For Dierks Bentley, "Lot of Leavin' Left To Do" is more than the title of a hit single he co-wrote. It's an apt description of his lifestyle.
"I take pride in the fact that my band and I probably play more shows than anyone else in town," Bentley said. "We do 220 to 240 shows a year."
Bentley has been on tour almost constantly since August 2003, when Capitol Records Nashville released his self-titled, major-label, Platinum debut. He has headlined and shared the stage with some of the biggest names in the business, opening for Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith and George Strait.
Bentley can handle any venue. If there's a stage, he'll plug in and play. Bentley has performed at festivals, coliseums, casinos, colleges, county fairs, rodeos, rock clubs, raceways, military bases, amphitheaters, gymnasiums, and even fraternity houses.
After spending all that time on the road, it's not surprising that Bentley's new album, Modern Day Drifter, would contain a theme of restlessness and roaming. Bentley hopes to build on the success of his eponymous album, which yielded the No. 1 single "What Was I Thinkin'."
Artistically, Modern Day Drifter is not a sharp departure from the sound of its predecessor, but Bentley pointed out a couple of differences between the two albums.
"I think I'm singing better, and that probably comes from having done so many shows last year," Bentley explained. "This album digs in a little deeper. I used the steel guitarist from my road band, Gary Morse. He played on the whole album. He has a great, West Coast tone to his steel playing, so it's a little edgier, a little dirtier."
Bentley, now 29, is a native of Phoenix who moved to Nashville when he was 19. To make ends meet, the aspiring songwriter took an internship at the Country Music Association, did archival video research for The Nashville Network's miniseries "A Century of Country," and later held an administrative job in the network's royalties department.
Bentley also fell in with the bluegrass pickers at the Station Inn club and independently released an album titled Don't Leave Me in Love. He eventually landed a publishing deal with Sony/ATV Tree Music Publishing, which led to his contract with Capitol Records Nashville.
Reflecting on his earlier years, Bentley said, "By the time I signed my publishing deal, I had focused in on the kind of Country Music I wanted to do. While writing at Sony, I met Brett Beavers, and we really hit it off. We have the same vision of music, which is to take the traditional stuff that we like, and do it in a way that's new and fresh. When I went to Capitol, I said, 'Listen, I write most of my own songs, and Brett's going to produce the album. If you guys are into that, then this could be a good relationship.' And they were. The people at Capitol were really great about that."
Beavers co-wrote eight of the 11 tracks on Modern Day Drifter. He served as producer for both of Bentley's Capitol albums, and is also the bassist/musical director for Lee Ann Womack's touring band. Beavers' numerous songwriting credits include cuts by Brooks & Dunn, Lonestar and Tim McGraw.
"Dierks loves to be on the road and he was gone for practically all of last year," Beavers recalled. "In order for us to write, I had to actually rent a tour bus and go follow him around for about three weeks. I would hop on the bus with another songwriter, maybe Deric Ruttan or my brother, Jim Beavers. We would drive overnight and then park right beside Dierks bus at the venue. We'd get a cup of coffee, bring him on our bus, get out the guitars, and work during the day. We had a traveling writing room. Dierks was working so hard that I had to chase him down."
While Bentley and Beavers co-wrote most of the songs on the album, their cover tunes demonstrate Bentley's eye for great songs. Jamie Hartford's "Good Things Happen" casts as peaceful a spell as Bentley's own "I Wish it Would Break" did from the debut, and Alison Krauss sings harmony vocals for extra sweetness. The title cut, "Modern Day Drifter," written by Wyatt Easterling and John Scott Sherrill, has the makings of a timeless study in rootlessness. And as before, the Del McCoury Band appear in a pure dose of bluegrass near the end, here a tune by Del himself called "Good Man Like Me."
The tireless work ethic of this 2004 CMA Horizon Award nominee has paid off. As the team at Capitol geared up for the May 10 release of Modern Day Drifter, they took time in March to celebrate the Platinum certification of Bentley's self-titled album.
"He's talented, he's smart, he's dedicated, he is a great writer and an incredible performer. He's great with his dog and even better with his fans. And he makes it all look easy. Now he's Platinum! Is it any wonder we smile all the time?" said Mike Dungan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Capitol Records Nashville.
"The driving force behind this Platinum success is Dierks himself," said Bill Kennedy, Vice President, Sales, Capitol Records Nashville. "He's a true tireless performer on the road, sharing his music with fans everywhere."
In between his scheduled gigs in Minnesota and Oklahoma, Bentley stopped in Nashville to perform, meet fans and sign autographs at the 2005 CMA Music Festival which took place June 9-12.
This summer, he'll play one of his most unusual venues yet - the high seas. Bentley will join Cross Canadian Ragweed for the band's second annual CCRuise, "The Second Annual Cruisin' with Ragweed and Friends," June 27-July 2, aboard a ship in the Carnival Cruise Line.
Bentley's job takes him on the road 300 days a year, so there's always a "lot of leavin' left to do." But his fans shouldn't fret too much because Bentley's bus will probably roll back into their town pretty soon.
On the Web: www.dierksbentley.com
© 2005 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.
Real People Reviews
I recently read the article on Dierks Bentley, and I think he is an AMAZING artist. He is on the road constantly and still finds time for his band, his dog, and his fans. He was in my hometown about a month ago opening for LeAnn Rimes and he did an awesome show and I would definitely love to check out one of his full shows! He has so much talent in his songs. My favorite would have to be
"Come A Little Closer" on Modern Day Drifter. When
"Come A Little Closer" came on the radio on the song's radio debut, I was so excited that it was finally on! I think Dierks has a lot going for him and he is going to be a GREAT country legend.