Dierks Bentley’s ‘Burning Man’ tour makes stop at KeyBank Pavilion
For Dierks Bentley, every album he makes is like a new quest and a discovery.
Where some artists go into projects with an idea of the sound or style they want to pursue or even the lyrical direction they’ll explore, Bentley is Mr. Clean Slate.
“I go into every album knowing that I don’t know what I want to talk about. That might sound kind of weird. But I don’t go in there with an agenda,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I have no idea what I want to write about. I have no idea. And I don’t carry songs over from previous albums. It’s all fresh. I’m just looking for something. I mean, I’ve always been a seeker. It’s who I am. I’m seeking something out and opening my heart and my mind to whatever (is out there), to what’s going to hit me.”
When it came to his latest album, “The Mountain,” Bentley might not have known what kind of album he was going to make or what he wanted to write about. But he did know where he wanted to go to bring the record to life.
He’ll perform July 27 at KeyBank Pavilion in Burgettstown.
Over the preceding decade, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival had become a favorite destination for Bentley, first as a fan, and later as a performer.
So Bentley, who has racked up 17 chart-topping singles over the course of eight previous albums, gathered up six of his favorite Nashville-based songwriting friends and headed west for six days of unsupervised creativity.
The songwriting session helped bring the themes of “The Mountain” into focus – both the beauty of Telluride and the mountain west and the idea that every person faces challenges they need to overcome — in other words, their own personal mountain to climb and conquer.
“When I got to write with those songwriters, I had some (song) titles, but there was still no meat. It was just trusting the process,” Bentley said. “I guess I’m just trying to write about the way I feel.”
To record “The Mountain,” Bentley returned to Telluride, bringing along Jon Randall Stewart (who produced Bentley’s bluegrass album “Up on the Ridge”) and Ross Copperman and Arturo Buenahora Jr. (who produced Bentley’s two previous albums, “Riser” and “Black”). He felt these producers could create a cool mix of rootsy acoustic and more modern sounding country-rock – something that is very evident in the instrumentation and feel of songs like the spacious and sturdy title track, the briskly rambling “You Can’t Bring Me Down” and “Woman, Amen” (a recent No. 1 single), and the blasts of guitar on the dynamic album-opening “Burning Man,” a recent top 5 single.
“The Mountain” also continues a trend for Bentley of writing albums with a thematic thread and a personal connection to his life. The album paints a portrait of a man approaching middle age, liking the place he’s reached, but recognizing life also offers much more to accomplish, learn and enjoy. The title song is about meeting and embracing life’s challenges and opportunities. “Living” clearly delineates the difference between existing and truly living and appreciating life.
Bentley is trying to bring the world of the mountain west and the themes of “The Mountain” to life on his summer tour, using video and stage sets that evoke the dual meanings of the album title. He said plenty of thought has gone into creating a show that he hopes will leave audiences with special memories that last long after the last song is played and the house lights come on.
“I’ve been on tours where people, they come out on the road and the first show is kind of like their practice,” Bentley said. “I’ve spent a lot of time on this thing. A lot of thought goes into it so when we get out there our first show feels like our hundredth show.”