District 9: Dierks Bentley
Note: This article has been updated due to the rescheduled FREE Nats Live post-game concert, featuring Dierks Bentley.
We are putting our own spin on the traditional “10 Questions” format this season. To mix it up a little, we are asking players, front office members, coaches, prospects and others nine questions we think you’d like to know the answer to, then taking our favorite submission through Facebook and Twitter from the fans for the final question. This time around, we’re chatting with the last of three NatsLive Post-Game Concert Series performers, Dierks Bentley!
1. You were born in Arizona and went to school in Vermont for a year before transferring to Vanderbilt. When you came down to Nashville, was that more for the school side of it or did you already see your career path knowing that’s a huge music hub?
I moved there for music. I was 17 and I really knew what I wanted to do, which was play country music. It’s hard to take a dream and actually put the rubber to the road and make it happen. I took a leap and tried to figure out how I was going to pull this thing off with no help, no contacts, no family members that sing. I had zero to start with. It took a lot to figure out how to make it happen. The best way was to try to get to Nashville and try to get to school there. I had a friend who helped me get in, which was great because I am not a great listener, nor a great student. The day I got there I went over to the Country Music Association and got an internship there. Then I started grinding away. I moved there in 1994. I got a record deal in 2002; it was about eight years of grinding away and trying to make it happen.
2. You were the third youngest inductee to the Grand Old Opry. What did that honor mean to you?
The Grand Old Opry is great. Keith Urban just got inducted recently. It means a lot to us, as country singers who really love the music, the history of it, love to be a part of it. It’s one of the biggest career honors you can have. It still means a lot every time I walk out there. It’s great to be a part of that history and that family.
3. So you’re touring for your seventh album right now. Do you have a favorite one that really sticks out for you at this point?
This one is one of my top favorite seven (laughing). They all are really my favorites in some way. Every song that has gone to radio has been a song I had written. Most of the albums have been mostly comprised of what I have been a part of as a songwriter. Yeah, they are all really special. I can’t believe there have been that many. You always feel like your next one is going to be better the one before. You always want to top it.
4. What have been your big influences and have they changed at all over the years as you have matured as a songwriter?
I definitely always listen to new sounds and ideas and what the current sound is out there. I grew up listening to country. My dad listened to a lot of old school stuff. He loved Hank Williams and John Williams and George Strait and Randy Travis. Then in ’89 when Alan Jackson and Clint Black and Garth Brooks came out that was a big influence on me. As soon as I moved to Nashville, I started digging deeper into bluegrass music and Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Osmond Brothers but even now Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam and U2. There are a lot of rock bands that I think are great, and that influence the live part of our show.
5. You have a couple of daughters now. How does that affect your songwriting and your career in general, always being on the road?
It’s a part of my music of course. There is a song on my record called “Thinking of You,” which is about being away from my three year old. It’s tough, they just break your heart, they’re the greatest thing in the world, so it’s tough to be away from them. In a weird way, it makes the show better just because you know you are making a sacrifice by being away from them and they are missing you, so you go out every night and it actually makes the show that much more important. You tell the guys in the band before we walk on stage, “We’ve got people that are missing us, we’ve got to make this day worth it, worth that sacrifice.” You have to go out there and put on a more kick-ass show than any of them have had before, need to make it worthwhile for everybody. It actually makes me feel better in a lot of ways.
6. The song “Home” on your new album has a military connection – obviously we have a lot of military connections here with the Nationals. How big of an influence has the military had on your life and what was the background for writing that song?
My dad was in the army; my grandfather was in the army. We’ve played military bases like Twin Palms and Walter Reed, even on military bases in other countries. It’s something you think about every day. A lot of soldiers and families are backstage for meet and greets every night. I see them out in the crowds holding up their dog tags and military ID cards. We’ve done stuff to continually support the Wounded Warriors Project. It’s something we speak about a lot. The song “Home” kind of started about a lot of things. It starts off in the current moment, in the plane bound west and looking down the country, thinking about the good and bad and the hard times and the great times. But as the song progresses, I think it’s the third verse, it talks about the founding fathers, actually talks about the first immigrants. Thinking about people coming here for religious freedom, for whatever, and they signed their names for something they believed, talking about the founding fathers. Risking their lives to sign the Declaration of Independence. “How the blood ran red and we laid our dead in sacred ground.” Thinking about all the military people that have sacrificed from the very beginning to now, the people who died for this country, I wonder what they would think. That’s definitely the connection there and it’s a part of the video and it’s a big part of the song. I’m glad there are families out there and they can connect to that.
7. How excited are you to come to D.C. and play at Nationals Park?
I love the baseball stadiums, they’re a blast. I get a chance to watch a game and sometimes throw out a pitch and hang out. Then when I go out there, everyone is already fired up and usually in a good mood, either way, win or lose and I go play some music in a huge venue. Playing ballparks is a blast.
It’s not just me, it’s everyone in the band. Everyone is really excited to get out there. We are all huge baseball fans in the whole bus. Just being able to go to a game and enjoy a day like that and get a chance to go out there and play, it’s great. We’ve had a lot of people that hit me up in the area about this particular show and performance, a lot of people coming out that are friends of mine. It’s just going to be a great day. Gives me a great feeling. It seems like a real American type of gig. It’s a night at the ballpark playing music. It is fun for all of us. We are fired up.
8. Do you have any superstitions before every gig?
I have these old boots that I have had for a long time that actually require duct tape every night to put on, because they have so many rips and tears in them. I guess that’s a weird ritual. As far as food goes, its whatever you can find. Some days it’s a great meal, some days it’s whatever is lying around. It’ll probably be some hot dogs over there when I’m at Nationals Park.
9. You talk about looking forward to the first pitch. Did you play baseball growing up?
Yeah, I never progressed too far with it. I played a little bit as a kid. I love being out there on the field. It is a great feeling and it’s cool to hang out and talk to some of the players. Turns out a lot of them are country fans. It changes your world a little bit. Checking out the stands, checking out the locker rooms and the clubhouse, seeing how those guys do it. Talking about traveling and being on the road, there are a lot of common things we share. It’s always good to see someone else’s world. And being on the mound, it’s a great feeling.
Fan question, from @AngelMickey1993 on Twitter: “What advice would you give an aspiring country singer?”
That’s a great question. Sing wherever you live. Sing as much for friends, family, or find a local place and sing there too. Just look for any avenue possible to get going. There is no one way of doing it. All I can say is sing and sing to as many people as you possibly can.