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What in the world was Dierks Bentley thinkin?

By Jeffrey B. Remz, September 2003

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The Phoenix native moved to Nashville when he was 19. He spent a lot of his time listening and playing in Music City bars and clubs.

Bentley spent a good chunk of time - many a Tuesday night - at the Station Inn, which is a center for bluegrass. Bentley says the timing was right because he had been down on music.

Bentley eventually got a regular kid at an older bar, Springwater. He later did time at the Market Street Brewery, moving up from playing for free draft beer to a paying gig.

Since the music did not pay the bills, Bentley got a paycheck by working for The Nashville Network. He worked in the tape library checking out old music footage for a documentary.

"Dierks Bentley" was not the artist's first foray into recording music. He'd put out an independently released disc, "Don't Leave Me in Love," a few years ago.

But like many artists, he was not too active in really pushing the album.

He also had some good news coupled with that release. "That's why the record didn't do very well. As soon as I got it done, I got a publishing deal with Sony. So, I didn't do a whole lot with it."

While at Sony, song plugger Arthur Buenahora (pluggers pitch songs to artists) hooked up Bentley with Beavers, also a Sony writer. They recorded demos together, which eventually found their way into the hands of record labels with two expressing interest.

A showcase followed where an act will play for record label folks in the hopes of getting signed. Capitol head Mike Dungan apparently was excited.

"It's hard for a label president to balance creativity with the bottom line," says Bentley. "He did, and that's why I ended up going to Capitol."

After signing, Bentley says it was "just gut instinct stuff" that led him to have Beavers produce. This was his first time behind the controls.

"I like working with people who are hungry," says Bentley. "Brett's one of the hardest working people I know. I respect musicians more than anyone else in town."

"You have to study everything else that came before you...I liked the way he interacted with other musicians. I didn't want him to be linked to another producer. I had a chance to work with other producers."

Bentley closes with "Train Travelin'," one of 11 songs he wrote for the album and 1 of 2 he wrote solo. The song features bluegrass stalwarts the Del McCoury Band backing him up.

"That's the highlight of my musical career so far. Because of the Del McCoury Band I am where I am today. They taught me so much about the music industry. I met those guys at the Station Inn. They don't compete with anybody else. They stay above the fray. They taught me so much about bluegrass people, which is why I stayed in town. Just play music because you love it."

Bentley says music was "not (about) being in a video."

The other song he wrote alone, "Bartenders, etc."is a straight honky tonk ditty. The song was based on an experience at Springwater. "I looked one night in the crowd," Bentley says. "There was no crowd. There was a bartender, a stool and a waitress."

"It came pretty quick," Bentley says of the song he wrote in 1999 and appeared on his first album. "I won't lie to you."

While most of Bentley's new music is on his own album, come the end of September, he also can be found on "Songs of the Louvin Brothers," a tribute disc featuring Johnny Cash, Alison Krauss and Vince Gill.

With a bunch of stars on the album, Bentley's name was not even listed when an early advance was mailed.

"It only took a year of yelling and bugging to get on there," says Bentley. "I know (producer) Carl Jackson. He sang on my first record. Luke Wooten was my engineer. They made it happen. It's a huge huge honor. They don't come any bigger. I did the whole thing myself. I just kept begging. I wanted to be part of it. Carl was producing it. We went in and cut the track. I asked Capitol if they would allow me to be on it, and they said they would."

Bentley looks to a country guitar god for inspiration in his musical career.

Bentley remembers "Chet Atkins making records that he liked. I feel like I'm in touch with country music because I'm a country music fan more than anything else. If I'm not doing this, I'm on the road. I'm listening to music. I'm always digging through my old Hank Williams stuff. I really feel I have a have a pulse on what people like me have been missing."

And with the success he's enjoyed so far in his young career, Bentley says, "I feel like I've been vindicated."

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