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Dierks Bentley fires it up

By Jeffrey B. Remz, January 2009

Page 2...

"We tried making it be about a girl," Beavers said. "The key to that song when it was written - just those first few lines of melody, we knew it was the title but we didn't know what it was. 'Beautiful World' (instead of "beautiful girl") just sounded better. Maybe Dierks threw it out, and it sounded right in that melody. It felt right. We started writing verses around that theme."

"A big challenge in writing that song was not to be too sensational, not to overwrite it. Not to talk about babies dying and starving in Africa and when people hear it they go 'ugh.' There are visuals that no one wants to imagine even though they exist. But we still wanted to say 'it's tough, it's easy to be cynical.' It's noisy out there, but can we find anything good about it?"

Bentley, 33, thinks about spiritual matters on "Better Believer." Bentley wrote the song with big time Nashville songwriter Rivers Rutherford. In the song, the person who receives good fortune doesn't thank the man upstairs as Bentley sings,
"Life is seen more clearly through our tears
Cause we all find some faith when we face our fears
When my life's going like I want God becomes an afterthought
And I start trying to build my heaven here
A better believer would look to the skies
Shout hallelujah with tears in his eyes"

"I had that title, and part of the deal (in) trying to make this record (was) it allowed me to pick and choose the people (to make it with). I really wanted to write a song with Rivers Rutherford. I'm just a huge fan of his as a person. He's a great guy. We had talked about writing before. I went over to his house and presented him my idea. He dug it, and we wrote it. It's probably one of the more honest songs that I've ever put out there"

Bentley does a lot of co-writing on "Feel That Fire." He co-wrote 10 of the 12 songs. He wrote "Pray," a love song that also has a spiritual/religious side to it, with Rodney Crowell. The title cut and current hit single was written with Beavers and Brett and Brad Warren (aka The Warren Brothers)

"I start on my own," says Bentley of the writing process. "I usually try to finish them with different people. I don't take extra pride in writing a song by myself. 'Oh I wrote this by myself. That's so great.' So what. Maybe when I was younger. To me, I really enjoy the process of writing a song. Maybe I can finish it out. Some of them I do. Why would I not want to go hang out with Rivers Rutherford...who can teach me a couple of things here and there or go hang out with Rodney Crowell?...I'd rather do that and give them half the money." (the last comment refers to songwriting royalties)

"You can have 100 percent of nothing or 50 percent of something that's great," Bentley says. He referred to needing to bring in Jim Beavers to help finish "Sideways" which "wasn't right yet."

Bentley says that he is a "gigantic fan" (of Crowell). The last three records he's made have just been so good. I love his work. Again, I just called him up. We actually wrote that song about three years ago, and it was never quite finished. My wife sometimes would go through my iPod and just listen to bits and pieces of things I'm working on. She came across that and said, 'you've got to finish this one. There's no doubt about that.' I said, 'really?' So, I finished it and sent it out to Rodney. He said, 'Wow. That's a lot better than I thought it was.' We were blown away. We kept working on it and got it right"

The song is autobiographical to some extent for Bentley - it's about a couple who break up, but instead of going negative about the ex-, Bentley prays for good things for the women. "It was about a relationship I had been through. I've been through some pretty bad ones, and I guess the idea behind that is it's unfortunate that time and effort and love in a relationship, and at the end, all you have is hate. Maybe that's not necessary. Look beyond what happened and see if he can't move forward in a way that's respectful of the time you spent together."

The closing song is "Last Call," a bluegrass tonker written by Ronnie McCoury, son of Del McCoury. This is not the first time that the McCourys have joined up with Bentley. They appeared on "Train Travelin" on his 2003 debut.

"We always put a put a bluegrasser on there...I love the chance to always do a bluegrass song. It's the funnest part of the record," Bentley says when asked about cutting "Last Call." "It's wide open. There are so many great songs to choose. I feel like letting my audience into a world they may not know a whole lot about. I've been kind of backlogged. I've been wanting to cut that song forever. I told Ronnie five years ago I was going to cut that song."

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