Dierks Bentley pushed himself outside of his comfort zone in an effort to honor the journey of his 20-year career in country music through his 10th studio album, Gravel & Gold.
He spent much of 2020 embracing the silence as he reflected on all the music, people, and fans who have gotten him this far in his career. The result of his time spent between Nashville and his second home in the beauty of Colorado is his milestone album, which displays a dignified look into Bentley’s life as he elevates his passion for bluegrass and highlights his authentic 21st-century country sound.
“I wanted to make my 10th album something I could be like, Hey, this is me doing what I do, all the little things that I love about country music on one album, it’s not as greatest hits, but it’s a collection of, you know, my sound and my styles. And hopefully, the greatest I’ve done it before,” Bentley recently told Country Now and other outlets. “So the 10 thing ended up becoming a little bit of a theme for me as far as like trying to make it a collection of all those styles and sounds. Initially, I didn’t really know what to do with that 10th album. Like, so what? But then it started mattering more as it went on.”
The 14-track album was co-written almost entirely by Bentley, who also served as a producer for the first time alongside some of his closest collaborators. He poured in a tremendous amount of love through his hands-on approach, which allowed him to achieve a project that showcases his diverse musical abilities.
Bentley Scraped Two Albums Before This One
Within the process, Bentley discarded two albums before settling on the right cluster of tunes. He ended up going through several rounds of trial and error because instead of putting the record together piece by piece, he went the extra mile to produce a clean record that came together with one band, one studio, and one production team all in one sitting.
“I came back to Nashville in ‘21 and jumped right in the studio in March and I had a bunch of songs, you know, I’d been working on that part of it, so I had the songs. Jumped in the studio with my guys and my band and we were gonna make the album. Went all in and what I realized is that no one was ready. I wasn’t ready mentally, I probably still had some more songs to write, and you can’t discount the fact that people were still wearing masks and getting covid tested every day in the studio. I mean, the studio environment is so important.”
“I don’t know, it wasn’t bad,” he explained. “I mean, I’m playing with the best musicians and some of the best producers in town and in a great studio. It’s all B plus stuff, A minus stuff, but it just wasn’t…just didn’t feel like the album, and we just weren’t ready.”
Six months later, they returned to the studio with a new mindset, ready to tackle the 10th album. However, Dierks Bentley still felt as though something was off. So, he went back to the drawing board and returned after a few more months. Luckily, the third time was the charm.
“I started realizing at that point that what this whole idea of a 10th album meant to me is like, I wanted it to be a collection of everything I’d done. For some reason, I just thought the 10th album should have that Luke Dick stuff, but it should also have the bluegrass and the ‘90s and the traditional, and the only person that was gonna be able to do that was me. So I waited another six months.”
“I went back and I called the players and booked the studio and kind of did the whole production thing on my own and ended up bringing more producers in to help me kind of complete the vision,” he explained. “That third time around I was like, you know, been grinding hard enough, been back in town long enough, had a vision for what I wanted to say, and it just kinda all came together.”
The record starts off with a bit of self-reflection through the recently unveiled tune, “Same Ol’ Me,” before moving into a mix of new songs like “Sun Sets In Colorado,” “Beer At My Funeral,” “Walking Each Other Home,” and more. It also features previously released collaborations with Billy Strings titled “High Note,” and his latest tune featuring Ashley McBryde, “Cowboy Boots.”
Gravel & Gold serves as the follow-up to 2018’s The Mountain and is named after his latest chart-climbing single, “Gold,” which Bentley penned with Ashley Gorley, Luke Dick and Ross Copperman.
This title track sits in the middle of the collection and sets the tone for the rest of the album as it embraces a new perspective on life and hones in on the beauty of self-awareness that applies to both his personal and professional path.
“It’s like you’re in the rainbow, but you’re still looking for this pot of gold and you don’t even realize you’re already in the rainbow already. Like, you don’t have to go any further, you’re in it, so stop looking all the time,” Bentley said as he unearthed the thought process behind choosing “Gold” for the title track.
He continued, “Coming back to Nashville, you know, there’s some things I thought felt like gravel, like the traffic, that’s actually gold. It’s a great city, I love this place. There’re people moving here from all over the world. I’m so lucky to be here. I have so many great friends here and opportunities and so the song really spoke to me personally, which is important cause I gotta go out there and sing it every night. It just had a great message and I felt like the sound was like a little bit different sound than I’ve done before.”
A 20+ Year Career
The project is a culmination of the “Beers On Me” singer’s story, which began with his first publishing deal in 2001. After inking this deal, Dierks Bentley released his self-titled debut album in 2003, and earned an instant No. 1 single with “What Was I Thinkin’.”
Since this early success, he has continued to claim his spot in country music with the release of eight more albums that reached the top of the Country sales charts. In addition, he’s earned a total of 21 No. 1 hits and claimed three CMA Awards, 14 GRAMMY® nominations and membership into the Grand Ole Opry.
“I remember saying back during Covid, I’d be like, ‘2023 is gonna be a year that everything really starts to feel super fun again.’ And I just feel like this is gonna be a big year for us on the road,” Bentley shared as he relishes on this point in his life and everything he’s got coming later this year. “I’m pretty happy with what I do, with the lane I’m in and I don’t want to add, I wanna do less, better, which is a pretty common phrase you hear, but I don’t. I’m not looking to take on anything. I like what I do, it’s pretty awesome, and it’s not old to me.”
While the singer/songwriter has yet to announce any touring plans for 2023, he has already added several dates to his schedule for individual shows and festivals including Country Thunder Arizona, Country Concert, Country Jam USA, and more.
Dierks Bentley will also appear at a concert honoring the late George Jones Still Playin’ Possum. This show will take place on April 25 in Huntsville, Alabama, along with Jamey Johnson, Brad Paisley, Justin Moore, Lorrie Morgan, Tanya Tucker, Trace Adkins, Tracy Byrd, Tracy Lawrence, Mark Chesnutt, Sam Moore and many more.
GRAVEL & GOLD Track List:
1. “Same Ol’ Me”
2. “Sun Sets In Colorado”
3. “Heartbreak Drinking Tour”
4. “Something Real”
6. “Beer At My Funeral”
7. “Cowboy Boots” (Featuring Ashley McBryde)
9. “Walking Each Other Home”
10. “Roll On”
11. “All The Right Places”
12. “Ain’t All Bad”
13. “Old Pickup”
14. “High Note” (Featuring Billy Strings)