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Dierks Bentley a true urban cowboy
by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Not all country music artists live on farms with wraparound porches, and not all of them fall under the stereotypical banner of conservative rednecks. One of the freshest faces to emerge from this popular American genre is Dierks Bentley, a multiple Grammy nominee and CMA award winner who prefers a modern city home to a rural estate and a mojito to a shot of house whiskey. Since bursting on the scene in 2003, the Phoenix native has attracted a loyal following without having to sport a 10-gallon hat or a Southern accent - his boy-next-door looks, devilish charm, and a worthy set of original western-brand songs have earned him kudos from country audiences and peers alike. Bentley's latest effort, Feel That Fire, debuted solidly at number three on Billboard's top 200 albums chart in its first week of release and has already produced a second hit single, "Sideways." A former Sigma Alpha Epsilon member at Vanderbilt University and now father of 4-month-old daughter Evie (short for Evalyn), he arrives this weekend for a sold-out concert at the Tacoma Dome with fellow country hunk Brad Paisley.

The question I'm most often asked about the artists I interview is if they're really open-minded and Gay-friendly, or just wanting free publicity. In regards to Dierks Bentley, a man with the biggest heart (and firmest assets) of anyone in country music, he doesn't need any more publicity following appearances on national programs like TODAY, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Regis & Kelly, aside from a main feature on Billboard magazine - this interview with me is an act of kindness. On a tour break in Illinois, here's what Dierks Bentley got off his manly chest when he stepped on the pedal in The Music Lounge.

Albert Rodriguez: I just saw you on CMT's Cribs and loved your cool digs. I expected all the Nashville stars to have country houses with big porches out in the boonies, not contemporary homes in the city.

Dierks Bentley: No, ours is about 1700 square feet. It's very small, not one of those types of houses.

Rodriguez: I've only spent a few hours in Nashville passing through. Tell me where to go for good cocktails.

Bentley: You want to go to a place called Lime. They make great mojitos. It's really good modern Mexican food, a great place to hang.

Rodriguez: Does Nashville have a Gay district?

Bentley: There's a part of the city called Germantown, which is. I almost bought a house there. It's a great area.

Rodriguez: A lot of people think country artists are all conservative and not open-minded. But that's not really true.

Bentley: I think it's changed a lot. If you see any country artist's iPod, you're going to see all kinds of stuff in there. Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland was at the presidential inaugural ceremony and doing stuff for Obama. We've come a long way since the Dixie Chicks incident.

Rodriguez: You obviously know there are Gay fans in the audience at your shows.

Bentley: Do I know that? Of course, yeah!

Rodriguez: Listening to a country music CD in your own home is one thing, but going to a live country show and feeling comfortable and accepted there is another.

Bentley: Everybody and anybody should be welcome at one of my shows. I would be unhappy to hear that someone didn't feel welcome at any of my shows. I try to write songs that can be interpreted in any way they can be interpreted, especially love songs.

Rodriguez: What kind of music do you listen to, aside from country?

Bentley: A lot of indie rock bands that my brother turns me onto, like The Whigs or Brand New, or a band called MGMT - they're awesome. I liked Coldplay's last record and I'm looking forward to U2's album when it comes out.

Rodriguez: You say Feel That Fire is your best album. Why?

Bentley: I put about two years into making this record. Spent a lot of time on it just going back and getting it right. It's like we didn't ever settle for anything. The last set of songs were in the wrong key, so we went back in and re-cut the songs all over again to get that key right. Music-wise, it has rowdy stuff, it has the sexier stuff, but it has newer stuff like "Beautiful World" [a duet with Patty Griffin] and "Better Believer," which is new ground for us topically.

Rodriguez: Since you're touring with him, do you have a favorite Brad Paisley song?

Bentley: He's kicking off his show with "Mud on the Tires," and that's a pretty fun song. The "Whiskey Lullaby" one he sings with Alison Krauss is great, too.

Rodriguez: Does touring ever become old hat?

Bentley: We try to change it up. The last couple of years, we've been doing our own headlining thing. This year we're out with Brad, and that itself made it interesting. That's been a lot of fun, to be out there with him and go back to being a supporting act. Hopefully, we'll make some new fans and then carry on again in 2010.

Rodriguez: Does touring ever become old hat?

Bentley: We try to change it up. The last couple of years we've been doing our own headlining thing. This year we're out with Brad, and that itself made it interesting. That's been a lot of fun, to be out there with him and go back to being a supporting act. Hopefully, we'll make some new fans and then carry on again in 2010.

Rodriguez: What's your tour bus fridge stocked with?

Bentley: Cold beer and all the alcohol that can necessitate a party. Other than that, there's such great catering on this tour that you don't need much.

Rodriguez: Is Evie at home in Nashville, or is she on the road with you?

Bentley: Today she's on the road with us, which is great. She's getting used to this road life.

Rodriguez: Do you have any embarrassing pastimes, like watching trashy TV shows?

Bentley: There can be some mindless TV watching from time to time - I can be just as lazy as everybody else. My management for my birthday bought me the 100 greatest movies of all time. It's awesome! I never have to go to Blockbuster again. Last night I watched Psycho, today I'm going to watch Bonnie and Clyde, and I've got E.T. down the road, so it's a good chance to catch up on stuff I might've missed.

Rodriguez: What length is your hair these days?

Bentley: I just let it do what it's going to do - it's long, curly.

Rodriguez: You surprised a lot of people when you trimmed your hair a few years ago.

Bentley: I know, didn't mean to. [Laughs.] I just wanted short hair. In any genre of music you can do what you want to do. In country, people like you being just the same. I guess that didn't go over well, but for me personally it was nice to have a different scene.

Rodriguez: Have you ever scoped out Seattle when you've played here?

Bentley: Not as much as I'd like. I'm a huge fan of the city. It's one of the greatest cities in the country, and that's the first town that started playing "What Was I Thinkin'." It's got a special place in my heart.

Rodriguez: On your next trip to Seattle, we'll bring you to Capitol Hill - home to cool music venues and fun Gay bars.

Bentley: Let's do it!
pictures: Dierks Bentley
 

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