With his mop of golden curly hair, twinkling blue eyes and wide smile, up and coming country music star Dierks Bentley is definitely heart throb material! Yet only a very short while ago 27 year old Dierks was a wannabe singer/songwriter anonymously toiling in the tape library for TNN. However, with his first single 'What Was I Thinkin'' and self-titled album, Dierks has catapulted to the forefront of public attention in the country music world.
But let me digress a little. Dierks grew up in Phoenix, Arizona but felt the tug of Nashville at the tender age of 19. Although he came from a non musical family, his love of music and natural talent led him to become a self taught musician/song writer. As such he was determined to immerse himself in the heart of the country music scene. I asked Dierks how his family felt about their son entering such a capricious profession. He told me they were very supportive and his Mum said he should follow his dreams. Nevertheless, they did ask him what his plan B was! But, luckily for country music fans, there was no need for a back-up plan for Dierks!
However, Dierks had to start at the bottom playing in run-down, dilapidated bars where he was delighted to just have a regular gig. He is very enthusiastic about the talented people he played with and is particularly impressed by the community of musicians who play in Nashville for the love of the art. Surrounded by these talented musicians, Dierks honed his playing and song-writing skills to the point where he recorded an independent record which brought him to the attention of music row. His big break then came with a publishing deal with Sony/Tree Publishing who teamed him up with song-writer Brett Beavers. Their collaboration led to a deal with Capitol Records and the subsequent success of his first CD.
I asked Dierks if he thought that he would have such a success with 'What Was I Thinkin'' 'I knew it as soon as I had written it', he told me. 'I got into my truck and headed out to find my contact person at Capitol. She happened to be in a bar so I pulled her out and played her the song in the parking lot'. However, Dierks' favourite song on the album is 'Wish It Would Break'. 'I like sad songs', he told me. 'But all my songs reflect my thoughts, feelings and experiences. I think that is why the album has such an appeal for everyday guys and gals as they've been through many of the same things'. He referred to the song 'Bartenders, etc...' which he wrote thinking of the many lonely evenings when he played his songs with the bartender as the sole member of his audience. He sees himself as more traditional than new country. Someone once wrote that he was a 'No hat hat act'. As a country singer who doesn't wear a cowboy hat, Dierks took this as a compliment. He sees himself as trying to take the best of traditional country somewhere new.
Dierks' excitement about his success is palpable. He told me that his greatest thrill is playing on stage with his band so to be able to do this on tour earlier this year with one of his heroes, George Strait, was an amazing thrill. Dierks is now touring with top country stars Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban performing in front of audiences of 20,000 screaming fans. It is obvious from talking to Dierks that he is a 'people person'. So it was no surprise to hear that he makes himself available to his fans an hour before a show and then he and his band stay after a show for two hours chatting and signing autographs. It makes for a long day but it sounded like it is something Dierks loves to do.
Life on the road can be tiring but at the same time it is a lot of fun, according to Dierks. He travels in his own tour bus with his four band members and tour manager. He asked if I wanted the edited or unedited version of what they get up to! So I'll leave it to your imagination ... five young guys traveling from town to town with adoring fans at every point! But they do have a chaperone! It's Dierks' little buddy, Jake, a beautiful white >pound= dog who Dierks describes as Ahalf spitz and half one-night stand@! Jake is perfectly happy snoozing away on the bus or in hotel rooms. At the same time, he likes to hang out behind the stage while they're doing the sound checks and, in particular, loves all the attention he gets! If you'd like to see what Jake looks like check out the album cover. One look and for sure he will win your heart along with his very handsome owner.
I asked Dierks if he was planning to visit the UK. 'Most definitely, I'm working as hard as I can to get over there', he said, 'Unfortunately, it won't be until next year as I am almost totally booked up with shows in the US for this year'. Dierks had heard that more traditional country is very popular in the UK. That pleased him as he hopes that means that people will be receptive to his kind of music. He was most intrigued about line dancing and cannot wait to see dancers dancing to his songs. In particular, he felt the tempo for 'What Was I Thinkin'' lent itself to a dance. There was a pause in the conversation here and I could almost hear Dierks' mind ticking over .... perhaps 'line dance choreographer' to add to his list of talents!!
All too soon our conversation had to come to an end as Dierks started up the engine of his tour bus ready to travel the highway on to his next concert. Certainly the future is bright for this personable and talented young singer/song writer as he reaches for the stars with his feet planted firmly on the ground.