has been like. I get a chance to be a dad but I also get a chance to be on stage every night with kids I relate to. That was missing from the record before, and that extra time gave me a chance to make it a more complete look at who I am. I want every record to be an honest snapshot of where I am in my life, and I was proud of the songs back in June, but it felt a little dark, it felt like it was missing a part of who I am. People who know me know I’m a fun guy and that was missing from the album. I didn’t go back and put that on there, but life happened, it delivered this great tour with Miranda and brought a lot of light in my life, those fans were so cathartic, and so those were the songs I found and wrote, it all happened for a reason, and I feel I made the best record of my life.
Talk about the song “Drunk On a Plane:” I’ve had more people come to me with the video treatment already in hand for the song, because you can just visualize this guy who got stood up at the alter, but couldn’t sell back his tickets to Cancun, so he’s going to go down there anywhere without her, and he’s getting hammered on the plane and the crazy stuff that happens.
You made a documentary on the making of the album, talk about that: Everything in that documentary is true. It starts off from where I started with the record, because when we began, my dad was still alive and we weren’t going to have any more kids, and here we are two years later, my dad is gone and we now have a son. So it’s like doing a novel, and the documentary was scary knowing I was going to be so exposed, but for my fans, when you’ve done 7 albums, you want to give them as much insight as possible, and certainly for this album being so personal, having that visual component helps to fill in any gaps.
Let’s talk about the title song Riser: I’ve been on my own rise from grief to gratitude in making this record, and that song makes you think of my fans out there who are going through tough times, and that’s what a live show can do for you. A song like that you can play over and over, it reminds you that you’re an important person, that people count on you, it’s not forgotten by others that you’re a riser, you get up every day, and despite the stresses you go through, you’re there for your kids and family. It’s an inspiring song that I wanted to have on my album, it became the cornerstone of the album, hence it became the title of the whole project, and it sums up the album, and sums up what’s been going on for me over the past two years.
At what point did you find the song Riser? It came pretty early, and just blew me away. It was after my dad passed away, it was one of the best written songs I’d heard, and just immediately wanted to record it.
Let’s talk about I Hold On: I Hold On started off with me in Arizona looking at the sun set, thinking about my dad, how I drove from Phoenix to Nashville in 1994 with my dad when I was 19 years old in this 1994 Chevy truck, and I wondered why I’ve held on to this truck for 20 years, and it goes back to all the memories I made in that truck on that trip and since then. So I had the idea about the truck, and thought about the stuff I hold onto. I realized I don’t hold on to a lot of stuff, but the things I have, I hold onto. So with guitars, it has a hole in it from playing so much, and I’ve been offered new guitars, but I like THAT guitar because of the history on it. Then for the third song, I turned it into a love song, with faith, love, and freedom. Only in country music can you compare your truck and guitar to your wife and get away with it! But I tried to use common analogies to explain why he’s never going to leave her, because he’s one of these people who has values and holds onto things, and nothing means more to him than that relationship.