COUNTRY MUSIC Singer repeats success of 1st album
Bentley has co-written nine of the 12 tracks on the album.
By JOHN BENSON
After the surprising platinum success of his 2003 self-titled debut album, Dierks Bentley knew the industry spotlight would be blinding on his follow-up album.
However, after recording his sophomore album "Modern Day Drifter," it became clear to the Arizona native and Nashville resident that he was doing just fine.
"I think we had a little bit of pressure on us to repeat the success of the first record," said Bentley, calling from a tour bus somewhere in the heart of Missouri. "And the songs all came together, the production went great and the first single 'Lot of Leavin' Left to Do' [peaked at No. 5 on the country charts]. I hoped it would put to rest any questions about the sophomore slump kind of thing, and I think it did."
When it comes to choosing which songs will be pitched to radio stations as singles, the neo-traditionalist country artist takes a unique but pragmatic approach. When touring a particular album, Bentley pays close attention to which new songs get the most crowd reaction. This modus operandi was employed for his current single "Come a Little Closer," which is already beginning to rise up the country charts.
Something else that makes Bentley stand out from his Music Row peers is the notion of songwriting. That is, he co-writes the majority of the songs he records. This includes nine of the 12 tracks that appear on "Modern Day Drifter."
"Well, you can make some money doing it," Bentley said. "To be honest, you don't make a lot of money touring at this level and you certainly don't make any money off of album sales because the record label has that whole market cornered. So, the only way to [earn a living] is off of songwriting. I started writing songs when I was 17 and when I moved to Nashville and didn't think things were going to work out record deal-wise, I just concentrated on getting a publishing deal and writing."
He added, "My favorite thing to do is to be on stage singing, but writing songs is also really important. It's really a joy to sing songs that you've written, and when you see someone singing a song back to you that you wrote, that's an amazing feeling."
It's been just over a decade since Bentley landed in Nashville as another wide-eyed hopeful. Yet it didn't take long before he felt somewhat dismayed with the pop country sheen of the mid-'90s.
Feeling lost, a teenage Bentley with a fake I.D. found a creative muse in the form of the legendary bluegrass bar, the Station Inn, where all-night jams honed his talents. Even though it would be years before Bentley would get his record deal, he views this time as completing his undergrad studies in the school of country music.
Whereas so many of his peers today come across as country-fied rock acts, Bentley reminds his fans what they can expect when he performs at the Dollar Bank Jamboree on Saturday at Point State Park in Pittsburgh.
"I guarantee there will be no pop songs, rock songs or classic rock songs," Bentley said. "All we do is country music, but we do it in a way that is very loud and has a lot of energy. We do go back and do some songs from people who came before us. We do it our own way. And hopefully by the time people leave our show, they'll know more of my music, and if they didn't know who Johnny Cash was before the show, they'll know after."